How to Play a Shuffle Beat

BandThe shuffle is a style of groove that is based on triplet notes. It has become very popular to play this style of drumming in jazz music, blues music, and classic rock. I have heard the shuffle in so many different styles of music lately that I think every drummer should know how to play the shuffle. It is not that hard to play at all. As long as you count aloud when you start out you should have no problems. The shuffle is supposed to have a lot of feeling in it, so make sure this beat really grooves. Try these exercises with me to get a further understanding of the shuffle.

First off we need to work on the main shuffle feel. This means developing the triplet based pattern on your hi hat or ride cymbal. This is similar to the jazz pattern, so if you want you can check back to the jazz section to touch up on your skills. Play the first and last note of the 8th note triplet. This would be counted like this:
One   (trip)   Let   Two   (trip)   Let   Three   (trip)   Let   Four   (trip)   Let
If you re not too familiar with triplets, you can always read up on understanding triplets here! This is the main pattern you have to maintain in order to make the shuffle flow. So before you get any further, practice this pattern on your hi hats, ride cymbal and practice pad. Here is what it looks like on paper:

Sheet Music

Now it is time to add the snare drum. Just like a basic rock beat, we want to add the snare on counts 2 and 4. So if you were counting with the above pattern, simply add a snare hit to counts 2 and 4. This looks like this:

Sheet Music

Last but certainly not least is the bass drum. Again, we will follow the same patterns we did with our basic rock groove and add the bass drum on hits one and three. This is a fairly basic shuffle pattern. Most patterns are usually different variations of this one, so make sure you learn this.

Sheet Music

If you want, you can easily make this into a half time shuffle by reading over this helpful lesson here. Or you can add the double bass drum to make this beat even more complex. There are many things you can do to spice this groove up; however, make sure you can play it with the proper feel first. Playing this in some blues music or jazz will be a perfect test to this! Good luck and enjoy this new style of drumming!

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