Whether you play Blues, Rock, or Jazz, learning the Shuffle feel is invaluable. It is easy to learn, fun to play, and will offer many interesting variations.
All the examples below are based on variations of this basic blues progression in the key of G
SHUFFLE in G VIDEO 1:
The line I present here is primarily a bass line: the kind that you would generally expect a bass player to play over a basic 3-chord Blues in G.
Played on guitar, it can be used as an accompanying pattern in a Blues jam. It will also reinforce our understanding of the form, once we have learned the chords.
From the Jazz perspective, it will be a bridging way to learn that elusive swing feel. It is essentially a 12/8 feel that will help you get closer to what would eventually become a Swinging 8th note feel.
I recommend that you first learn to play the pattern with quarter notes and with down strokes only. Once you are comfortable with that, it will be easy to double all of the notes with simple alternate picking.
For inspiration, you may want to listen to some T-Bone Walker songs, Booker T. & the M.G.'s, early Mike Bloomfield, or Stevie Ray Vaughan...
As for apps, both Drumgenius and iRealPro have good examples of Shuffle backtracks.
Here are some practical examples illustrating those substitutions:
SHUFFLE in G VIDEO 2:
The emphasis with this 2nd video on the Shuffle will be on picking.
Once you can play the basic pattern comfortably (see video 1) try these different picking exercises:
1. Use down strokes only: consecutive down strokes can be challenging because they force us to move the pick quickly from one note to another -- without the help of the alternate picking motion.
To make the exercise even more challenging, I also show you how to play the Shuffle using 3 notes per beat, using 8th note triplets. Since there are 12 notes within a measure, we are indeed playing all the subdivisions of a 12/8 meter.
2. Use up strokes only: same exercises as above, but now with up strokes...
Those picking exercises can be counter-intuitive, but they are well-worth the effort. Practicing picking in one direction only will eventually improve your alternate picking down the road.
I find that the Shuffle makes an interesting and short study that is way more fun that just playing scales or arpeggios!
As usual, work with the metronome, and start very, very slowly.
NOTES FOR SHUFFLE in G VIDEO 3:
Now that we have mastered our basic Shuffle in G in the original position, we can continue to explore the fretboard, and play those very same patterns, but higher up on the neck.
If you are familiar with a 5-position system (aka CAGED) this is what you may have noticed in the first 2 videos:
For the G chord: I was playing the pattern following an "E Shape". For the C chord: I was playing the pattern following an "A Shape". For the D chord: I was playing the pattern following a "C Shape".
In today's video, I move up the fretboard to the next available positions: For the G chord: I now play the pattern following a "D Shape".
For the C chord: I now play the pattern following a "G Shape".
For the D chord: I now play the pattern following an "A Shape".
Finding those patterns in different places is a great way to learn the fretboard. The Blues form gives us all 3 of the important chords for any song (the I chord, the IV chord, and the V chord) and we can learn to connect those 3 primary chords in one same area of the neck, while making music and having fun with the Shuffle.
Eventually you can transpose our Blues Shuffle to other keys, and go through the same process. Hint: it is quite easy if you already can do it well in our first key of G.
SHUFFLE in G VIDEO 4:
SHUFFLE in G VIDEO 5:
SHUFFLE in G VIDEO 6:
SHUFFLE in G VIDEO 7:
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I am available for private lessons on SKYPE or FACETIME for more information on this topic, or on anything related to Jazz Guitar, Improvisation or Music Theory.