Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Shuffle strategies

The shuffle.
The jazz shuffle is a struggle for a lot of people due to the technical left hand part, with its built in soft note before the accents on 2 and 4. A lot of drummers make this using what they (charitably) call a "whip" stroke- what it usually amounts to is  muscularly jerking in the accent with the forearm.  It can work OK with a lot of time on the stand playing shuffles, but is tension-inducing and much more work than it needs to be, as well as limiting dynamically- it's hard to play it quietly. It also tends to make the accented note late. Some say that the 2 and 4 on the snare should be a little behind the beat, but even when that's the case it should be a choice, not forced upon you by a limitation in your technique.

What I've found to be very helpful is to insert a quick upstroke with the wrist after the little note:


Practice that very slowly and mechanically with the left hand only, doing the upstroke itself as fast as possible regardless of the tempo. The unaccented notes should be 1-3" high, and the accented notes 6-10+". As you increase the tempo into performance range, you can streamline the motion so it feels more natural and swinging, but if you keep thinking of that upstroke with the wrist before the 2 and 4, it the entire groove will feel much more relaxed, and your 2 and 4 will sit right on the money. You'll also be able to play it at softer (and probably louder) volumes than with the "jerk" stroke.

After the break- using flamacues to work on your shuffle:

A rudiment I've found helpful with shuffles in general is the right handed flamacue:


If you put it in a triplet rhythm, with the first flam landing before the beat, you have the kernel of the shuffle in the left hand:



Once that's comfortable, you can do the flamacues so the repetitions overlap. Here your left hand will be playing the shuffle rhythm (though with the accent on 1 and 3 in this case), and your right will be playing quarter note triplets:


If you prefer, you can place that so the accents fall on beats 2 and 4, as in the real shuffle. The quarter note triplet in the right hand is actually helpful in cross-checking your rhythm, and can also give your shuffle some place to go when improvising (we'll be talking more about that concept later).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very helpful. Thanks much.