The shuffle. It’s something you use on a blues gig, right? Didn’t Bernard Purdie do something with it back in the ’70s? That’s cool and all, but what’s that got to do with me? I don’t play bluesy stuff. Guess what? Everyone benefits from shuffles, regardless of their preferred drum style.
To create a shuffle pattern, play the first and third partials of a triplet over and over again. The long-short combination, or “gallop,” that’s created is an incredible rhythm tool. It can be stretched, compressed, bent, flattened, and otherwise tweaked to create endless variations. However you “swing” your shuffle, if executed properly this simple rhythm makes people want to move … a lot. So much so that before rock and roll, the shuffle was at the heart of all pop music.
Now, even if your death-metal band does not resemble BB King in the slightest, I can assure you that the grooves you play in that band evolved from a shuffle. Trust me; shuffles lie at the heart of pop, country, funk, hip-hop, gospel, even reggae and ska.
Want to rock like Bonham? Set the quarter-note on your metronome to 100 bpm. Play a simple shuffle until you can confidently negotiate the “uneven” spaces between the eighth-notes. Now go back and play along with Bonham on a tune like “When The Levee Breaks.” You’ll notice that the eighths in his hi-hat pattern are not metronomically perfect. They have a certain, dare I say, “shuffle” to them, which you won’t be able to match – unless you can shuffle yourself!