You Got A Blues Shuffle, Right?

By Kevin Guin


The purpose of the lesson today is to provide an example of a classic blues shuffle, to show effective ways to interpret this noble bass groove, and to also give some smart, helpful advice on how to supercharge your shuffle finger-style with massive amounts of bass expression.


The introduction playing clip in the video lesson is a rather fast tempo if you are just now starting out with playing blues shuffles. In the lesson, however, you will find the tempo to be much more approachable. The two main elements that are demonstrated are the shorter, sharper shuffle notes and the longer, “greasier” notes.


Please pardon the street language, but it fits the situation!


Learning to maintain the shuffle with the shorter, bouncier notes is definitely a challenge for the uninitiated. Sometimes I think of those types of notes as old-timey (in a good way). But in other instances I feel that they are perfect for the heads of the tunes. It leaves more space and therefore more room for vocal expression to occur.


When you feel free to use longer notes and fill out the measure you get a more modern sound that is perfect for when the guitarist starts to pour on the heat. You provide a fat, wide platform for all of that blues mayhem that rages in the upper registers.


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The point that I would try to make is that when you become familiar enough and skilled enough to mix these two basic interpretations of the shuffle at will, you are getting close to the time when you can put your own personal stamp on this classic bass line.


I have added to the video lesson one of my favorite exercises in dynamics to help supercharge your fingerstyle skills. The purpose of these accent studies will become clear to you in only a few weeks of consistent practice.


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Studies in dynamics and especially accent studies are one of the surest and quickest ways to get a permanent upgrade to your playing. With just a bit of extra care and understanding you get an incredible payoff in your expression level as a bass musician. It is a fantastic bang for your buck!


If you can learn to have a great time with your blues shuffles and drive a band with that relentless swinging pulse you will always have something to help build up your playing and have a truly great time doing it.


Best of luck to all.