a blues shuffle is at once a relativley simple beat to accomplish on the drumset, and at the same time a master class in complexity. though the backbeat on the second and fourth beat of the bar is no different from what i'll refer to as a standard rock/pop rhythm, it's the hi-hat or cymbal pattern that can be the undoing of the unwary.
the standard hi-hat pattern usually consists of four evenly spaced quarter notes with the right hand (assuming you play right-handed) or perhaps more commonly, eight eighth notes. a shuffle pattern, however, brings us face to face with the dotted note, a means of lengthening any note by half its original value. thus, what would often appear as a group of two eighth notes (or semiquavers, if you prefer), the addition of a dot after the first note, lengthens it by a sixteenth, pushing the second note further away, in the process converting it to another sixteenth. for whatever you might think about written musical notation, it's a stickler for mathematical accuracy.
if the dot has increased the value of that initial eighth note by half, it has now become three sixteenths. thus the following note needs to even things up by inheriting the mantle of another sixteenth. machinations such as this make the second note of the original group of two, closer to the third note than to the first. if you've followed this far, you're doing a lot better than me. there are entire books devoted to the science of improving and mastering the drumset shuffle, which eventually results in that right hand playing a sort of skip beat. all the while maintaining the standard two and four backbeat throughout.
should ambition get the better of you, it's ultimately possible to move the backbeat onto the third beat alone, creating a half-time shuffle, but it's continually necessary to prevent that right hand from reverting to straight eighths, thus losing any trace of shuffling. however, there is a hidden and concealed complexity that can often remain a closed book to the uninitiated, and that hidden factor concerns the triplet.
for those who could truly care less, a triplet is three notes played in the time value of two. thus, our two eighth notes can transform into a conjoined group of three with that very number written above, denoting how they should be played by the ever astute drummer. a substantial coterie of jazz music is based upon triplet rhythms as, indeed, is much of the blues. and should you wish to bare your mettle in the latter genre, it's a confident ability to shuffle that will get you there all the quicker.
now, about those triplets.
by a strange quirk of musical fate, that dotted eighth followed by a joined sixteenth closely resembles a triplet minus the middle note. while this may appear as just so much musical rhetoric and philosophy, with little grounding in reality, chance would be a fine thing. the very best of blues and jazz drummers can spend several years mastering the art of playing the blues shuffle as a series of triplets, rather than those dotted eighths followed by a sixteenth. with a rest note in place of that middle note of a triplet, the latter effectively becomes the hidden factor, implied rather than played. of course, on occasion it is perfectly acceptable to play the middle note as a ghost note, just to advertise to the great unwashed, just how your shuffle is constituted.
and herein lies the uncanny comparison with socks. granted, shuffling in socks is usually constrained to lino or wood effect flooring, but you can't help but notice that any pattern displayed on the heel, toe or foot contains every nuance of meaning, yet is ultimately concealed neath brogues, cycle shoes, or thermal overshoes. and just to bolster my point further, the brand name and specific style embroidered inside the top of the ankle is that middle note of the triplet. whether you continue to think in dotted notes or triplets is your own affair; wear them properly and in appropriate context, and confidence is your bedfellow.
it takes a tad more skill and ingenuity, however, to introduce the rolling triplet, half-time shuffle. that's steely dan and toto territory.
rapha's pro-team socks are now available in short, long and extra-long varieties, in several new colours and in sizes small, medium, large and xl. short and long retail at £15 while extra long add another £5.
wednesday 8 october 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................