No matter how developed every other aspect of your blues guitar playing is, it will always sound sloppy if your rhythm isn’t perfectly tight. The reason why some guitarist stand out from others is undoubtable their rhythmical skills. The real assets of guitarists like Stevie Ray Vaughan or Jimi Hendrix came from the fact that their rhythm playing was highly developed. That’s why developing good rhythmical skills should be the cornerstone in every guitar players training sessions.
The blues shuffle rhythm is a very underestimated part for blues guitar players. Most people would think: “All right, I know how to do this, there is no need for me to train this part of blues guitar playing”. Well, that’s exactly the reason why so many guitar students never reach the level of mastery. This article will not only zoom in on the development of your blues shuffle feel, but also your overall rhythmical ability in order to take your blues playing to a more highly developed phase.
Why Understanding The Blues Shuffle Feel Is The First Step To Master Your Rhythm
Understanding how the blues shuffle feel works is the first step to master it. Let’s look at it this way: If someone would ask you to play the shuffle rhythm you might work it out ‘correct’ but as soon as the environment (speed, rhythm, chords, etc.) changes you’ll struggle to adapt that shuffle feel to the new situations. Through understanding the shuffle feel correctly, you can start to develop good habits with excellent adaptive skills that supports your musical freedom.
The core of your shuffle rhythms are triplets. When playing a triplet rhythm, we divide one beat into three notes. However, a shuffle rhythms leaves out the middle note. When the middle note is not played, we’ll ‘tie’ together the first two notes of the triplet in order to create that special shuffle feel.
Have a listen to a full 12 bar blues shuffle feel by clicking here.
How To Train Your Rhythm Skills For Ultimate Mastery Of Your Blues Shuffle Feel
Mastering this shuffle feel in all conditions comes with practice so don’t trick yourself by thinking you got this down without even trying the exercises below. The next system is the perfect practice method to gain mastery in rhythms with triples which includes the blues shuffle feel.
The exercise is fairly easy but it’s a huge challenge to execute it correctly and tight. The first step is to set a pace for the exercises. I suggest to start at 60 BPM, but don’t worry if you have to start even slower than this. The next table is a series of triplet variations that increases by difficulty every next level. The way to execute this is to hit a single string (or to strum all strings) on certain places in time. The crosses indicate every time where you need to hit the string. Don’t worry about your fretting hand. You don’t need this hand for these exercises.
Here is what you have to do:
1. Start with the first level and try to repeat it for at least five measures without making errors. If you managed to play the level at least 5 times in a row without making a single mistake, you can continue to the next level. Once you went through all levels (1 to 10), you can continue to the next exercise.
2. This second exercise is to play level 1 to 5 contiguous (one measure level 1, one measure level 2, etc.) without making a single mistake. If you got this down, do the same with the next five levels. So now you try and play level 6 to 10 without an error.
3. The final test to make sure you got all levels down without making any mistake goes like this: complete the whole set of levels (level 1 to 10) contiguous (one measure level 1, one measure level 2, etc.).
If you managed to do the three exercises in one sitting then do the process again but you increase the speed.
This system is one of the most powerful methods to isolate and train your rhythm ability with triplets. However, these exercises must be done over a period of time to get them fully into your system and never make a mistake ever anymore.
The next tables are meant to track your progress over the next couple weeks so you can clearly see progress by doing these rhythmical isolation exercises. I suggest to do these exercises at least once a week for 20 – 30 minutes per sitting.
It’s also a great idea to come up with your own levels. If the ones above are too easy, than simply create even more variations within all the levels. If the levels I provided are a bit too hard, then make sure you decrease the amount of variations within the levels.
To help you even more in gaining all the crucial blues rhythm skills and building a solid foundation of rhythmical abilities you can rely on every time you pick up the guitar, I wrote an ebook called ‘The Best Blues Rhythm eBook Online’ that you can download on my website for free.
About the author
Antony Reynaert is guitar player and teacher specialized in blues music. On his website Best Blues Guitar Lessons you can find free videos, ebooks, articles and many more content in order to help guitar students all over the world to develop their blues guitar skills the best way possible.