Blues Shuffles


The Blues Shuffle.
Next to a blues bar format (12-bar, 8-bar, etc.), one of the most common blues cliches (read... want to sound bluesy without really trying?).

First things first. The rhythm.
The shuffle. It is not a straight rhythm, but a swung rhythm. Something close to the rhythm of "every time I play a game..." Some rockers will play it straight (straight eighths), but if you want it to sound more bluesy, swing it.

Basic Shuffle
Play the following pattern once or twice per measure depending on taste (mine run to 2x/measure, played as eighths).

In E
|-----------------------|
|-----------------------|
|-----------------------|
|-----------------------|
|--2-2-4-2--------------|
|--0-0-0-0--------------|


In A
|-----------------------|
|-----------------------|
|-----------------------|
|--2-2-4-2--------------|
|--0-0-0-0--------------|
|-----------------------|


And in D
|-----------------------|
|-----------------------|
|--2-2-4-2--------------|
|--0-0-0-0--------------|
|-----------------------|
|-----------------------|



another variation applied to E
|-----------------------|
|-----------------------|
|-----------------------|
|-----------------------|
|--2-2-4-4--------------|
|--0-0-0-0--------------|


and another variation (also applied to E). Try playing it straight.
notes 3+4 are eighth notes.
|-----------------------|
|-----------------------|
|-----------------------|
|-------h-p-------------|
|--2-2-2-4-2------------|
|--0-0-0-0-0------------|

Closed (moveable) positions
Suppose we want to play in some key other than A? We will need at least one versiion without open strings (for example, in E we'll need B, which is not in open position).

In B
|-----------------------|
|-----------------------|
|-----------------------|
|--4-4-6-4--------------|
|--2-2-2-2--------------|
|-----------------------|


In E
|-----------------------|
|-----------------------|
|--4-4-6-4--------------|
|--2-2-2-2--------------|
|-----------------------|
|-----------------------|


In F#
|-----------------------|
|-----------------------|
|-----------------------|
|-----------------------|
|--4-4-6-4--------------|
|--2-2-2-2--------------|

Fretboard Connection
So what's going on in the fretboard? How does it relate to the chords, the roots, etc.?

From our 1st examples (in E)


X|---|---|---|---|---|
X|---|---|---|---|---|
X|---|---|---|---|---|
X|---|---|---|---|---|
 |---|-O-|---|-O-|---|
R|---|---|---|---|---|


X|---|---|---|---|---|
X|---|---|---|---|---|
X|---|---|---|---|---|
X|---|---|---|---|---|
 |---|-B-|---|C#-|---|
E|---|---|---|---|---|


X|---|---|---|---|---|
X|---|---|---|---|---|
X|---|---|---|---|---|
X|---|---|---|---|---|
 |---|-5-|---|-6-|---|
1|---|---|---|---|---|

The first chord in the pattern is the interval of a perfect 5th, we also call this a power chord (see July 26th's lesson), and we can write it down as X5 (E5, C5, etc.).

The second chord in the pattern is the interval of a major 6th. Although it is not a full major 6 chord (6=1,3,5,6; M6(interval)=1,6).

All the other variations are the same thing, for the sake of brevity the moveable forms are as follows:

Root on 6th string (E-shape)
X|---|---|---|---|---|
X|---|---|---|---|---|
X|---|---|---|---|---|
X|---|---|---|---|---|
 |---|---|-5-|---|-6-|
 |-1-|---|---|---|---|


Root on 5th string (A-shape)
X|---|---|---|---|---|
X|---|---|---|---|---|
X|---|---|---|---|---|
 |---|---|-5-|---|-6-|
 |-1-|---|---|---|---|
X|---|---|---|---|---|


Root on 4th string (D-shape)
X|---|---|---|---|---|
X|---|---|---|---|---|
 |---|---|-5-|---|-6-|
 |-1-|---|---|---|---|
X|---|---|---|---|---|
X|---|---|---|---|---|

If you're not sure how to apply moveable chords, see Feb 21st's lesson.

Extension to b7
Once you've become comfortable with the basic shuffle, you can add variations to spice it up. The 1st variation we will consider is extending it to the b7.

Consider the following:
(applied to E)

|-------------------|-------------------|
|-------------------|-------------------|
|-------------------|-------------------|
|-------------------|-------------------|
|--2-2-4-2-2-2-4-2--|--2-2-4-2-5-2-4-2--|
|--0-0-0-0-0-0-0-2--|--0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0--|
  E5  E6 E5   E6 E5       E6 E5E7E5E6E5


X|---|---|---|---|---|
X|---|---|---|---|---|
X|---|---|---|---|---|
X|---|---|---|---|---|
 |---|-O-|---|-O-|-O-|
R|---|---|---|---|---|


X|---|---|---|---|---|
X|---|---|---|---|---|
X|---|---|---|---|---|
X|---|---|---|---|---|
 |---|-5-|---|-6-|b7-|
1|---|---|---|---|---|

Harmonized Shuffles
I hear a lot of harmonized shuffles in Delta Blues (for this example, we'll use the variation where the 6 is played twice). This example could be played with or without the open B and E strings.

In E
|-------------------|-------------------|
|-------------------|-------------------|
|--1-1-2-2-1-1-2-2--|--1-1-2-2-4-4-2-2--|
|--0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0--|--0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0--|
|--2-2-4-4-2-2-4-4--|--2-2-4-4-5-5-4-4--|
|--0-0-0-0-0-0-0-2--|--0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0--|


O|---|---|---|---|---|
O|---|---|---|---|---|
 |-O-|-O-|---|-O-|---|
O|---|---|---|---|---|
 |---|-O-|---|-O-|-O-|
R|---|---|---|---|---|


 1|---|---|---|---|---|
 5|---|---|---|---|---|
  |-3-|-4-|---|-5-|---|
b7|---|---|---|---|---|
  |---|-5-|---|-6-|b7-|
 1|---|---|---|---|---|




In A
|-------------------|-------------------|
|--2-2-3-3-2-2-3-3--|--2-2-3-3-5-5-3-3--|
|--0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0--|--0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0--|
|--2-2-4-4-2-2-4-4--|--2-2-4-4-5-5-4-4--|
|--0-0-0-0-0-0-0-2--|--0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0--|
|-------------------|-------------------|


O|---|---|---|---|---|
 |---|-O-|-O-|---|-O-|
O|---|---|---|---|---|
 |---|-O-|---|-O-|-O-|
R|---|---|---|---|---|
O|---|---|---|---|---|


 5|---|---|---|---|---|
  |---|-3-|-4-|---|-5-|
b7|---|---|---|---|---|
  |---|-5-|---|-6-|b7-|
 1|---|---|---|---|---|
 5|---|---|---|---|---|



In D
|--2-2-3-3-2-2-3-3--|--2-2-3-3-5-5-3-3--|
|--0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0--|--0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0--|
|--2-2-4-4-2-2-4-4--|--2-2-4-4-5-5-4-4--|
|--0-0-0-0-0-0-0-2--|--0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0--|
|-------------------|-------------------|
|-------------------|-------------------|


 |---|-O-|-O-|---|-O-|
O|---|---|---|---|---|
 |---|-O-|---|-O-|-O-|
R|---|---|---|---|---|
O|---|---|---|---|---|
X|---|---|---|---|---|


 |---|-3-|-4-|---|-5-|
6|---|---|---|---|---|
 |---|-5-|---|-6-|b7-|
1|---|---|---|---|---|
5|---|---|---|---|---|
X|---|---|---|---|---|

A little Gospel
The above harmonized shuffles do not change into moveable shapes easily, but there are variations that do. We often hear them used as suspensions in gospel music, and also in rock music.

The suspensions in question basically play 2 major chords off each other. We consider the following shapes:

A-shape to C-shape (or G-shape to C-shape)

|-------h-p-------------|
|--2-2-2-3-2------------|
|--2-2-2---2------------|
|--2-2-2-4-2------------|
|-----------------------|
|-----------------------|


|---|---|---|---|
|-O-|-O-|---|---|
|-O-|---|---|---|
|-O-|---|-O-|---|
|---|---|---|---|
|---|---|---|---|
  2

|---|---|---|---|
|-3-|-4-|---|---|
|-1-|---|---|---|
|-5-|---|-6-|---|
|---|---|---|---|
|---|---|---|---|
  2




D-shape to E-shape

|--2-2-2-3-2------------|
|--3-3-3---3------------|
|--2-2-2-4-2------------|
|-------h-p-------------|
|-----------------------|
|-----------------------|


|-O-|-O-|---|---|
|---|-O-|---|---|
|-O-|---|-O-|---|
|---|---|---|---|
|---|---|---|---|
|---|---|---|---|
  2

|-3-|-4-|---|---|
|---|-1-|---|---|
|-5-|---|-6-|---|
|---|---|---|---|
|---|---|---|---|
|---|---|---|---|
  2


E-shape to A-shape

|--5-5-5---5------------|
|--5-5-5-7-5------------|
|--6-6-6-7-6------------|
|--7-7-7---7------------|
|-------h-p-------------|
|-----------------------|


|-O-|---|---|---|
|-O-|---|-O-|---|
|---|-O-|-O-|---|
|---|---|-O-|---|
|---|---|---|---|
|---|---|---|---|
  5

|-1-|---|---|---|
|-5-|---|-6-|---|
|---|-3-|-4-|---|
|---|---|-1-|---|
|---|---|---|---|
|---|---|---|---|
  5

Theory Considerations
So what is going on with the harmonies?
Starting with the original exercises we saw that there was a suspension of the 5th to the 6th.

Looking at the closed harmonized forms, the chords all go from 1-3-5 (the I chord) to 1-4-6 (an inversion of the IV chord). So basically it is a movement of the I chord to the IV chord (and back, etc.)

That leaves us with the open harmonized shuffles. The E and A versions are the same and as follows: 1-3-5-b7 (I7 chord) to 1-4-6-b7 (viewing this as a Iv chord would be IVadd4) to 1-5-b7 (I7 chord, no3).

The D version has an open 6th (rather than a m7), which gives 1-5-6-3 (I6 chord) to 1-4-6 (IV chord) to 1-b7-6-5 (I6/7 or I13(no3)).

Basically the movement is from I to IV to I.

Next lesson is on the Blues Scale.

Peace,
Christopher Roberts
snglstringtheory@aol.com


How do I change all those numbers to letters (for notes, chords, etc.)? Here's a transposition chart simianmoon.com/snglstringtheory/guitar/8theory3.html

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Last updated December 19, 2002
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