In The Pocket

Take Your Shuffle to the Max!

Layering in Quarter-Note Triplets

by Greg Sundel

The two most common types of shuffles are the jazz and blues shuffle. We won’t get into the history here, but the obvious difference is in the ride pattern. Either version can be used, depending on the song, the band, and the musical situation. Here’s the jazz shuffle. Notice that the ride is playing the traditional swing pattern.


And here’s the blues shuffle.


Practice the examples that follow with the shuffle pattern that you like best. Then, once you’ve mastered them, go back and repeat them using the other version. Here we’re using the jazz shuffle.

One way to augment the shuffle is to superimpose quarter- note triplets on the bass drum or hi-hat. You should add these ideas sparingly and always keep the groove strong and flowing. Nothing you add should interrupt the pulse. These ideas work well for me when I want to elevate the dynamics during the climax of a song. They also serve as a subtle way to transition from one section to another. Play the unaccented snare notes quietly, like ghost notes. Start slowly, count out loud, and use a metronome to make sure the tempo
stays steady.

In this example we’re applying quarter-note triplets on the bass drum starting on the middle note of the triplet on beat 1. Then the bass drum plays the same pattern as the snare on beats 2 and 4. The pattern repeats on beats 3 and 4.


It may help to get a better feel for how the triplets fit within the shuffle by removing the bass drum on beats 3 and 4.


Now start the quarter-note triplets on beats 1 and 3. This time, the bass drum will be in unison with the snare on beats 1 and 3 and on the middle note on beats 2 and 4.


Again, it may help to leave out the bass drum on beats 3 and 4 so that you have time to internalize the placement of the triplets.


Once you have both triplet placements mastered individually, try combining them to create new ideas. In this next example the bass drum starts on the middle triplet partial of beat 1 and then flips to the downbeat on beat 3.


Now try the opposite, with the bass drum starting on the downbeat of 1 and the middle triplet partial of beat 3.


After you have all of the bass drum variations down, go back and replace the bass drum with the hi-hat. Play quarter notes on the bass drum while you play the quarter-note-triplet exercises with the hi-hat. Again, the goal is to have a smooth blend of sounds—don’t use these patterns on a gig until you have total control over them.



Greg Sundel has performed or recorded with Billy Corgan, Lauryn Hill, and Joshua Redman. His book Drum Your Way is available through his website,