BY STEWART JEAN
A backward shuffle? That was my reaction the first time someone asked me to play one. I knew a regular shuffle, a halftime shuffle and a funk shuffle, but backward? Yep. Also referred to as the “flat tire shuffle,” this is an excellent addition to your groove repertoire. This falls under the “old school” file, relating mainly to 1940s-50s roots music, though it can also apply to traditional country and blues.
This groove can be played within the range of tempos around 100–170 bpm, give or take. When listening to blues and swing era music you will notice the piano or guitar will often play a constant swung-upbeat pattern on every beat. A good example of this is the music of Louis Prima.
The backward shuffle reinforces these patterns on the drums with both hands playing the shuffle pattern between the snare and ride (or hi-hat) (Ex. 1).
The bass drum usually plays a light four-on-the-floor (heel down — make sure air is moving consistently and smoothly). The hi-hat with the foot should play on beats 2 and 4 to keep the groove in check and not feel too frantic. Once this is all in place the hands should now accents every upbeat (Ex. 2). This action creates a loping groove much like the rhythm of a flat tire.
Brushes are commonly used when playing this groove with both hands on the snare drum. In this case, the right hand should play the full shuffle pattern while the left hand plays upbeat accents.
Backward shuffle playlist:
- Tell Me What’s the Reason (T-Bone Walker)
- Alimony Blues (T-Bone Walker)
- It Only Hurts When I Cry (Dwight Yoakam, If There Was A Way, Jeff Donovan on drums)
- Everyday I Have the Blues (B. B. King, Live at the Regal, Sonny Freeman on drums)
- I Got Eyes (The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Butt Rockin’, Fran Christina on drums)
Stewart Jean is Program Chair for Drums at Musicians Institute in Hollywood, CA.