BY STEWART JEAN
The funk shuffle can be quite a challenge to grasp for many young players. It often ends up being played too straight or too tight. Funk shuffles can be played in a number of ways, but to first build the proper feel we will start with the sixteenth-note triplet.
To do this, we will simply remove the second and fifth notes of the pattern (Ex. 1). First, create a rhythmic template by putting your metronome on sixteenth-note triplets. Then, count and play on the hi-hat (using a hand-to-hand LRLR sticking) 1-e-&-a 2-e-&-a 3-e-&-a 4-e-&-a to match the first, third, fourth and sixth note of the sixteenth-note triplet template.
When playing the funk shuffle with hand-to-hand sticking make sure to keep your focus on the consistency of the eighth-notes being produced by the right hand (Ex. 2). When playing with both hands on the hi-hat the right hand must travel between two surfaces every other beat, thus creating the potential for an inconsistent backbeat. Be sure to play special attention to the movement between the hi-hat and snare to avoid this trap.
The funk shuffle will often be notated with regular sixteenth-notes, with instruction at the top of the chart indicating that they are to be swung (Ex. 3). This feel may also be notated as dotted sixteenth, dotted thirty-second, dotted sixteenth, dotted thirty-second (Ex. 4).
Another way to execute the funk shuffle feel is to play a standard “spang-a-lang” ride pattern, but counted as 1-&-a, 2-&-a, 3-&-a, 4-&-a with a snare backbeat on 2 and 4 (Ex. 5). A slight accent on the upbeats on the ride (or hi-hat) will also allow for the correct feel.
Finally, experiment with different voicing on the kit, such as leaving the left hand on the snare drum to add a nice series of ghost notes around the backbeat (Ex. 6).
Shuffled Sixteenths Playlist:
- “Superstition” (Stevie Wonder, Talking Book, Stevie Wonder on drums)
- “Old School” (Urban Cone, Old School [single])
- “What Cha Gonna Do With My Lovin’” (Stephanie Mills, What Cha Gonna Do With My Lovin’, Howard T. King on drums)
- “Dance Hall Days” (Wang Chung, Points on the Curve, Darren Costin on drums)
- “4 Out of 5” (Soul Coughing, Irresistible Bliss, Yuval Gabay on drums)
Stewart Jean is Program Chair for Drums at Musicians Institute in Hollywood, CA.