This month we are taking a close look at shuffles and exploring some of their variations. In this lesson we take a look at how to properly play a two-handed or “double” shuffle, most commonly associated with blues music. “Double” here means both hands are playing the shuffle pattern, with one hand on the snare drum and the other on the hi-hat or ride cymbal. As there are numerous variations of the shuffle this two-handed shuffle is the best place to start if you want to develop a strong shuffle groove.

Starting with the snare drum, the shuffle pattern (the first and third partials of an eighth-note triplet) should be played with an easy flow with accents on beats 2 and 4 (Ex. 1). Depending on the musical context the accents may be played center snare or as rimshots.

Double Shuffle Lesson 1

Double Shuffle Ex. 1

Next, the ride cymbal also plays a continuous shuffle pattern with the difference being that there should be a subtle accent on every downbeat (Ex. 2). Once this ride pattern is mastered you can experiment with a mirror image of the snare pattern with accents solely on beats 2 and 4 or, for a more technically challenging variation, add accents on the upbeats. When playing the ride cymbal, the hi-hat with the foot should be playing 2 and 4, but feel free to play quarter notes on every down beat or even mess around with adding some foot splashes to the groove.

Double Shuffle Lesson 2

Double Shuffle Ex. 2


Once the ride pattern is feeling good, move from the ride to the hi-hat. The same technique applies to the hi-hat, with quarter-note accents on the downbeats as a general rule. Experiment with various hi-hat thicknesses moving from tight and clean to half-open and gritty.

The default bass drum pattern should be four-on-the-floor with a consistently warm sound (Ex. 3). Avoid playing the bass drum too heavily as this can bog the groove down. This is a great opportunity to work on heel-down playing as your body will be more relaxed, allowing the groove the flow. Once this is feeling good try experimenting with a few simple pattern variations on the bass drum.

Double Shuffle Lesson 3

Double Shuffle Ex. 3

Remember, consistency is key when playing a shuffle. Challenge yourself to play chorus after chorus of 12-bar blues, avoiding any fills. The band will love you for this!


Listening references:

  1. “Tore Down” (Freddie King, Getting Ready, Charles Meyers or Chuck Blackwell on drums)
  2. “Tore Down” (Eric Clapton, From the Cradle, Jim Keltner on drums)
  3. “Sweet Home Chicago” (Luther Allison, Where Have You Been, Roger Hawkins on drums)
  4. “Don’t Want No Man” (Marcia Ball, Soulful Dress, Wes Starr on drums)


Stewart Jean is Program Chair for Drums at Musicians Institute in Hollywood, CA.