Difficulty LevelThe previous lessons using the 12/8 time signature introduced you to the idea of playing drum beats while counting in three. If you remember from the 12/8 Basic Drum Beats lesson the drum beats still had four Beats to the bar but each Beat was then split into three notes; there were twelve notes to the bar in total (four groups of three).

If you find that you are able to play these ideas already then you can skip straight to the intermediate lesson by clicking here.

This lesson is going to be talking about a very popular style of drum beat that is also played by splitting up each Beat of the bar into three notes. The drum beats are called “Shuffle” beats because of the distinctive Hi-Hat pattern played through “Triplets”.

As always, it’s probably easier to just show you what I mean.


The Shuffle And Triplets

Basic Shuffle Drum Beat

The bar is split into four groups of three notes; each group of three notes is called a “Triplet”. Each Triplet starts on a different Beat (shown by the numbering underneath the notes), this shows you where each Beat of the bar falls (there are four Beats in the bar).

The snare drum is played on all twelve triplet notes that make up the bar. Each Beat of the bar has three triplet notes on the snare drum and this is illustrated by the numbering at the top of the bar. Triplets can be counted many different ways; the way I choose to count triplets has always been 1-Trip-Let, 2-Trip-Let, 3-Trip-Let, 4-Trip-Let. It doesn’t matter what system you use.

The Hi-Hat line in this bar of music shows how the Shuffle would be executed. The Hi-Hat is played on the 1st and 3rd partial of each triplet, the 2nd partial of each triplet is skipped but still counted.

So this is the Shuffle, simply the 1st and 3rd partial of the triplet.

The Shuffle – Hi-Hat Pattern

Basic Shuffle Drum Beat

This bar shows how the Shuffle Hi-Hat pattern is written using triplet notation. The 2nd partial of each triplet is replaced by a rest, this 2nd partial is not played but instead skipped over silently. Remember that all twelve notes are evenly spaced including the rests.

The counting system I use when playing a Shuffle is 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + with the count falling with the Hi-Hats. This means that the counting isn’t even but rather has the distinctive “Shuffle” sound. The counting is falling on the 1st and 3rd partial of each triplet.

The Shuffle – Practice Template

Basic Shuffle Drum Beat

This bar shows a really great way of practicing the Shuffle. The right hand plays on the Hi-Hat while the left hand plays on the snare drum (brackets are used to indicate the snare is played very quietly). Make sure that all the notes are evenly spaced and try to play the snare drum notes (2nd partial of each triplet) as quietly as possible so that the Hi-Hat notes stand out strong and loud. This will help you to hear what the Shuffle sounds like and get you used to its distinctive feel.

The counting has been written below this bar so you can see how it lines up with the Hi-Hat notes.

Once you have got used to the Shuffle and how the Hi-Hats line up with the 1st and 3rd partial of each triplet then you are ready to move onto the drum beats below. Let’s do that now.


Shuffle Drum Beat 1

Basic Shuffle Drum Beat

You need to master this drum beat first before moving onto the others. It can be tricky at first to include the bass drum and snare drum without interfering with the “shuffled” Hi-Hat pattern.


Shuffle Drum Beat 2

Basic Shuffle Drum Beat

The bass drum is now going to play a note on the “+” of Beat 3 (the 3rd partial of the triplet on Beat 3). Be careful that the bass drum note falls exactly with the Hi-Hat and does not affect the right hands movement.


Shuffle Drum Beat 3

Basic Shuffle Drum Beat

The two bass drum notes falling on the “+” of Beat 2 and on Beat 3 can be hard to play at faster tempos due to their close proximity to each other.


Shuffle Drum Beat 4

Basic Shuffle Drum Beat

This is a combination of Drum Beats 2 and 3.

The rest of these Shuffle drum beats are simply permutations with the bass drum. You can place the bass drum anywhere you like within the bar to create your own variations. Some are harder to play than others and be careful while playing them that the Hi-Hat does not lose its Shuffle feel. As long as the Hi-Hat is played on 1st and 3rd partial of each triplet and the snare/bass drums are lined up with the Hi-Hat then you know it’s being played correctly.

Here are the other variations.


Shuffle Drum Beat 5

Basic Shuffle Drum Beat


Shuffle Drum Beat 6

Basic Shuffle Drum Beat


Shuffle Drum Beat 7

Basic Shuffle Drum Beat


Shuffle Drum Beat 8

Basic Shuffle Drum Beat

The bass drum on the “+” of Beat 2 can be tricky to play as only the Hi-Hat is played on Beat 3. It can feel uncomfortable because of the space left after the bass drum but will sound super funky once mastered!


Shuffle Drum Beat 9

Basic Shuffle Drum Beat


Shuffle Drum Beat 10

Basic Shuffle Drum Beat


Shuffle Drum Beat 11

Basic Shuffle Drum Beat


Practice Suggestion

The key to playing the Shuffle correctly is to feel and count all three triplet notes even though the 2nd partial, in these examples anyway, isn’t used. If you can play all these drum beats while counting triplets then you know you must be doing well.

You can hear Shuffle drum beats being used in all kinds of music. To get a really good understanding of how it’s used and sounds just listen to songs that use it. Check out the following tunes for great examples of how the shuffle sounds in a musical context.

  • “Rosanna” – Toto
  • “Fool In The Rain” – Led Zeppelin
  • “Minority” – Green Day
  • “Sit Down” – James

ADVANCED PLAYER: You might want to consider playing these drum beats with just 1/4 notes on the Hi-Hat, not playing the 3rd partial of the triplet. Any bass drum note falling on the 3rd partial would then be played on its own and not with the Hi-Hat at the same time.

Another cool idea to try is playing the 2nd partial of each triplet on the snare drum but to make it a ghost note (very quietly played). This means that all three notes of each triplet are being played either on the Hi-Hat or snare drum, it has a great sound. Be careful that the snare drum on Beats 2 and 4 are played as accents though (loud), otherwise the snare backbeat can’t be heard. This ghosting of the 2nd partial of the triplet is demonstrated brilliantly by Jeff Porcaro on the song “Rosanna” by Toto.



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