Bass is all about groove. If any styles have a surplus of groove, it is the styles of shuffle and swing. Swing music is all about moving, and to move, you need to groove. Today we will be discussing the basics of shuffle and swing rhythms for bass guitar.
Before we begin, it is important that you understand a few things. Shuffle rhythms and swing rhythms are built using triplets with tied notes.
If you don’t know what triplets are, that’s okay; A triplet is a note from the tuplet family. Triplets are a grouping of three notes whose value equals that of two of the same note.
For instance, take a quarter note; two eighth notes are equal in value to one quarter note. If our eighth notes are turned into triplets, their value changes; now three eighth notes are equal to one quarter note. Similarly, two sixteenth notes are equal to a single eighth note. If we bracket three sixteenth notes into a triplet, now three sixteenth notes are equivalent in value to a single eighth note.
Next we need to talk about tied notes. Tied notes are notes that are connected by a line called a tie. This little line alters the value of the two notes, as they now become one. Take for instance an eighth note and a quarter note.
If we were to tie together the eighth note and quarter note, the note would now be held for the length of both notes together, or one and a half quarter notes. Tying notes together is a way of simply increasing the value of a single note without heightening a specific notes value. It also makes odd note values achievable.
Now that you know what goes into making a shuffle and swing rhythm, it’s time we create a shuffle swing rhythm for bass guitar. Shuffle swing rhythms consist of a measure of tied note triplets. The second note of the triplet is tied to the first, which makes it so that the two eighth notes are held together for their duration, creating a more relaxed feeling triplet.
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Notice on the tab portion of the piece that the rhythm looks broken. This is because the two notes held together signify one note. Essentially, the easiest way to play these notes is with a metronome.
Start off at a slow speed, and allow yourself to get a feel for the rhythm. It may also help to clap the pattern out, or tap it onto your knee. This will help your body get a feel for the odd note groupings.
Once you have mastered this bass guitar shuffle swing rhythm, the final step is all up to you. Practice incorporating this groove into your own playing sessions and jams. Try using this same pattern along familiar melodies, even scales.
Use the bass guitar shuffle swing rhythm pattern as part of your practice regimen, to help you gain a better feel for groove. Try not to let the shuffle swing rhythm become lost; keep it a weekly part of your playing and practice, as it will help you to develop a better sense of timing. Good luck!
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