How many shades of Blue in Blues Drumming?


OK, you've answered an ad in the local rag that says "Drummer required for working blues band playing all styles ...... NO TIMEWASTERS!" You're no timewaster, you can play a rock beat , you know what a 12/8 blues beat is and you can handle a basic shuffle so you ring ........ ...... "Yeah, Hi, I'm ringing for the blues band gig, how many gigs you got and how much do you get paid?" Larry the bass player replies "Well, we play 2-3 times per week, playing some festivals down the coast soon and we're getting material together for our second cd. We play all styles from Tex-Mex to Second-Line New Orleans rhythms, some of our stuff needs a solid Texan Shuffle and we have a tune that needs a variation of a Zydeco Cha-cha ........ can you cut these?" ................ You very cooly reply .... "Whaaaaa?" Blues, as most people know is the basis of nearly everything we play today, the rhythms that are played have developed from the times of slavery in nineteenth century America. Different regions of America have developed different variations of rhythms that have gone on to become the backbone of many current musical styles. Whilst researching this article I enlisted the support of Paula Dowse, drummer with the Mojo's, a band that makes a specialty of blending a mix of Southern and New Orleans Blues with a healthy dose of rumba, zydeco and swing thrown in for good measure, their CD "Swing O'Clock Blues" is a mix of rhythms that is both fun, energetic and eclectic. Lets summarise and quickly analyze as many blues based drumset rhythms as a 1000 word article will allow.

Basic Rock Beat and a 12/8 Blues Beat

To play a solid rock-beat is of course the first, most basic of beats required (do I really need to explain this?), we then move on to a 12/8 blues beat, to explain ..... 12 eighth notes in the bar played on the cymbal that can be counted: 1&a 2&a 3&a 4&a ..... with added kick on 1 and 3 and the snare on 2 and 4. If you have a dinky little Casio keyboard at home with a doo-doo-di-di drum machine program; it's usually called "Slow Rock" ..... God bless those stressed-out over-worked bottom of the rung of the corporate ladder Japanese execs who came up with the name and are being paid about four-times more than the average aussie muso.

How many Shuffles can you play?

The Standard Shuffle is based on triplets but you take out the "&" ...... 1&a 2&a 3&a 4&a ... becomes 1_ta 2_ta 3_ta 4_ta then add the bass (1,3) and snare (2,4). The standard boogie 12 bar pattern; if you can't cut this, sell the kit and become a clarinet player.
The Texan Shuffle is one (obviously from Texas ... awww der fred!) where you play the shuffle on both cymbal and snare with the left hand accenting 2 and 4; a real tricky snap! The bass drum is usually "four on the floor" (beats 1,2,3,4) Check out "The Fabulous Thunderbirds" with Jimmy Vaughn (Stevie Ray's brother) they're not too shabby at this sort of feel. You need a left hand on steroids to cut this groove!
The Rolling Shuffle uses triplets played RLR LRL RLR LRL with the right hand on cymbal and left on snare accenting the 2 and 4, add the bass drum first on 1 and 3 then variate ..... a great rolling sound for faster things and a real rollicking groove, I used to use this one extensively with an original band called Beltane around the turn of the last decade. Ahhhh I remember when I was young the world had just begun ..... annnn I wasss "apppeeeeee"!
Half-Time Shuffle count: 1_ta 2_ta 3_ta 4_ta .... then add the bass on 1 and snare on 3; this beat is also known as 90's hip-hop and also has been called a 70's "strut", It wasn't anything in the 80's because neither Milli Vanilli nor Cyndi Lauper used it. I am also pretty sure it was called a 60's something and 50's whatever .... a testament to the fact that the only things new is made from things that have been forgotten. Awww that's right, Jimi Hendrix is STILL releasing new albums even though he croaked when I was 10! And ELVIS is touring next month!!!!
The TWIST Shuffle basically a twist beat "bounced" .... 1_ta 2_ta 3_ta 4_ta with right hand on either cymbal or floor-tom add left hand on 2 and 4_ta .... have a listen to Gary Glitter's "Rock and Roll" for the basic version, not a blues tune maybe but you gotta love the sequins! Now that we have the shuffles down, let's move on to New Orleans Street Beats and Bo- Diddley ........

New Orleans Street Rhythms and The Bo-Diddley Beat

One of THE most used rhythms in the world is the Clave ..... and specifically, a 3-2 clave: count: 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & | 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & .... then add the following accents: 1st bar: One; the "&" after 2; Four. The second bar has accents on 2 and 3. The Bo-Diddley Beat Play the clave and add the bass on 1 and 3 and hi-hat (with the foot) on 2 and 4. If you play the rhythm on the floor-tom, you have a Bo-Diddley Beat; a rhythm that has been around longer than Bert Newton .... the beat made famous by "Hand-Jive" from Grease; Bo-Diddley the man was a groovy cat from the 50's who wore a cow-boy hat and rattled off around 40-50 hits with the same groove and chord progression, his popularity started to wane when he tried to rhyme "orange" with "door- hinge" and "having a crush" with "she gave me thrush!"
New Orleans Street Rhythms - This rhythm was originally used in street parades and believe it or not, funerals! (a New Orleans funeral march started with a sombre sad march to reflect on a loved one's passing then jumped to a party groove to celebrate his or her life; a bit like an Irish wake, only they didn't invent Guiness!) If you move around the accents of the clave a little and play this rhythm on the snare with a serious slap on the "four" of the second bar, you get a street rhythm which derives from New Orleans and Cajun style blues. The Mojo's play this style frequently with one track in particular .... "Goin' down to New Orleans" from their "Swing O' Clock Blues" CD. Play it messy to get that down home flavour. It's ok to sink a few cans of piss before playing this .... really ..... it helps!
The Reverse Clave - You can also use what is called the "reverse clave" ... you simply switch bars, play the second bar first and the first bar second. It may sound tricky but if your dyslexic it's no problem! ...... and then we move on to beats that are swung and have more of a jazz influence ......

Swing Beats

Use the shuffle pattern: 1_ta 2_ta 3_ta 4_ta and then drop the ta's after 1 and 3, we then get: 1__ 2_ta 3__ 4_ta. Act cool, shave your head, grow a goatee and try to get an arts council grant. Say the word "Coltrane" a lot.
Dixieland Jazz - 1__ 2_ta 3__ 4_ta ... play this on the cymbal adding four on the floor bass (1,2,3,4) and 2 and 4 on the snare and hi-hat (foot) .... won't yoo cum home Bill Bailey, Hoi!!
Jump Swing - go back to 1_ta 2_ta 3_ta 4_ta ....... play the 1,2,3,4 on the cymbal and all the ta's on the snare; four on the floor with bass drum, a little chilli and paprika with a glass of hooch and voila! The Mojo's CD title track "Swing O' Clock Blues" nails this beat. It sounds like hiccups, it also sounds like an ex of mine climaxing (aa-hah, aa-hah, aa-hah, aa-hah, WAAAAAAAAHHHH!!!)
Be-Bop - although a definite jazz style, you can use the ideas to mix up your snare and bass beats ..... keep the tingaling pattern on the cymbal with 2 and 4 on hi-hat and mix the bass and snare shots with the riff/rhythm of the tune. Be careful to listen to the tune! ....... Jazz hacks who can't get a gig often try this out and fuck it up usually because of smirking arrogance.

Summary

So, here you are thinking a blues gig simply consisted of ........ Doo-Daaaa-Doooo-Dit "I's woke up dis mornin" Doo-Daaaa-Doooo-Dit "wit my dik in de hand" Doo-Daaaa-Doooo-Dit Well, some news brudda and sista ..... you gotta work yoo arrrsss offff! Know these beats ...... 1) Basic rock 2) 12/8 Blues 3) Standard Shuffle 4) Texan Shuffle 5) Rolling Shuffle 6) Half-Time Shuffle 7) Twist Shuffle 8) 3-2 Clave 9) Bo-Diddley 10) New Orleans 2nd Line 11) Reverse Clave 12) Swing 13) Dixieland 14) Jump 15) Be-Bop ..... Fifteen beats and not to mention up-two feels, Zydeco, swampy rumbas, and variations of all and everything, get to work and be forever humble to the world of music that just when you think you know enough to be smug, history and tradition rears its ugly head and smacks you in the mouth!