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Texas Shuffle: Rhythm
from David Hamburger’s Blues Alchemy
Slippery, sliding ninth chords have been a staple of Texas blues
since the ‘40s and ‘50s. T. Bone Walker originated this technique
to mimic horn stabs and add jazz sophistication to his music. This
style was picked up and built upon by such masters as Clarence
“Gatemouth” Brown and Albert Collins. This month’s lesson will
give you the techniques needed to add some Texas blues authenticity
to your shuffles.
You can think of a Texas shuffle as being a more swinging version
of a Chicago shuffle. Texas blues has been strongly influenced
by jazz; you can hear it in the walking basslines, as well as in the
horn section arrangements. Accenting the change from the major
to the minor third while soloing is another aspect of the jazz influence
– a major concept behind the riffs used to back soloists in
Southwestern big bands of the ‘30s and ‘40s.
Playing a Shuffle
A Texas shuffle is earmarked by the bass playing a walking bass
figure, in addition to how hard the tune swings. A lot of the swing
comes from the way the off beats are played using upstrokes. The
three different chord shapes used are a C9 chord, an F9 shape for
both the F9 and the G9, and a G13. For the strumming pattern, keep
your right hand moving, choosing when to hit the strings. Continually
hitting the strings is a great way to practice, but be mindful that too
much scratchy stuff will eventually become annoying.
Hit all four notes of the C9 chord using the tip of your index finger
or thumb to mute the low E, and the back of your pinky to mute the
high E, so you can really dig in across all six strings, but fret only four,
generating a lot of the part’s percussiveness. After the two chord
jabs, slide the top three notes of the chord up a whole step, being
sure to slide up hard, muting the A string so all six strings can still be
strummed. Moving to the F9, continue to mute the low E with either
your second finger or your thumb. For the turnaround, use the same
chord shape for the G9 as you did for the F9, and use the same
muting techniques for the G13 as the C9 chord.
If you find your rhythm guitar playing interesting, chances are others
will, too. Try and think of what you’re doing chorus by chorus,
and build up the variations gradually. You can find a lot of ideas
from listening to horn sections. Check out the Joe Williams/Count
Basie version of “Every Day I Have the Blues” for a stellar example
of a tune built on nothing but a series of unfolding riffs.
Many of the Texas players have horn sections. If you – like many
of us – find yourself playing without one, use that as a cue to help
direct your ideas, using riffs and harmonies to suggest horn lines.
Try using one concept, such as a rhythmic groove, for one chorus,
then perhaps a riff or double stop idea for the second chorus,
rather than play the same thing all the way through. You may think
using riffs and double stops might get too busy behind the soloist,
and it can, but if you keep them in the lower registers, and use a
repeatable idea, you can create something that is interesting to
listen to. The acid test is whether someone would notice what
you’re playing more than the singer or the soloist. If so, then it’s
That wraps up this month’s lesson. Next month we will look at
soloing in a Texas Shuffle style.
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