Shuffle, intro, kick-off, whatever you choose to call it - it's a rhythm we use primarily to introduce a tune and count in our bandmates or jam partners while establishing a tempo for said tune. In my latest video, I walked you through how to play a fun variation on the basic shuffle - the "Georgia" shuffle. Now, let's dissect it a bit!
After playing this type of shuffle for years, I was excited when I finally discovered a name for it! Perhaps that's you, too. Or, maybe you're learning about shuffles altogether for the first time. Either way, how exciting! Let's dive in.
As a recap, the basic shuffle has our standard "long lit-tle, long lit-tle" rhythm, or "one &-a two &-a three &-a four &-a", like so:
Of course, we can (and do, typically) add double stops to this rhythm to create the Bluegrass/Old-Time style shuffle we're all familiar with!
Now, the Georgia shuffle has a bit more going on, particularly with the bowing. The rhythm is pretty standard - two bars of eighth notes or "one-&-two-&-three-&-four-&" per measure. Nothing exceptional here.
So that's the rhythm, but what about the bowing? This is where it gets a bit more hairy. If we're starting from the very top of this shuffle, we begin on a down bow and have three notes played separately, or, "down-up-down" in bowing.
Next, we slur three notes together in a single up bow, or, "up-up-up" in bowing.
Finally, we play a single, accented note on a down bow, followed by three notes slurred on an up bow... and so the pattern continues.
The example below is taken from The Fiddler's Fakebook, and is a fantastic representation of this bowing pattern and rhythm.
Since this is a shuffle that you can't very well play on a single note due to the nature of slurs, I like to begin by starting on open A, and alternating between B (first finger) and A (open string). So, the note pattern would be as follows: A-B-B-B-A-B-B-B. (To hear how this sounds with the aforementioned note pattern, you can check out the video here.)
Tips for making the most of the Georgia Shuffle:
Start in the middle of the bow. This will help to give you plenty of room to work with while keeping a balanced and relaxed tone.
Use a good amount of bow speed on the down bow, working your way to the upper half of the bow. Not only will this help with the accent, but it also gives you plenty of bow for the three-note slur.
Keep it light! There's no need to exert force with this shuffle, and in fact, the more relaxed your bow arm and hand are, the easier you will find this bowing pattern to be.
As always, feel free to add in double stops to complete the Georgia shuffle, as we do with the basic shuffle. This will give it more of that "fiddl-ey" sound and is great double stop practice as well! Just make sure you choose a drone string that fits within the key of the tune you are introducing. For example, if you are playing the melody starting on the A string, you will likely want to use D as a drone. Likewise, if you are starting melody on the E string, you will likely want to use A as a drone. But use your ear and intuition and see what seems to fit best within the context you are using this shuffle!
Now, we of course don't have to limit this bowing pattern to just the intro of a tune. The Georgia shuffle can be used as a bowing pattern that is played all throughout a tune, and the following "Ragtime Joe" is a great example of this. Feel free to use this tune to get a better handle on the Georgia shuffle.
Well, I hope you now have a better understanding of the Georgia shuffle, and can go to town with incorporating it into your current fiddle repertoire! Above all, have fun with it! If you're not having fun, you're not doing it right.