Jazz Drumming Groove 101: Swing and Shuffle

Apr 20 / Von Baron
Hey my fellow drummer! In this article I want to share with you about Swing and Shuffle and why they're so important in Jazz drumming.

If you want to get people moving, make great music and even get more drumming gigs, then keep reading!

What is Swing?

Swing is a rhythmic feel that started in Jazz music in the early 20th century.  It's characterized by a steady, syncopated pulse that also creates a sense of forward motion.

The word "Swing" is often connected with the Swing Era of Jazz in the 1930s and 1940s, but it is still used in Modern Jazz. In fact the word "Swing" is also used to describe any groove that sounds and feels great. 

While early Jazz drummers began playing Swing patterns on the hi-hat, they were eventually moved over to the ride cymbal. 

The basic Jazz Swing ride cymbal pattern is triplet-based with accents on the upbeats.  Here's a typical Jazz Swing ride pattern. The R = Ride Cymbal.

1  +  a  2  +  a  3  +  a  4  +  a
R         R     R  R          R      R

Accent counts 2 and 4 but also accent the "a" of 2 and 4.  This will give you an Elvin Jones sort of Swing feeling. This gives the pattern even more forward motion.

What Is Shuffle?

Shuffle is another rhythmic feel that is used a lot in Jazz music. It started in Blues music, but was adopted by Jazz musicians as well.

Shuffle is a loping, uneven feel that creates a laid-back groove that. Like Swing, the Shuffle is also a triplet-based groove but emphasizes the first and third beats of each triplet.

Here is the Shuffle pattern. Again R = Ride cymbal.

1  +  a  2  +  a  3  +  a  4  +  a
R    R  R      R R      R  R      R

In Jazz drumming, we often will play the Blakey Shuffle, popularized by Art Blakey.  In the Blakey Jazz Shuffle, we play the Swing ride pattern with the Shuffle pattern in the snare drum hand. 

Check out Art Blakey's album Moanin' and the title track Moanin'. He's swinging the heck out of that Shuffle! 

It's like getting the best of both worlds.  The effect of the Jazz Shuffle is also a lot smoother and fluid than playing a Shuffle pattern on the ride and snare at the same time. 

Why Groove is Important in Jazz Drumming

"Groove" is a term that describes the rhythmic feel of music. In Jazz drumming, groove is 90% of all of our drumming. If we ain't got good groove we ain't got gigs.

Earlier I also talked mentioned how the word "Swing" means music that grooves well.  Groove is what makes Jazz and other styles of music feel good.  It's what makes people want to dance, tap their toes, snap their fingers or clap their hands to the music.

Swing and Shuffle are two of the most important examples of groove in Jazz drumming. The ability to play with a swinging or shuffling feel is essential for creating good groove in Jazz music. 

You can learn both the Swing and Jazz Shuffle grooves in my Intro To Jazz Drumming Course.
Get swinging and shuffling to the beat with my Intro To Jazz Drumming Course!


Mastering the Swing and Shuffle techniques is important for creating good groove in Jazz drumming.  By using these two grooves, you can transform your drumming from robotic to feel-good and make the music sound and feel great. 

So, add some Swing and Shuffle into your drumming. Focus on making the groove feel as good as possible.  Learn the Jazz Shuffle to create that deep Art Blakey groove and take your drumming to new levels of groovy! Keep swinging my friend!
Created with