The Half Time Shuffle That Never Was

Posted on June 19, 2024

My old band had a tune called “Wish I Saw You” that was built around a half time shuffle groove. Here’s a crappy cell phone recording:

Here’s a more proper work–in–progress recording for an album that never got finished:

For “Wish I Saw You”, this is the groove I played to drive the song:

As you can see/hear, it’s mainly built around a take on the six stroke roll sticking everyone loves to play as even triplets (I typically feel these more as a spin on the paradiddle–diddle than a six stroke roll). I can’t quite remember how I cooked it up, but ever since I heard “Grapevine Fires” back in high school, creative approaches to the half time shuffle have always been on my mind.  

I know it must seem like I’m treading on hallowed ground here since the Purdie Shuffle is such an iconic way to groove within a half time swing feel. But it is kind of a punchline* — case in point, many people hear “Grapevine Fires” as a stock Purdie shuffle, which will always irritate me. I guess some drummers are just incapable of considering that there’s more than one way to groove with a half time shuffle feel. 

Anyway, I don’t currently have a need to play any halftime shuffles, but I still like to mess around and cook up other interesting ways to keep time with a swing feel and a backbeat on 3 (in 4/4 at least).

Obviously, you can look to some rudimental stickings to subvert the stock shuffle cymbal rhythm. Here’s another approach with the six stroke triplets thing:

Here’s a dense take with the single paradiddle — note how a triple stroke on the cymbal connects the groove over the barline, so the tempo options are a bit limited:

As a six note pattern, the double paradiddle flows a bit better:

Also consider some inversions, like the third paradiddle inversion (RLLR • LRRL):

If you’re not scared of density, you could throw in some flams (“flams” of course being double stops). This one uses single paradiddle sticking with a “flam” on the diddle (RLlRRLRrLL):

Here’s the same idea, but with the double paradiddle (RLRLlRRLRLRrLL):

Getting more adventurous, you can relish in some rhythmic mischief. This has been on my mind lately after picking apart Matt Garstka’s 11/16 shuffle used for a Plini tune he recently recorded.

Here’s a shuffle that “restarts” on the swung note after beat 4, rather than the downbeat:

It one has a very interesting lope to it — here’s a MIDI recording:

An alternative version of my “Wish I Saw You” Shuffle ended with a 3 over 4 polyrhythm: 

So just a few ideas. Classics are classics for a reason but don’t relish them so much that you lose sight of what could be. 

* I will admit that the six stroke triplet gag is just as much of a punchline.

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