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Jazzing Up Jingle Bells with Shuffle Bass




When the holiday season arrives every year, do you wonder how to breathe vitality into those "same old-same old" holiday tunes? Don't get me wrong, many people love hearing these time-honored Christmas classics. However, after playing many of these tunes over the years, you are probably looking for something to inspire your piano playing.


In this article, I'll show you how to jazz up Jingle Bells with a left hand shuffle bass pattern that will not only inspire you, it will also keep your listeners tapping their feet.




For many years, I performed as solo pianist at the Sheraton Milford Hotel. Beginning on the day after Thanksgiving and continuing for about a month, my job required that I play Christmas and Holiday favorites almost exclusively. After doing this for a couple of years, my enthusiasm began to wane. How in the world could I contribute to the holiday spirit of dinners, hotel guests, people attending holiday parties and the staff of the hotel and restaurant who were trying to keep up their own energy and smiles? The answer came in two parts: first, I had to do lots of listening to jazz recordings of holiday songs (and this was before YouTube and Spotify were available). So with vinyl records and cassette tapes, I assembled a musical library of seasonal selections by the best-Oscar Peterson, Ray Charles, Dave Brubeck, Wynton Marsalis and others. The secondly, as I immersed myself in these recordings, my creative ideas began to emerge and new arrangement ideas started to flow. One of them was how to use the shuffle bass to jazz up the classic carol Jingle Bells. And the rest, as they say, is history.


 

What is a Shuffle Bass?

First of all, the Shuffle Bass is an accompaniment pattern that you play with your left hand on the piano. Under normal circumstances, the shuffle bass pattern is associated with the rhythm and blues style of music. Although there are several standards e.g. Sentimental Journey and Route 66 that use the shuffle bass, it is possible to arrange other songs by changing the chords in such a way as to make shuffle bass work very well.


In this instructional video, I will go over the basics of Shuffle Bass


 

What Notes Work for the Jingle Bells Shuffle Bass Arrangement?

Many books show the music to Jingle Bells in the Key of G Major (one sharp i.e. F#), in light of that, we'll use chords for the Key of G. You may need to simplify the chords depending on the edition of the song, the chords and the related accompaniment patterns in the chart below WILL work for you.

Chord

Shuffle Bass Pattern

G (G6 or G7 also work)

G-D-E-D-F-D-E-D

C (C6 or C7 also work)

C-G-A-G-Bb-G-A-G

D (D6 or D7 also work)

D-A-B-A-C-A-B-A

A (A6 or A7 also work)

A-E-F#-E-G-E-F#-E

Chord

Boogie-Woogie pattern

D (D6 or D7 also work)

D-high D-E-high E-F-high F-F#-high F#

A (A6 or A7 also work)

A-high A-B-high B-C-high C-C#-high C#

To see and hear how I used the patterns from the chart above to create my shuffle bass arrangement of Jingle Bells, watch this video:

Want to Learn More About Shuffle Bass and Other Accompaniment Styles To Energize Your Piano Playing?

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Diana Mascari has taught piano to hundreds of adults and children for more than 40 years. She holds two Masters of Music degrees from New England Conservatory and taught keyboard harmony to music majors while pursuing doctoral studies at Boston University. Her work as music director for a multi-cultural Presbyterian Church has continued for four decades, and her jazz and classical compositions have been performed worldwide. Diana has been performing for more than 50 years. From solo jazz piano (her first love) to commercial groups touring the East Coast to leading her own jazz ensembles at many colleges and jazz clubs throughout New England.






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