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What Is the Shuffle Bass? How to Use It To Energize Your Piano Playing

Online Lessons with Diana Mascari
Diana Mascari-Piano Teacher for Adults

In this article, you'll gain the knowledge to be able to recognize the shuffle bass when you hear it, you'll learn the left-hand patterns that you need to play it, and you will become aware of the types of musical selections where you can use it effectively. Watch Diana's Instructional Video Demonstrating How to Play the Shuffle Bass left-hand accompaniment pattern.

How to Recognize the Shuffle Bass Accompaniment

In many cases, musical groups can play a shuffle arrangement of a song WITHOUT specifically using the shuffle bass pattern. This is because the drummer plays a shuffle beat that works for the band and the bass player follows right along. Because of this, you are much more likely to hear a shuffle bass accompaniment in a performance by a solo pianist. For example, Dr. John the fantastic New Orleans blues pianist and vocalist, has done band recordings as well as solo piano recordings. He sings in both instances. Even if he records the same song, you will not hear the shuffle bass in the band version. In Harry Connick's CD called "25", he plays a couple of tunes with a left hand shuffle bass. Though it's not exactly the same as my version, you can hear the shuffle bass. On his many recordings with his musical ensembles, you'll notice the same situation: no piano left hand shuffle bass can be heard.

If you see the pattern here, I think your first clue to locating the shuffle bass is to look for solo piano recordings. The next clue follows: you need to know what the shuffle bass is.

The Shuffle Bass Left Hand Patterns


Shuffle Bass Pattern for a full 4 beat measure

G (G6 or G7 also work


C (C6 or C7 also work)


D (D6 or D7 also work)


A (A6 or A7 also work)


For 4 beats using one chord (these are what you see above)


For a dominant 7th situation in 2 beats

Root-5- b7-5

For a 6th chord situation in 2 beats


These shuffle bass patterns don't work with minor 7th chords or diminished chords

Sometimes boogie-woogie patterns work, or single bass notes, and other patterns

How to Recognize the Types of Musical Selections that Work Effectively with the Shuffle Bass Accompaniment

  1. If the selection is a 12 bar blues, you're all set. This is probably the most clear-cut type of piece for which the shuffle bass can be very effective.

  2. If the song has lots or major chords (dominant 7ths, 6ths or even triads), you can use the shuffle bass to liven up the tune. Two examples are Sentimental Journey and Jingle Bells.

  3. If the song has a section that includes a lot of major chords (dominant 7ths, 6ths or even triads), you can isolate that part of piece and use the shuffle bass. Two examples of this are Blues in the Night and Route 66. FYI: Although Route 66 is a 12 bar blues, measures 9-12 use a walking bass because of the chords, even though measures 1-8 use the shuffle bass.


Some final thoughts about recognizing the most effective accompaniment pattern to use with a particular song

Just so you know, learning to recognize the best accompaniment pattern to use with a song depends on musical taste and there is a lot of room for individual choices for what to use. However, the more you understand how to play different accompaniment patterns, including the shuffle bass, the easier it will be for you the make the right choice for the most effective accompaniment pattern to use with each of the songs you play.


Here are Diana's arrangements of Sentimental Journey and Route 66 using the shuffle bass left-hand accompaniment pattern. These included in the video below. Sentimental Journey


Here's how Diana plays the Shuffle Bass left-hand accompaniment in two standards:


For another example of the shuffle bass, watch Diana's performance of Jingle Bells


About Diana Mascari

Online Lessons with Diana Mascari
Diana Mascari-Piano Teacher for Adults

Diana Mascari has taught piano to hundreds of adults and children for more than 45 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. She was the music director for a multi-cultural Presbyterian Church 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 to commercial groups touring the East Coast to leading her own jazz ensembles at many colleges and jazz clubs throughout New England.

To get Her FREE Course: Song Playing Starter Kit for Pianists, click here

To schedule your FREE 30 Minute Piano Lesson Consultation on Zoom, click here.


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