Drums & Percussion/swing


I've been trying to understand the difference between swing and shuffle. It was explained to me that shuffle is two things: either dividing every beat into tripplet and playing the first and third tripple of the beat (used in drumming or bass lines) or dividing the beat into two eight notes with the first note two times longer than the second (this is used for singing/melodies).
Then what is swing? It also seems to use that tripplet feel. I'm listening to a lot of jazz and blues drummers but I just don't get it. Please explain.

Hi Hank,
Excellent question. The definitions you got for a shuffle are good ones. Both shuffles and jazz rhythms are "swung" (triplet feel leaving out middle note etc.). The difference being, the patterns are slightly different i.e. shuffle being 1st and last notes of triplet repeated and the standard swing pattern (in 4/4) being quarter note on first beat, first and last notes of triplet on second beat, quarter on third beat, first and last notes of triplet on fourth beat. Subtle difference on paper, but very different feel wise.
Feel free to go into this further with me if you like.
All the best,

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Mike Shapiro


I can answer questions regarding drum and percussion subjects. If you have a question about technique, rudiments, grooves, fills, styles, reading (etc.) in relation to the drum set... ask away! I'm also able to help with timpani, vibes, marimba and hand percussion. I can also answer questions regarding the purchasing of drum and percussion instruments and accessories, including vintage and current items. I can help with restoration projects or research with the history of percussion instruments, music, repertoire, manufacturers etc.


I've been playing professionally and teaching music for 25 years. I'm involved in many genres of music and have played with a wide range of musicians from Todd Rundgren to Zubin Mehta. I'm also very interested in the instruments themselves and have owned or played many interesting ones.

Professional Drum Teachers Guild

Bachelor of Music, The Juilliard School

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