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Strumming 101: Shuffled 16th Notes

Practice Habits| Effortless Expression
February 18, 20233 min read

Hello fellow guitarists.

Today, we're going to explore the wonderful world of shuffled 16th notes. If you haven't heard of this feel before, you're in for a treat. Shuffled 16th notes are used in some of my favorite rhythm parts. No matter how much experience you have, learning how to play in this feel is essential in your journey to becoming a great rhythm player. In this post, I'll show you how to read and play shuffled 16th notes, and we'll use the 16th note combinations from Stumming 101: All About 16th Notes to build rhythms and exercises to master the shuffle feel. Let's get started!

What is a Shuffle?

The shuffle can take on many forms, but it can be defined as a musical feel. To attain this feel, changes are made to the placement of the second (e) and fourth (a) straight 16th notes from being even, to moving closer to the note following it.
The easiest way to understand what is happening is to look at 16th-note triplets.

Ex 1-1 - Straight 16th Notes

Shuffled 16th Notes 1

Ex 1-2 - 16th Note Triplets (6 notes in a beat)

Shuffle 16th Notes 2

Ex 1-3 - Shuffled 16th Notes

Shuffle 16th Notes 3

Step 1 is to play straight 16th note (Ex 1-1). If you have been following along with the Stumming 101 series, you will be familiar with this. The goal is to be able to play straight 16th notes consistently for 5+ min.
Step 2 is to get used to playing 16th-note triplets at different tempos. The key here is to feel them in groups of 6. Each beat of the metronome has six even notes.

Step 3 is to play a shuffle rhythm. To do this, we take two strums out of every six notes of a 16th-note triplet. So instead of playing 123456 in every beat, we are playing four of the six - 1 34 6 (Ex 1-3). Notice that the strumming pattern is down up down up and there is only four notes played in a beat. If you are playing it correctly, your strumming hand should be waiting at the bottom before playing 3 and 6.

Here is a demonstration of the above rhythms.

Notating a shuffle?

In order to simplify reading shuffled rhythms, it is typically written the same way as the 16th note rhythms with an indicator at the beginning of the song that the 16th notes are shuffles. If could just say the word "Shuffle" or "Shuffled 16ths" at the beginning but typically it has something showing the notes are being shuffled such as this;

Shuffle Marking

This indicates that all the 16th notes are shuffled.

Examples of "Shuffling" 16th Note Rhythms?

In the last blog post, Stumming 101: All About 16th Notes, I demonstrated how you can construct different one measure 16th note patterns to get used to strumming 16th notes. You can use the same rhythm combinations and learn to play them with a shuffle feel. Here are 5 combinations with examples of them being played straight followed by a shuffle feel.

Ex 2-1

Shuffles 16th Notes 4

Ex 2-2

Shuffles 16th Notes 5

Ex 2-3

Shuffles 16th Notes 6

Ex 2-4

Shuffles 16th Notes 7

Ex 2-5

Shuffles 16th Notes 8

And there you have it, your crash course in shuffled 16th notes! I hope this post has inspired you to add this feel to your rhythm playing and expand your musical vocabulary. Remember, mastery takes practice, so keep at it and you'll soon be playing shuffled rhythms with ease. As always, if you have any questions or need further guidance, don't hesitate to reach out to us at And be sure to sign up for our newsletter to receive more tips and tricks for becoming a better musician. Lastly, if you know someone who could benefit from this post, feel free to share it with them.

strumminghow do I strum the guitarRhythm guitarshuffleshuffled 16th notes
freteleven founder

Andrew Gingerich

freteleven founder

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