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Catalog of Shuffles- Using them

Posted by fiddlepogo on Friday, November 20, 2009

That's a lot of shuffles!

And I know there must be more- especially longer patterns. I still see plenty of patterns being used on fiddle videos where I don't have a CLUE how to do them!!!

  But these will give beginning to intermediate players lots to work on- if you are so minded.  Remember though, that it's a catalog- you don't have to "purchase" every item... just the ones that seem appealing, or within your reach.

All the ones I've included are compatible with a downbowing system- they begin on a downbow, and end on an upbow, (with the exception of Georgia Shuffle, or unless specifically named as an upbowing version of a pattern) so they can be chained together and the phrase of the tune will still end up the same way, no matter which one you use.

I am fully aware that some may find them yawn inducing, or headache inducing- read at your own risk!!! ;^)  It's also good to take them one at a time.  Seriously, you may not have a learning style that works with patterns, especially <reading> about them.  Experiment till you find an approach that works for you, but also experiment with different approaches to learning shuffle patterns before you decide they are not for you.

So, how do you decide what shuffle to learn or use???

First of all, a caveat: if you are focused on a regional style, that style may, or MAY NOT make much use of shuffles.  Texas fiddling is very strong on sawstroke, so is Ozark fiddling, so is Old Time "Yankee" fiddling.  Many of the patterns mentioned here are found in various parts of the Appalachians.  That area has been my main area of interest, and so may at least PARTIALLY explain my obsession with shuffle patterns.  But even there, there are styles that don't make much use of them.  For instance, Franklin George's hornpipey style fiddling is mostly based on Sawstroke.  Other styles use a lot of two note slurs, and not much in the way of the more complex patterns.

You can listen to them (preferably live), decide which ones appeal to you, then set about learning those. I have many of them recorded and posted in my Music section.

Or, you can pick shuffles that are closely related to bowings you already know.

If you use Sawstroke already, Sawshuffle is a fairly easy one to learn.

Once you know Sawshuffle, Smoothshuffle is easy to learn.

If you use Nashville Shuffle, Syncoshuffle is very similar, and fits well with it.

If you know Georgia Shuffle, Sawshuffle is a natural progression.

Then, there is the question of WHERE in a tune to use them.

One common way of using them is in tunes or parts of tunes that don't have much going on melodically, like the first part of Spotted Pony, or the low part of Growling Old Man. Some people use Nashville for this purpose- I'm even more likely to use Sawshuffle, Syncoshuffle, and maybe Smoothshuffle.

One traditional way of using shuffles is to use one as a starting lick (Smoothshuffle is often used for this), then a common bowing like Sawstroke or Nashville Shuffle for the main body of the part, then something like Syncoshuffle for the end of the phrase.

I would start with those two methods.  Once you get comfortable with the new patterns, you may find other uses for them, and may find them turning into your main bowing licks.

What works for me is this:  I learn the shuffle in the first part of my version of June Apple- the way the notes fall act as a grid to let you know exactly what note of the pattern you are on.  I created a shuffle exercise based on this version of June Apple that's even easier.  Once I get the shuffle going smoothly on June Apple, I try it on similar parts, or just let it happen naturally.

Another thing I do-  I attempt to play a tune or part of a tune all the way through with my current favorite shuffle.  Some parts will fit great, I leave those places as they are.  The places that don't fit so great, I try out other shuffles I'm very comfortable with, usually my PREVIOUS favorite shuffles, until I get a good fit.  If no shuffle I know well fits, there is always sawstroke to fall back on.

 Another useful way of practicing and using shuffles is to use them on low string double stops as a form of "fiddle seconding".  I find Nashville Shuffle, Sawshuffle, and Syncoshuffle all work well for this, maybe with a Smoothshuffle thrown in here or there.  The same technique also works well for song accompaniment if the melody is too complex for me to sing and play it at the same time.

A very important way of learning shuffles is to WATCH them as well as hear them. Bowing seminars, private lessons, or just watching fiddlers like a hawk at jams are all options, especially if you have a strongly visual learning style like I do.

Digital video had better be VERY high quality to be of much use, and NEEDS to show the bowing hand!

Of course one option is Brad Leftwich's DVD series, which includes patterns from Melvin Wine and Tommy Jarrell among others.

Dave Reiner's fiddle books also discuss shuffles and he started the first bowing pattern thread here on the Fiddle Hangout.

In addition to Brad and Dave, others that are able to teach shuffle patterns include Alan Jabbour (especially Smoothshuffle), Tom Sauber (I learned Syncoshuffle from him), and Jason Anick (recently taught Offset 2-Note Slurs in a bowing seminar)  Jake Krack could show you Smoothshuffle and Sawshuffle, although he might not call them that, but they are bowings he would have learned from Melvin Wine- Brad Leftwich calls them "Melvin's Licks". (Let me know if there are any other names I should add to this list.)

Oh yes- David Bragger, of course- he has stroke-by stroke YouTube videos, teaches in Los Angeles, and is familiar with Syncoshuffle, and probably most of what I've described.

There are of course others like Erynn Marshall, Bruce Molsky, Bruce Green, Rayna Gellert, Matt Brown, Jane Rothfield and Brittany Haas who know a whole lot about bowing, most of whom teach fiddle, but I don't know if they use a pattern based approach, or some other approach. Regardless of approach, they have some good bowing stuff to show you!

For those for whom patterns just do not click, Dan Levenson (fiddledan) has an approach that seems to work.

Regarding the names: I have used:  Sawstroke, Nashville Shuffle, and Georgia Shuffle are three names that have become traditional, and I'm not about to buck tradition there.  The others I have tried to name as descriptively as possible.  If you have suggestions or problems with a certain name, I'd like to hear them.  This is especially true for some shuffles I haven't integrated into my playing yet. While I understand the desire to name shuffles after a particular fiddler, I've seen how many shuffles are much more widely used than we realize, and personal or even geographical names only get in the way of the name being accepted.

I'd also like to express my appreciation for Dick Owings, Jeff Cherniss, Tom Sauber, Brian "Hawk" Hubbard, Dave Viddick, Tommy Jarrell, Mel Durham,  and Earl Collins, who all had an influence on my bowing and bowing knowledge.

I'd also like to thank all who participated in the bowing threads here at the Fiddle Hangout, and argued your views with passion, you HAVE had an influence on me!  In particular, Dave Reiner, Mike Fontenot, and OTJ!!!

2 comments on “Catalog of Shuffles- Using them”

fiddlepLuker Says:
Friday, November 20, 2009 @3:10:02 AM


I still am amazed at certain folks on the FHO, like yourself and the intimate knowledge of things (such as bowing) they have. I for one truly appreciate all the sharing of information that you do. As a late started (47 ish) and seeing such a steep learning curve I so much appreciate your post on shuffling -yet another tool in the "fiddle bag."

I am going to be studying the different bowing patterns you speak of. I feel this is way over my head at this point but so important I will pay it particular attention.

Thanks again for all you do to help both the young, middle aged, and older carry on important traditions!

fiddlepogo Says:
Friday, November 20, 2009 @8:22:21 PM

Thank you!
Remember, it's a catalog- you don't have to buy every item, just the ones that seem appealing to you, or within reach (similar to something you already know)

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