The Chicago Shuffle, as it is known, is one of the most common and popular types of blues rhythms. This groove is found in many blues songs including Sweet Home Chicago and Dust My Broom by Robert Johnson and Baby What You Want Me To Do and Bright Lights Big City by Jimmy Reed. More recently, Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Pride and Joy is a high energy, sophisticated version of the same groove. The groove is even the basis for many rock tunes by Chuck Berry including No Particular Place to Go or Johnny B. Goode (plus many Rolling Stones songs). It’s really the most ubiquitous of all blues or rock shuffle grooves.
Technically the rhythm is an eighth note shuffle feel, often called a double shuffle because you are doubling the beats with a da-da, da-da feel. It almost has a bouncing feel to it and if you’ve listened to any blues or rock and roll you’ve heard this beat many times.
Robert Johnson is often claimed to be the inventor of this groove but I doubt it. Guitarists who came before, like Charley Patton or Son House, could easily have taught it to him. If you dig into their music you’ll hear very similar grooves. And I’m sure that there would have been other influences in work songs or other popular songs of his day.
But whoever invented the rhythm it’s become one of the most common feels in all of blues or rock and roll. If you want to play blues or rock guitar it needs to be in your repertoire. And it’s actually one of the simplest of all guitar parts to play.
But just because it’s simple doesn’t make it easy to play. To play a simple part cleanly it takes some practice and the ability to control the strings of your guitar. Knowing how to mute or dampen the strings not being played is what makes the difference between playing this groove well or sloppy. And that takes time and practice to do well.
In this video we play in the key that is most common for this type of shuffle, the key of E. But it can be played in any key easily including A or D. But E and A are by far the easiest keys to learn in. Once you get it down in E you can then tackle the more advanced keys to play the groove in.
And if you want to cheat a little you can always use a capo. Keith Richards uses one all the time.
OK let’s get to work and learn how to play a Chicago Shuffle in E.