12 Bar Shuffle Riff


When you’re playing the open 5th string along with the 4th string fretted at the 2nd fret you’re playing an A5 chord. When you fret the 4th string at the 4th fret you’re playing an A6 chord. If you fret the 4th string at the 5th fret instead you will be playing the flat 7. Maybe worth checking out this lesson https://www.justinguitar.com/guitar-lessons/12-bar-blues-variations-bc-194. And remember if it sounds good it’s good.


Thanks but why has Justin not called them that. I don’t think he mentions the name in the lesson. They aren’t even in the Chord Library!

I’m still not getting the reason for this lesson and how it fits into playing songs.

Again thanks. Didn’t know that lesson (or lessons) existed.

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At this stage of your guitar journey, chord names and theory aren’t that important. On the contrary, some students can find it off-putting and it can lead to all kinds of rabbit holes.

What you should remember is that you can use the demonstrated techniques (the shuffle feel, the 12 bar blues progression and the addition of the pinky on the 6th) to play over almost any blues song and it’ll sound good.

Have a listen to Eric Capton’s Before You Accuse Me. Can you hear the 12 bar riff Justin teaches? It starts at the 7 sec mark. To play along, put the capo on the 7th fret because the song is in the key of E.

If you start listening to other blues songs, you’ll notice that many of them are based on this 12 bar blues progression. Sure, there are other things going on that you’ll encounter later in your journey (eg quick/slow changes, turnarounds, bass walks, lead lines, etc) - or everything would sound the same. But this progression is the bare bones of the blues, it’s everywhere.

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I’ll take your word for that!

What do you mean “and the addition of the pinky on the 6th”

I can!

Ok. So do I play frets 9/11 on strings 3, 4 and 5 for this?

I get that but no idea how I can use it in a tune. I don’t say song as that implies singing!

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Actually, if you’ve got the shuffle down in A, you may as well learn it in E. It’s almost the same. The chords are E, A, B7 (I, IV, V). You already know the shuffle for E and A. For the B7, use the fingering x21202 and just strum it with a shuffle feel.

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I have using A7, D7 and E7.

I can do the progression in E using E7, A7 and B7 (although still struggling with B7 changes) but really really confused now as this lesson is about using A5/A6 (which I didn’t know) and not 7th chords.

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Sorry, I should’ve been more descriptive. The 6th does not refer to the 6th fret, but to the major 6th interval of a given scale.

The 12 bar shuffle riff has the same pattern for every chord.

  • Over the A chord, we play the root note (open A string) and alternate between the note E (= ‘the 5th’, 2nd fret) and the note F# (= ‘the 6th’, 4th fret) on the D string.


  • Over the D chord, we play the root note (open D string) and alternate between the note A (= ‘the 5th’, 2nd fret) and the note B (= ‘the 6th’, 4th fret) on the G string.


  • Over the E chord, we play the root note (open E string) and alternate between the note B (= ‘the 5th’, 2nd fret) and the note C# (= ‘the 6th’, 4th fret) on the A string.


So what I meant was, the sound of your pinky hitting ‘the 6th’ (interval of a scale) is one of the key elements of the blues.

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@Stuartw It took me more than a year to understand how blues lessons fit into playing blues. I still do not think I get it fully myself but here is how I understand it:

Blues is a very unique genre in the sense that it consists of almost entirely improvisation. In other genres, you learn the notes of the song, then you play them. Maybe you play them a little differently, maybe you improvise a solo, but people play it like the original for the most part (discounting covers here).

Whereas in blues, people do not do that. Instead, people play blues songs by composing the skills they acquired to date. It may have nothing to do with the original and that’s completely normal. You can go to a jam, listen to a song played live, and sometimes it does not have one common riff, chord or solo line common with the original! Think of playing blues like being able to create a cover for a song on the go. Almost everything is improvised, bass, drums, rhythm, solos, often lyrics even!

Of course, some ideas are better suited for some songs. For e.g. you may not be playing the ‘Texas Shuffle’ exactly the same as Stevie Ray Vaughan or you may not be playing the Boogie Woogie rhythm like the Blues Brothers, but if you understand what they are, you can use your own unique way to play Pride and Joy using the Texas shuffle, or Sweet Home Chicago (or Clapton’s Before You Accuse Me, or Howling Wolf’s How Many More Years) using the boogie-woogie rhythm in this very lesson.

So, when learning blues, you are acquiring ideas that you can later use in actual songs.

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Check out Robert Johnson Sweet Home Chicago. You are getting taught the basic shuffle riff. Just like playing embellishments with chords you can spice up the shuffle riff with variations etc. Try not to get caught up on all the theory. For this lesson focus on knowing the 12BB arrangements and playing a good sounding shuffle riff in time.

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@Stuartw Disregard this and watch Justin’s lesson. And learn the simple version before you try all the advanced things in the video. https://www.justinguitar.com/songs/eric-clapton-before-you-accuse-me-chords-tabs-guitar-lesson-bs-501
This is one of those song that can be very simple and grow with you as your playing improves.
Also Before You Accuse Me is an 8 barre blues but still uses the shuffle rhythm but 4 less barres per verse


I’ve found that “Revolution 1” by The Beatles is a great one to practice this with!

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I must contradict you there, sorry.
It is exactly the opposite way round to what you have written.
Chunka-chunka = movement from fret 2 to fret 4 (in musical theory terms raising the 5th to the 6th and back again).
Shuffle is the swing rhythm.

It would sound - awful!
It would not be in any key.
The two adjacent strings need to have two notes sounding that are first 2 frets apart then four frets apart. Open to 2nd and open to 4th or 1st to 3rd then 1st to 5th for example.

Chunka-chunka in E
All on the 6th and 5th strings:
0 - 2 & 0 - 4 = E (E5 and E6)
5 - 7 & 5 - 9 = A (A5 & A6)
7 - 9 & 7 - 11 = B (B5 & B6)

Do not bother calling them 5 and 6 chords. That is not what people conventionally call these 2-note chords in a chunka-chunka context. Even though that is their technical name.


Chunka-chunka in E
On 6th & 5th for E then on 5th & 4th for A and B
0 - 2 & 0 - 4 = E
0 - 2 & 0 - 4 = A
2 - 4 & 2 - 6 = B


Chunka-chunka in E
On 5th & 4th for E then on 6th & 5th for A and B
7 - 9 & 7 - 11 = E
0 - 2 & 0 - 4 = A
2 - 4 & 2 - 6 = B

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Justin introduced the “chunka chunka” at the start of the module and said he came across it from an old teacher of his. He said it isn’t a term generally used in music or in the blues.
He specifically used it to describe the blues (swing) rhythm as apposed to a straight rhythm.
As chunka chunka isn’t a music theory term - I don’t accept that I got it the wrong way round. :wink:

Just love how blues breaks the rules! :scream_cat::joy:

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The context is based on playing the riff using swing rhythm. If you were to play the 12BB with chords with swing rhythm you wouldn’t hear the chunka chunka. If you played the riff straight you’d be rock n rollin :smiley: so I’ll call that a draw unless I’m totally misguided :roll_eyes:

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Hey James, maybe you need a new guitar! :guitar:
I can hear chunka when I play 12BB chords. It all depends on your interpretation of chunka, which may be different to mine. We could end up going round in circles here.

Blues is open to individual interpretation anyway so just play it any which way you like. :sunglasses:

David …

Given that chunka has no actual musical definition then yes, it is open to some loose blues-breaking interpretation.
If you can hear it when a chord progression is being played in swing-time then I can only think you are defining chunka as the two segments of a single beat that is played using a shuffle groove.
Using Justin’s count system
1 __ let 2 __ let 3 __ let 4 __ let
I believe you are perceiving
1 __ let = chunka (or chun __ ka)
2 __ let = chunka (or chun __ ka)
etc. whether that is using this 2-string riff or using strummed chords or even just applied to a drum beat playing a shuffle groove. I’m not looking to disavow you of how you hear and interpret it.

My thought about chunka (which I have split to chun- ka) is shown here, with the word chunka having an almost onomatopoeic quality:

I could happily apply the term chunka chunka to straight 8th rock n roll music and heavily swung blues music that employs this particular riff idea of moving from the 5th to the 6th and back again. But maybe that is more grey area as Justin only mentions it when introducing blues rhythm.

All good.


Yes Richard, that’s exactly how I interpret the chunka rhythm. Although I had to look that onomato…thing…up! :joy:

I see/hear it as being about the sound of an instrument or voice when following the uneven subdivision of the swing rhythm. There’s chunka on every beat and chun is longer than ka.

I interpret Shuffle as shuffling between two things in the same bar. In this case, shuffling between the 5th and 6th.
So the shuffle riff has both shuffle and chunka, whereas staying on one chord for the bar just has chunka.

And there I rest my case.

Your shuffling and chunkering may vary! :smiley:

I’m willing to accept your interpretation of chunka … making for a happy and peaceful world! :slight_smile:

But …

Shuffle is definitely defined as a musical term - even if the duration of its constituent parts can be elastic (Justin discussing %s when explaining how the 1st sub-division is longer than the 2nd sub-division).
Shuffle is not about pitch, changing pitch, moving between 5th and 6th or any other tones.
Shuffle is a rhythmic aspect of music.
You can play a shuffle on a plank of wood, with hand claps, by shaking a baby’s rattle. Those ‘instruments’ are wholly without pitch and only percussive in sound. But they are easily capable of delivering a shuffle rhythm.

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Absolutely. And the gap in time from the upbeat to the downbeat can vary depending on the tempo. At high tempos the band may move the straighten out the shuffle feel but not the whole way to maintain the swung feel (otherwise they would end up with a straight feel) and at low tempos they may delay the upbeat (I think that is gives more of a texas feel???).

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Okay, I’ll accept your interpretation of shuffle.


The meaning of the word “shuffle” isn’t confined to music or rhythm.
So those of us with strings on our planks of wood can shuffle the pitch as well if we want to! :guitar: :smiley:

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