Dennis Gruenling

Lesson >

Buffle Off to Shuffalo

Fourth Chorus Breakdown

Hello Sonic Junctioneers - welcome back to the next section of my Buffle Off To Shufallo song. Basically we are getting to the heart of the matter right here in this section - rhythm playing. We start in this section playing behind the guitar solo, and our role is that of a rhythm instrument. We need to think like part of the rhythm section, or perhaps more specifically, like a combination of a drummer and a rhythm guitar player. I know I have mentioned this already, but the importance of good rhythmic chops and a good sense of rhythm cannot be a overestimated if you want to be a good musician. Take your time to make sure you get the breathing pattern right, and then just keep that rhythm going.

I want you all to become sharp, articulated rhythm machines!

-Dennis Gruenling



Topics and/or subjects covered in this lesson:
C Harp
Key of G
Dennis Gruenling
Dave Gross
Buffle Off To Shuffalo

Backing Track

Print Print Chords & Tab

C Harp in the Key of G.

Loop 0:00 Fourth and Fifth Chorus of Buffle Off to Shuffalo

Loop 1:18 Introduction to Lesson

Loop 3:18 Fourth Chorus Acoustically

Loop 4:00 Breakdow of I Chord Rhythm

Loop 5:00 Practice Loop of I Chord Rhythm

Loop 5:19 IV Chord Breakdown

Loop 6:05 Practice Loop of Bars 5 - 8

Loop 6:23 Practice Loop of First 8 Bars

Loop 6:55 V Chord, IV Chord and Turnaround Breakdown

Loop 7:45 Review

Loop 8:35 Practice Loop of Fourth Chorus

Loop 9:13 Closing Thoughts 






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andre Loiselle
andre Loiselle Oct 24, 2019

Now .... I begin to know what it means to be "locked in Rhythm " ... people used to tell that and I didn t know what it meant !! a lot of practice to do !! Thank s a lot Dennis !!

chrisgagnon Nov 04, 2018

That would help huh?

Workign in the V chord  of the fourth chorus- so the pattern that goes

1D 4D 4B 4D with chords in middle

Dennis Gruenling
Dennis Gruenling Nov 05, 2018

OK....since most of that pattern is based around hole 4, you can either TB hole 1 to the left OR right (tongue-switching if you want) or even pucker, but the chords are based off of playing hole 4. So the chords will be 1-2-3-4 or 2-3-4 and done by taking your tongue off the harp in between the single notes on 4.

chrisgagnon Nov 04, 2018


Trying to toungue block more 

gettign there on holes 3-6

the chorus here you scoop the 1 draw before shuffling on the 2 is helping on the 2 hole

But am struggling on the 1 hole to get the thick chordal sound- 

Do you play 123 draw chord and then slap tongue on the right side of mouth to cover holes 2-3? or different technique?

Thank you!


Dennis Gruenling
Dennis Gruenling Nov 04, 2018

What time mark section are you speaking of? (so I can answer correctly)

Marc Graci
Marc Graci Sep 12, 2018

I see that I need to practice rhythm playing as a separate exercise. Should I do this to grooves other than shuffle grooves? If I played other than a shuffle groove, should I play the bassline on my harmonica? Would this be a good exercise?

Dennis Gruenling
Dennis Gruenling Sep 13, 2018

That syncopated shuffle rhythm will be the most important rhythm technique to learn anmd learn well if you want to play blues harmonica well. Bass lines are always a great idea as well, but that is a different thing. Many bass lines in traditional blues will go along with a shuffle type of rhythm, or something slightly varied from this rhtyhm. Also, practicing this rhtyhm will help you always get better with your timing/sense of time and rhythm which is also very important as a musucian. I would start working with the shuffle rhythm on several key harps, and varying the tempo from slow shuffle to mid- and fast -shuffle tempos first.

Steve H
Steve H Dec 16, 2016

Got my first harmonica chops! 

Yippy Ty Yay!!!!

Needs a ton of work but I appreciate the beginner chops, or should I say rhthym part..

Terry Church
Terry Church Aug 04, 2016

Just ran into a place where you point out examples of playing ahead of and behind the beat in your own performance.  It's in the comments section to the performance of "Lookin Sharp."  You say things like "In the 8th chorus starting around 7:30, my second phrase around 7:35 is deliberately behind the beat..."  Things like that.  Specific!  Just what I was looking for.  I wonder if it would be very hard for you to point out examples like those in other lessons...for the rhythmically challenged among us.......(sigh)

Boyd R
Boyd R Aug 04, 2016

Very nice thanks for doing this lesson


Bill Blatner
Bill Blatner Aug 03, 2016

Thanks for the feedback about tongue blocking.  It's helpful to have a general rule like "use the tip of the tongue".  It's a drag when you practice something a long time and then find out you've really been developing a bad habit.  I spent a solid 45 minutes just playing the rhythm to a shuffle drum track at 110 bpm.  The basic pattern is getting more comfortable and relaxed and it's getting easier to stay consistent with the beat.  It's pretty amazing to me how you and Dave stay so locked in to that 110 through the whole piece.

Your consistent admonition to play softly is also really helpful.  It's hard to believe that you're playing with such intensity and still keeping such a light touch.  That balance between keeping a grip on the air stream and not cranking on the reeds is coming slowly.  I'm not blowing out so many harps :)

Dennis Gruenling
Dennis Gruenling Aug 03, 2016

Awesome - glad to hear you are seeing a difference! (Or should I say "glad to see you are hearing a difference?" LOL)

It does take a little time, but the more you do these things (work on rhythm and breath control) the easier this will all become. And yes, the intensity/light touch issue is a mind-boggler, but it's all about the precision, clarity and articulation. When you have all that, you don't need much breath for everything to stand out, just good technique and enough breath to make these clear sounds. 

Terry Church
Terry Church Aug 01, 2016

That 3 draw slightly bent on the IV much of a bend would you say it is?  A microbend?  Does it matter?  Accomplished blues players tend refer to notes as "slightly bent" and I never quite know what they mean.  I'd like to get that  right (if it matters) since I'll be using this chorus a lot for practice  with backing tracks, etc.  Thanks.......  

Dennis Gruenling
Dennis Gruenling Aug 03, 2016

Good question - It is usually done somewhere between the 1/4 step and 1/2 step bend. 

Terry Church
Terry Church Jul 30, 2016

Got it!  I need to play background rhythm along with the backing tracks, no sorry attempts at riffing, just rhythm, since that is my major problem at this stage.  The rhythmic material you teach here is perfect for that.  I am going to need endless repetitions, but I look forward to it, now that it feels like I'm headed in the right direction at least.  Thanks so much for setting me straight.  You have no idea the ridiculous things I was doing with those backing tracks before this lesson arrived! 

Dennis Gruenling
Dennis Gruenling Aug 03, 2016

Glad this has helped. In my experience (and opinion) from playing and teaching for 25 years, rhythm harmonica skills are overlooked by almost every single player, aside from a few select pros. It's not easy and takes lots of practice to not only get the techniques down correctly, but then to get your timing better and better and better, which is also a big advantage to practicing this type of stuff! It will pay off big time. 

Bill Blatner
Bill Blatner Jul 29, 2016

On the 4- and 5- chords, it's not as easy as it sounds to play each note clean, tongue on, then play the tut chord tongue off on the upbeat.  Kinda devilish actually to get it all sounding clean and in time. I'm finding it a little easier if I hold the harp against my right cheek, playing the notes and chords out of the corner of my mouth, blocking more with the side of my tongue.  It frees the tip of my tongue to do the tut chord without having to move the harp in and out of my mouth or pulling my tongue in and out so much.  Does that make any sense?  I was hoping you were going on to the fifth chorus in this lesson but I can see I've got plenty of work to do this week. 


btw - hoping to catch you and Steve Guyger at the Town Crier in Beacon next month!

Dennis Gruenling
Dennis Gruenling Aug 03, 2016

Good question - it all depends on your technique and what you are able to do. However, keep in mind that I strongly suggest NOT using the side of your tongue while tongue-blocking. The tip of your tongue is all you need and 1) it will help you be more precise with your placement, and 2) the side of your tongue is too wide and sloppy (no offense! LOL) to use most of the time for many of these subtle techniques and nuances, especially involving some articulation. 

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