Dennis Gruenling

Lesson >

Buffle Off to Shuffalo

First Chorus Breakdown

Hi Everyone - this week we start taking apart my new study song "Buffle Off To Shuffalo". The overall idea behind this piece was to work in as much rhythm (in particular, shuffle rhythm) chops as possible in many ways. It won't be a bad idea if you want to work on your timing and rhythm in general as a separate skill, apart from just doing it for this song. Real good timing and rhythm chops come from years of working at it, so get cracking with that metronome in your practice time to get in the groove so you can become a rhythm machine! Of course, there will be some other techniques at work here such as split intervals, but the focus is really heavy on the timing and rhythm, which when mastered, will make you that much better of a musician!

Grab your C harps and give it a go!

- 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 First and Second Chorus of Buffle Off to Shuffalo

Loop 1:01 Introduction to Series

Loop 2:47 First Chorus Acoustically

Loop 3:20 Breakdown of Rhythm

Loop 5:00 Breakdow of First Riff

Loop 7:09 Practice Loop of First Riff

Loop 7:19 Breakdown of First Riff Variation

Loop 8:09 IV Chord Breakdown

Loop 10:02 Slow Practice Loop of IV Chord

Loop 10:12 I Chord Riff (Repeat of First Riff)

Loop 10:50 Practice Loop of First 8 Bars

Loop 11:26 V Chord Breakdown

Loop 13:34 Practice Loop of V Chord

Loop 13:57 Practice Loop of First Chorus

Loop 14:36 Slow Practice Loop of First Chorus

Loop 15:16 Closing Thoughts 





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David Thomson
David Thomson Nov 29, 2019

hey Dennis   So in the rhythm ta tata ta ta tata it is all inhale or can I play in in out out for air balance?

Joel West
Joel West Dec 27, 2017

Need to change the name in the practice area from "Bubble" to "Buffle"?

Mike Caren
Mike Caren Dec 28, 2017

Good catch Joel - fixed.  Thanks for letting us know.

Alex McGregor
Alex McGregor Apr 04, 2017

I'm a beginner player who wants to start putting some techniques into action; I saw this performance on Youtube and wondered if I could learn it by ear... then I discovered Sonic Junction!  After just the first chorus breakdown I've learned a bunch of new ideas and techniques such as chord chucks, non-octave intervals, and bending double-stops... which will be of enormous help going forwards.  Dennis's approach is PERFECT for my level... what a cool cat, with a great teaching approach!

I'm a natural lip purser but am beginning to realise I need to be a proficient tongue blocker to play with authentic tone. My questions:

- aside from the chord 'chucks' (which Dennis advises are played with the tongue off the harp) is pretty much everything else played TB'd? For example when switching between 1 and 4 draw on the V chord do you move your mouth from low to high or simply swap the tongue from the right to the left side of your mouth?

- when bending whilst tongue blocking, does the your mouth/throat create the bending pressure before or after the tongue has gotten involved?  I can just about hit the single and double 3 draw bend with my tongue covering 1 and 2... but I can't seem to tongue slap straight onto the bent note.

- would it make sense to learn the song lip pursed and then try and add some tongue blocking once I have the notes down... or to bite the bullet and force myself to tongue block before I proceed?  I can't help but worry that it will force me to go back to square 1 and relearn everything I know!

- finally, where in each bar do you typically find room to breathe out?  90% of the notes are draw notes, and with the chord chucks filling in the gaps my lungs are full by the end of 2 bars!

Thanks for everything!

Dennis Gruenling
Dennis Gruenling Apr 04, 2017

Hi Alex - Glad you found this site and have been learning already from it! I love working with Sonic Junction, and think they have an awesome approach for learning songs here.


- Yes, everything I play here is tongue-blocked. Technically, the "chord chucks" are also TB'ed because I am using  theTB approach to get them done, not simply "chucking" a chord while puckering, which you give you a different sound, and attack. The Tongue-blocking technique does not just refer to when your tongue is on the harp, but also to any technique where TBing is incorporated.

- Since I am pretty much always TBing, my tongue is always involved, so I'm not sure how to answer that question. The bending pressure/technique is applied when I want the bent note to happen. I am always TBing, so my tongue is involved from the get-go. Give it time, it is somehting your mouth, throat, tongue and technique will need to develop over time and practice.

- I would say both. If you do not already TB, work on the basics of the song (notes, patterns, other techniques you already know) and at the same time work on developing your TB approach in separate practice time. It will be difficult to do any song with TB if you haven’t worked on the TB technique take bite-size things to work on for now.

- it is all about breath control. Most players (or ALL players at some points) breathe too heavily. Learn to use only as much air as you need to get the note/sound that you are going for, with no extra air. This is difficult to master, but essential to playing harmonica well...for tone, pitch, technique, and overall playing ability.

- Dennis


Alex McGregor
Alex McGregor Apr 04, 2017

Hi Dennis - thanks for such a comprehensive reply!

Apart from octaves I haven't tried tongue blocking until the last few days, so I'm developing new muscle memory - especially when trying to bend using my throat and not my tongue.  I've started focusing 50% of my practice on TB techniques so I can start using them more instinctively.  I figure for me to progress effectively I should be using 'correct' technique as soon as possible rather than coming back later and having to break engrained habits!

This is the first time I have visited Sonic Junction, and following your engagement with my question I am certain I will develop a long term relationship with the site - once I get this free lesson mastered!  

BTW I came across this lesson when Googling your name after hearing it mentioned by Adam Gussow and Jason Ricci.  Inspiring players, each of you!

itaymish Sep 24, 2016

Dennis im here bc of you!

Dennis Gruenling
Dennis Gruenling Apr 04, 2017

Thank You!!!!


Marcel Kamst
Marcel Kamst Aug 28, 2016

At the end of the video you seem to be alternating between a single note 2 draw and a 12 draw chord instead of playing the chord - am I right? Do you block the hole 1 everytime you play the 2 draw and then lift it off to play the 12 draw chord?

Dennis Gruenling
Dennis Gruenling Sep 02, 2016

Yes, I block hole 1 while playing hole 2. I lift my tongue off to get the chord, but I also articulate the attack to mke it more percussive.


What is a split interval?? Simply have never heard of it. Can u explain plz. Tyvm

Dennis Gruenling
Dennis Gruenling Jul 19, 2016

Hi Reginald -

A split interval is when you tongue-block and play two notes, one each out of either side of your tongue. For example, you block holes 3 and 4 with your tongue, and you play hole 5 out of the right side of your mouth, and hole 2 on then left side. This is the same approach as to playing "octaves" (two notes that are the same note, but an octave apart), but in an interval, the difference is the two notes are not the same note, they are two different notes. Can be done with blow or draw, and anywhere on the harp, but only a few places will make sense to do it, depending on the notes you play and the context they are played in. 

Bill Blatner
Bill Blatner Jul 13, 2016

Hey Dennis,

Around 15:30, you're demonstrating the last four bars of the chorus and you say, "let me get the timing right" and do it again.  On the first "mistaken" time, you're on the 4-chord, coming in after the 3-hole slightly bent, slightly distorted and playing the 2-hole draw early, ahead of the down beat.  It  sounds cool, even though that's not what you intended. I think you swung it, yeh?

Dennis Gruenling
Dennis Gruenling Jul 15, 2016

Around 15:30?

Terry Church
Terry Church Jul 13, 2016


Your answers to both Bill's and my questions are very helpful to me.  You've inspired me to finally work seriously on that rhythm problem I'd been trying to ignore until now.  Your concept of brain vs ear: it seems to offer some hope.  For instance, when I try to count (1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and)  along with the music, my count gets thrown off every time there's any syncopation.  So obviously I'm hearing that syncopation, but my brain doesn't know how to incorporate the information into my reading of the rhythm/timing of the passage.  Something like that....Anyway, back to the metronome and the backing tracks.  A million thanks: I didn't think an online teacher could be that helpful.  I'll be around to bother you again when I get to the point that I can formulate a coherent question about a particular note in a particular passage. 




Thanks so much!

Dennis Gruenling
Dennis Gruenling Jul 13, 2016

Haha - it's no bother! That's what I'm here for. An online teacher can be of GREAT help, just depends on the teacher. Keep working on it and narrowing down the questions and problem areas for yourself, that's how you get it done. Thanks for the respone!

Bill Blatner
Bill Blatner Jul 13, 2016


Thanks for the clarification on both the rhythmic chords and the question about swinging.  Spot on!


Dennis Gruenling
Dennis Gruenling Jul 13, 2016

You got it! The articulation is so important whether for chords (in this rhythmic context) or for single note articulation while TB'ing. Basic technique, but super important and essential to playing cleanly, and with a "sharp" attack. 

Terry Church
Terry Church Jul 13, 2016

Hi Bill,

I just can't play a TB bend right after having my tongue on the roof of my mouth.  It's hard enough to get them TB'd at all.  So I thought, who's to know....  Oh, well....You have a better ear than I do.

About the timing thing:  Even when I slow the recording down to 50% and play it over and over, trying to count, I still can't hear whether a particular note is falling on the upbeat or the downbeat.  It all just goes by way too fast for me, like in a blur.  I can get a general impression of the groove and imitate it, but to hear exactly where the individual notes fall in relation to the beat--that seems like something I'll never be able to do.  But in the end, struggling with this kind of lesson should help.  I've even dug up a metronome! 

Dennis Gruenling
Dennis Gruenling Jul 13, 2016

If you have a specific note at a specific time in the song you are trying to figure this out for - let me know and I will help. The upbeat and downbeat are very different and players should learn to tell the difference. Your ear can hear it, but you just need to train your brain to tell the difference...! Let me know...

Bill Blatner
Bill Blatner Jul 13, 2016

Terry, I've been playing with both approaches you describe with the same thoughts about the ease of having to switch from puckered to TB.  Maybe we're being too picky but aside from the technical ease or one or the other, they don't sound quite the same, right?  With the puckered approach I hear more of the notes, with the TB approach it's more percussive.

Here's a thought on the swing question.  When you hit that 2-5 draw chord it falls on the upbeat.  You could play it right on the beat but that sounds, well, kinda square.  Many of the phrases end that way.  Is that swinging ahead of the beat?  Maybe we'll find out :) 

Dennis Gruenling
Dennis Gruenling Jul 13, 2016

there are many ways to swing ahead or behind the beat, and in every context they differ, but the approach is the same...causing rhythmic tension by playing before or after the beats (or before or after where the listener expects to be played or felt). 

Terry Church
Terry Church Jul 12, 2016

I have the same problem (though probably much worse) than Bill Blatner -- about timing , ahead of the beat, behind the beat, etc. and am hoping that this series will help.  Love that it focuses squarly on timing, rather than on the riffs.  That's what I need lots more of if-- possibly--incredibly--I'm ever to get this shuffle/swing groove, or any rhythm for that matter.  Thank you.

Maybe I have a question in common with Bill B too--about those TaTa rhythm chords that are at the center of the lesson.  Do they have to be articulated with the tongue to the roof of the mouth?  Since the whole rest of the number is tongue blocked, it seems more straightforward to use pulls on those important rhythm notes: covering three holes to build up pressure and then pulling off to uncover the dyad in question.  Wouldn't that work?  To me it seems to make basically the same sound, and it's much easier to follow a tongue blocked rhythm chord with a half step bend tongue blocked than to switch from basically a pucker attack with the tongue on the roof of the mouth to a tongue block bend.  Does that make any sense?

Dennis Gruenling
Dennis Gruenling Jul 13, 2016

Good question - but it is of the UTMOST importance that you articulate the "t" sound for this type of rhythmic playing. If you don't, then you simply won't get that special sound associated with this style. A simple "pull" of the tongue off of the harp to play the chords will not work. I have been doing this a long time and haven't ever really looked at it as a "switch" from TB to pucker, but rather when you play chords, they are always articulated unless you don't want that strong, percussive and sharp attack. So in essence, no it wouldn't work, and it's not the same sound. Good question!!

Boyd R
Boyd R Jul 11, 2016

I got the notes down. It's going to take a lot of practice to learn it.Great tune

Dennis Gruenling
Dennis Gruenling Jul 13, 2016

Thanks Boyd!!!

Bill Blatner
Bill Blatner Jul 11, 2016

I have lots of questions but I'll try to keep it tight.  On the basic, 1-chord rhythm where you do the Tut-ti-Tut-ti articulation, are you drawing on 1 and 2 with your tongue off the harp then clipping if off with your tongue?   You really have that Big Walter sharp, clipped attack and I'd like to get it right.

At some point I want to understand the whole ahead and behind the beat swing rhythm better.  I suspect I'm doing it sometimes but it would help to recognize exactly what it sounds like.




Dennis Gruenling
Dennis Gruenling Jul 13, 2016

Yes, your tongue is OFF the harp to do the rhythmic chording, and I am playing holes 1-2 mainly, sometimes 1-2-3. But it is not "Tut-ti" it is "Tut-tut" that clipping comes from articulating the end of each make sure the "t" is at the end as well. 

tim james
tim james Jul 10, 2016

i think yout tounge blocking 3 and 4  holes?  i'm sure 5blow is

Boyd R
Boyd R Jul 09, 2016

Good stuff pretty tricky


tim james
tim james Jul 08, 2016

yeah man !!!!!!!!!!

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