Posts Tagged ‘Funk’

Secrets of Funk (by Leo Nocentelli)

In Funk, Lessons on June 30, 2014 at 12:28 pm

cissy Strut pic

a video lesson from Leo ūüôā

Cissy Strut

(The meters)


Overview of Funk’s styles and guitar chords

In Chords, Funk, Lessons, Rhythms on March 16, 2014 at 12:27 am
9th Chordsfunk-logo
funk guitar ninth chords

The 9th Chord

The 9th chord (shown above) is a funk guitar staple used constantly by funk guitarists. Especially the chord on the left, with the root (notated by the red dot) on the fifth string. Be careful about playing the sixth string root 9th chord on the lower frets Рit can sound very muddy.

The 9th chord is a 7th chord with one extra note, added for color. Try replacing 7th chords in songs you know with 9th chords. There are some situations where this substitution doesn’t work – use your ear to tell you what sounds right.

It is also EXTREMELY common for funk guitarists to only play the top three strings when playing the fifth string root 9th chord. Sometimes, they’ll even only play the top two strings.

The 13th Chord
thirteenth 13th chords funk guitar

Played on it’s own, this is a pretty “jazzy” sounding chord that might sound a little out of place in funk music. It is commonly used, however, as a “passing chord”. ¬†Note that the above 13th chord is essentially a 9th chord, with the note on the first string being two frets higher. Many funk guitarists will play the 13th chord, then quickly resolve it to the 9th chord, by removing their pinky from the first string, and playing the chord again.

Basic Funk Chords
basic funk guitar chords

There seems to be a preference in funk music to use chord shapes that have the root on the first string. Since the first and sixth string are both “E” strings, learning to use these chord shapes should be easy for guitarists who have already learned their note-names on the sixth string.

The major chord above gets used reasonably often, although many times, funk guitarists will only play the top two notes of the chord, which makes it identical to the 5th chord displayed above.

The minor chord above is also used extensively. Note that this minor chord shape is identical to the 9th chord with root on fifth string, when the bottom two strings are not played. So, many funk guitarists would play the above chord shape on the fifth fret for both an A minor chord and a D9 chord.

The above 5th chord is extremely popular. This two note chord is VERY versatile, and can be used for many things. Since a 5th chord can be used to play either a major or minor chord, the above shape, played at the fifth fret, could be an A major or an A minor chord. It could ALSO be the top two notes of a D9 chord. This chord shape is used to represent all of these chords – it’s a popular one – so get comfortable with it.

Funk Guitar Rhythmstru-funk
You want to know the real secret of playing great funk guitar? It’s ALL about paying attention to the rhythmic aspect of the music. Many funk songs consist of only a simple melody and a couple chords, so the groove has to be strong to maintain listener interest. It is important to acknowledge that the role of most funk music is to get people dancing. You’ll have a harder time accomplishing this with intricate and flashy guitar parts. You’ll need to give your ego a rest and focus on locking in a groove with your band. Let’s take some time to explore various songs, and the approach the guitarist takes in each. There are several philosophies of playing funk rhythm guitar….¬†Minimalist Funk & Funk Guitar¬†Often somewhat misleadingly referred to as “black funk” (because, initially, more African Americans took an interest in this approach to funk music), the concept here is “play what you need to play, and get out of the way”. Applied to funk guitar, this means leaving a LOT of space, without playing muted strums, etc. Give a listen to the following mp3 clips:¬†James Brown – Sex Machine
Notice the guitar player is playing NO muted strums in this part Рsimply repeating a four strum figure. Many of us, when playing a part like this, would feel a natural desire to include muted 16th note strums within the part. Avoid doing this. The Meters РJust Kissed My Baby
The guitar plays a single-note line, but the minimal guitar part is very disciplined in that it does not stray from the riff.¬†The JB’s – House Party¬†(Fred Wesley)
This song sounds “busier”, and there are two guitarists, but listen to each of them, and you’ll note they’re repeating the exact same parts again and again, with no variation. Another example of the need for discipline in funk music. Pay attention to all instruments here – everyone plays their specific part, which adds to the whole.“Busy” Funk

This approach is a little different – perhaps a little less disciplined than the above style of playing funk. There is less space in this style of music, and guitar players in this style tend to play a lot more muted string strums, etc. The result is a groove that usually feels a little less laid-back, and more “frantic”. Have a listen to a few songs in this style:

Tower of Power – What is Hip?
Really active bass and drums give this song it’s somewhat frenzied, albeit very funky sound. The guitar player wisely stays largely out of the way, keeping muted strumming to a minimum (too many musicians being too busy at once can yield disasterous results).

Stevie Ray Vaughan – Superstition
SRV’s take on the Stevie Wonder classic is a great example of this style of funk music. Vaughan fills up the space in the music with muted string strums to propel the music forward.

Graham Central Station – The Jam
Bassist Larry Graham leads this one, and it’s another example of very robust, in-your-face funk, with little left to the imagination. Lots of busy strumming by the guitar player.

Online Funk Rhythm Lessons

Now you’ve listened to some great examples of various kinds of funk and funk guitar, you might want to practice your funk rhythm chops a bit. Have a look at some or all of the following sites:¬† Funk Guitar 101
Designed to help you practice your 16th note funk strums. Good for “busier” funk music.¬†MelBooker Music: Funk Guitar Rhythms
This YouTube video features Mel describing some basic funk rhythmic patterns. This style of playing would fall under “busy funk”.¬†Arlen Roth Funk Guitar Lesson
This video lesson demonstrates Arlen Roth’s approach to playing funk guitar. Some nice licks and advice, although his style of funk guitar playing is too undisciplined for my tastes.¬†Leo Nocentelli Funk Guitar Lesson
A fantastic video lesson from the legendary guitarist from The Meters. Nocentelli describes his process of creating a funk guitar part that mimics a drummer and horn players.Funk Guitar Parts: James Brown’s “Sex Machine

james brown sex machine funk guitar tab

Now is the time to see some of the techniques we’ve learned in action! The following are just a few of the thousands of funk songs that feature 9th and 13th chords, muted strums, and more. Try listening to each mp3 clip, and concentrate on replicating the guitar part exactly. In almost every instance below, mimicking the notes is easy, but capturing the proper feel of the guitar part is much more difficult. Be patient and critical of your guitar playing for all examples.

This is a prime display of the funk guitarist’s use of a 13th chord to create an interesting part. Concentrate on deadening the strings with your fretting hand. Avoid adding muted strums to fill in the space within the guitar part. Try to make the riff groove without any extra strums.

The Temptations’ “Shakey Ground

temptations shakey ground funk guitar tab

The notes are easy – getting the feel right is much tougher. The key is to “pop” the strings with your pick – strike them firmly, with careful attention to rhythm. The muting (not included in tab) should all be done via the fretting hand.

Jeff Beck’s “You Know What I Mean

jeff beck you know what i mean guitar tab

The classic opening cut on Blow by Blow, this features Beck at his funky best. Notice he avoids using any muted strumming, which you should try and reproduce. This is another example of a 13th chord moving to the 9th chord.

Kool and the Gang’s “Hollywood Swinging

kool and the gang funk guitar tab lesson

As is fairly typical of funk music, the bulk of this song is one chord. To create interest, the guitarist switches chord shapes from an E7 to an E9, which changes the sound slightly. Notice the subtlety in the rhythm pattern – the first three phrases start with an up-strum, but the last one begins with a down-strum.

James Brown’s “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag

james brown papa's got a brand new bag guitar tab

This is a VERY common sort of funk guitar part Рespecially in earlier funk. The guitar is simply playing short quarter notes, staying out of the way of horns, and other instruments. When playing the flurry of 16th note strums at the end of the part, pay careful attention to playing the rhythms accurately. Note that the song is simply a 12-bar blues, played in a funk style.

Patrice Rushen’s “The Hump

patrice rushen the hump guitar tab

This is an almost cliche guitar part that nonetheless sounds cool, and can literally be played with one finger. The trick is the rhythmic aspect of the guitar part. Lots of muted strums here – pay careful attention to detail, and try to replicate the part perfectly.

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In Chords, Funk, Lessons, Solfège on March 15, 2014 at 10:24 am

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Dr. Lonnie Smith – Interview

In Funk on March 24, 2012 at 1:43 pm

Dr. Lonnie Smith is a wonderful, sweet, funny, wise and blessed human beeing & musician. I spend some time with him on a course in Denmark. We love him, he is witty as hell.
I asked him why he was called Doctor, he replied that it is because he performs surgery on people when he plays the organ. This is true, I heard him play so beautifully that I cried out of gratefulness and joy

Funky secrets of rhythms ?

In Funk, Lessons, Rhythms on March 11, 2012 at 7:37 pm

Leo Nocentelli giving a syncopated funk demonstration. Taken from the The Secrets Of Funk: Using It And Fusing It! DVD,

Few funky chords

In Chords, Funk on March 11, 2012 at 7:22 pm

Funky tips

In Chords, Funk, Lessons, Rhythms on March 11, 2012 at 7:21 pm

As many funk guitar players say, funk is more a feel than a music style. So the information covered here is not about telling you everything from basics to mastering, but will give you real feel of funk with a very funky examples. There’s well known phrase – if you are playing music that makes people want to move, probably you play funk!¬†So let’s learn how to funk on guitar.¬†If you are beginner in funk learn these basic but cool funk chords:

As this section is designed to give you as more feel of funk as possible in one page of text, it is important to give examples of funky rhythm parts as well as single-note funk.

How to funk with rhythm

If any rules can be applyed to funk, that would be sixteenth notes, in the first place.
Generally, all funk is based on 16th notes. Also tempo is usually higher than 90.
In other words, you play in exact rhythm and you play it fast.

The first pattern is very useful warm up exercise. Just play it for about 10-15 minutes in different speed to feel the rhythm.

The next common pattern with muted scratches is very good exercise to feel the rhythm as well.
As learned this pattern, you get some understanding about funk. The pattern is often used in songs. To get different-sounding phrases, just change the chord. Or you can use more than one playing the same rhythm. Well, another way to get more funky sound is simply to change rhythm. Firstly, play non-muted chords in different order, in off beat, for example. Secondly, change whole style of rhythm Рuse other phrases than up and down only.

The following riff is more advanced and that makes it a bit more difficult to play, but this sounds very funky, when played correctly. As written above, you can recognize, that i used the first method how to change pattern.


How to funk with single-note

Many times, the best part for a groove is a simple single-note line. These parts are usually quite short, so all the beauty of single-note funk come from repeating that simple ideas that contains very few notes.
As you see, the first two examples below are muted parts. (Muted notes are highly appreciated in funk). To be in correct rhythm, keep your pick moving in sixteenths with the music.
When playing muted notes, just touching the strings, to get more funky sound

Rhythm technique, when more several notes are muted combined with single-note playing gives you the real sound of funk.

printed copy: Funky tips

Funky Rhythms & Riffs

In Funk on February 21, 2012 at 7:32 am

Funky Chords – 95 bpm – A Dorian

Mainly based around a repetitive Dorian I – IV that ends with V altered seven back to I, the study presents some common funky chords, with some voices moving based around 7ths 6ths and 4ths to 3rds.

Am7 – Am6 – Am7 – Am6 – Dsus7 -D7 – Dsus7 – D7
Am7 – Am6 – Am7 – Am6 – Dsus7 -D7 – Dsus7 – E7#5 – Am7

Theory Focus

When you find 7th chords not diatonic to the key, most of the time are secondary dominant, that without write a book, are diatonic chords altered, to match the 7th chord formula and create tension, toward another diatonic chord, in this case or E7#5.

Techniques Focus

A rule of thump when playing sixteenth-notes Funks, is never stop your right hand! The only exception to this rule is with sixteenth notes triplets, where the right hand stops after played the last upstroke for just a sixteenth, to start again with a down stroke, without altering the Down Up pattern.

Pro Tips: Play Hard and with conviction, there is no place for shy player in funk!

      E   S S S S E  S S S S E  S S    E   E  S S E  S S S S E  S S 

D sus 7 : e-3, B-1, G-2, D-O, A-O, E-do not strum

Suspended 7th chords are just like the sus4 chords except you add the b7 tone to it. As we understand Chord Construction by stacking thirds, we understand that the Sus chords are made from the 1,4,5 tones of the Major Scale in the same key. IE. if we wanted to find a Csus7 chord we would have to figure out the C Major scale. We know that it is C,D,E,F,G,A,B,C. So C is the 1st tone, D is the 2nd, etc… So we now know that a Csus7 chord has the notes C,F,G,Bb.


Csus7 = C,F,G,Bb Gsus7 = G,C,D,F Dsus7 = D,G,A,C

Asus7 = A,D,E,G

Esus7 = E,A,B,D

Bsus7 = B,E,F#,A

F#sus7 = F#,B,C#,E

C#sus7 = C#,F#,G#,B

Fsus7 = F,Bb,C,Eb Bbsus7 = Bb,Eb,F,Ab Ebsus7 = Eb,Ab,Bb,DbAbsus7 = Ab,Db,Eb,Gb

Dbsus7 = Db,Gb,Ab,Cb(B)

Gbsus7 = Gb,B(Cb),Db,Fb(E)

Cbsus7 = Cb,E(Fb),Gb,Bbb(A)

for print: Funky Rhythms