Posts Tagged ‘Rhythms’

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 – it 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 – simply 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 – Just 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 – especially 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.


Exercise – C Major Groove

In Chords, Jam, Rhythms on October 6, 2012 at 11:37 am

for print

Robben Ford – Back to the Blues – II

In Blues, Chords on August 8, 2012 at 11:47 pm

Reggae more strums

In Lessons, Reggae, Rhythms on April 16, 2012 at 10:14 am

 In this lesson you’ll learn how to play a typical reggae style rhythm guitar part and you’ll learn the very important left-hand muting technique that is used in almost every style of music

from Activemelody

backing track (no guitar)

backing track (with guitar)

Reggae rhythms strums

In Lessons, Reggae, Rhythms on April 16, 2012 at 10:05 am

How to play reggae guitar lesson part 1. I use few bars of Stir It Up by Bob Marley to demonstrate guitar rhythm and work in key of A. My Amp settings: Out of 10 my gain is set low to about 2, my Bass is about 3, my Mid is about 4 and my Treble is about 7.  When I strike the strings I keep my wrist relaxed and don’t hit too hard.

Chords: A x4 – D x2 – E x2

lyrics here

Reggae strumming guitar lesson pt2, the upstroke. I use Bad Boys by Inner Circle to demonstrate off the beat reggae strumming using the upstroke

Lyrics here

Reggae strumming guitar lesson pt3 I use No, No, No by Dawn Penn to show reggae rhythm on the guitar. I play a G&L tribute asat special electric guitar. The chords I use are mainly Am and D and I slide down to the C and to G

lyrics here

Reggae strumming lesson pt4 I cover Ska and show 2 different rhythms on electric guitar

Reggae Rhythm Guitar Lesson pt5. I explain a bit more in depth about muting the strings by taking the chord hand off the fret board and an excercise to help you strenghen your chord hand.

Clare Dowling

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,

Walking Bass

In Chords, Rhythms on February 9, 2011 at 1:25 am

By Matthew Warnock (

In this article we will take a look at a concept that is becoming more and more in demand these days: combining chord comping with a walking bass line. As club and restaurant owners are cutting budgets, one way to keep our gig as a guitar player is to slim down the ensemble to a duo or solo situation. Being able to walk a bass line and comp the chords to a tune at the same time is an invaluable skill to have and one that will allow us to work in situations where other guitarists cannot.

Step 1: Playing the Roots

The first step in learning how to walk a bass line is being able to play the roots to each chord on the lowest two strings, A and E, of the guitar. In example 1 the roots of each chord on an F blues are written out on the lowest two strings. Feel free to refer back to example 1 if you get stuck on a fingering later on.

Step 2: Approach Tones

In the next step we will add an “approach tone” to each root. An approach tone is a note that leads us into the next root by either a half-step (one fret) above or below the next root.

An example of this would be if we are going to an F7 chord the two approach tones would be E (below) or F# (above).

This allows us to add a sense of voice leading to our bass line and immediately brings it into the jazz idiom, as chromatic tones are very common in jazz. We are now playing what bass players refer to as “half time”, where the half note is the rhythmic focus of the line.

Notice that we now have a rhythmic change in the last two bars. Because the chords move twice as fast in these two bars we have to use quarter notes when adding our approach tones. This leads us nicely into step 3 which will deal with what bass players refer to as “walking time”, where the quarter note is now the focus of the line.

Step 3: Walking the Bass

Now that we have introduced a quarter note pulse in the last two measures of example 2 we can now “walk” a bass line through the entire blues progression. When adding the extra notes there are two things to keep in mind.

The first is that the last note before a chord change should be our approach tone, now written as a quarter note, and the second is that we can use any note from the scale or arpeggio to fill in the remaining quarter notes.

One thing to notice is the use of the Ab in the first bar over top of the F7 chord. This note can be seen from two angles, the first is that it belongs to the F blues scale and the second being that it chromatically connects G to A, our approach tone. Again we see an example where chromatic notes are added to the line to make it more “hip”.

Step 4: The Chords

Now that we can play through a bass line in both half and walking time we are ready to add some chord voicings on top of our line. The next step then, is to find some easy to grab voicings that sit on top of the root of each chord. Of course there are many voicing’s out there that will fit over these chords but for our purposes we will look at two basic shapes, the 6432 and 5432 string group shapes.

Step 5: Combining Walking and Comping

Now that we have the bass line and the chords under our fingers it is time to bring them both together. For now we will only put the chords on the first beat of each new chord or new bar. Once you get a handle on this concept feel free to add the voicing’s to any beat and to add inversions and chord substitutions as you see fit.

The voicings will appear on the “and” of the first beat. This is a common rhythmic choice for guitarists who walk and comp at the same time, but again once you have this idea down feel free to put the chord in any part of the bar.

Step 6: Adding Approach Chords

The final step is to add chord voicings on top of our approach tones. This will add some harmonic sophistication to the line while at the same time filling out more of the sonic space with a voicing. The chords written in parentheses are the names of each of the approach chords. You will notice that each approach chord is the exact same voicing as the next chord only one fret lower or higher. This will help out when fingering these chords.

Now we are ready to take these same steps and apply them to any jazz tune, be it a blues based tune or standard 32 bar tune. You might want to try writing out the steps, as above, when first applying them to other tunes, and once you are proficient at writing them out try and walk/comp on the fly.

Being able to create bass lines and fill them in with chords on the spot is a great skill to have and will definitely make one more desirable in a solo, duo or trio (no bass) situation.

printed doc Walking Bass

The Rhythm Guitar marathon

In Rhythms on February 3, 2010 at 7:58 am

When we thing about a complete gig and the performance requested to the rhythm guitar player it got me thinking about the physical nature of playing gypsy jazz rhythm guitar. In a usual gig we will play at least 12 tunes. Each tune is generally 32 bars long and we play the form around 8 times a tune with solos. Each bar has four beats (except for waltzes of course). If you add all that up it gives about 12,500 beats in a gig! so a rhythm guitarist is tensing and releasing his fretting fingers 12,500 times and playing around 15,000 plectrum strokes with the other hand (because there are at least a couple of upstrokes a bar). The only way to prepare for that sort of feat is to put in a lot of regular practice before the gig!