Funk Music

author: The_Strat_Man date: 08/02/2005 category: music styles
rating: 8.5 / votes: 91 
First And Foremost: this guide is not for lead guitar. In Funk, the guitar is used for rhythmic purposes, while a sax or some other horn or woodwind for the "lead" work. The Chords. In the style of Funk music, regular major chords won't do. So, instead, you beef everything up and use dominant chords. Dominant chords, and altered chords. In fact, both at once usually go very well in Funk. For those that do not know what dominant chords are, they are chords that contain the perfect fifth with the flat seventh and a major third. So, these chords will work for the key of E: E7, E9, E11, E13, E7#9, etc. The Rhythm. In Funk guitar there are two main things that you should do to make your strums sound a hell of a lot more funkier: 1. Straight Sixteenth Rhythm. When you play your chords, you'll want to choke your chords and keep your pick hand moving. You'll want to keep the same rhythm throughout. Remember the count for sixteenth notes (one ee and uh) so if you can't keep it going yourself, just count it out in your head. 2. Muted, Percussive Strums. When you're strumming for the rhythm, it wouldn't be interesting without some variety. Sixteen strums of a chord in one bar would get really boring, really quick. So, instead, you throw in some muted strums, and bam! you got variety. The muted strums really add a nice, funky flavor to your rhythm work. Here's an example of some muted strums in a funky rhythm progression.
Figure 1
E7#9
|---------------------------------|
|-8-8-x-x-8-8-x-x-8-8-x-x-8-8-x-x-|
|-7-7-x-x-7-7-x-x-7-7-x-x-7-7-x-x-|
|-6-6-x-x-6-6-x-x-6-6-x-x-6-6-x-x-|
|-7-7-x-x-7-7-x-x-7-7-x-x-7-7-x-x-|
|---------------------------------|
The Hemiola. A Hemiola, what in the heck is this, you might ask. Is it some kind of bump on the skin, or a disease? It's far from it. It's a feel. In 4/4 feel there is a feeling of 4 and groups of 4. But, when you play with a hemiola you're still playing in 4/4 time, but you're playing with a feel of 3 instead of 4. This is a big staple in funk rhythm guitar, so learn how to do it. Here's an example on the 3 over 4 feel:
Figure 2
E9
|---------------------------------|
|-7-x-x-7-x-x-7-x-x-7-x-x-7-7-7-x-|
|-7-x-x-7-x-x-7-x-x-7-x-x-7-7-7-x-|
|-6-x-x-6-x-x-6-x-x-6-x-x-6-6-6-x-|
|-7-x-x-7-x-x-7-x-x-7-x-x-7-7-7-x-|
|---------------------------------|
Single Notes And Double Stops. Not all funk guitar has to be chords. You can make the same groovy statement with single notes and double stops that fill in for the chords. When you use single notes, you can imply the same harmony as the chords without all of the chords, and use notes from the minor pentatonic scale of the same key. Here's an example using the groove from "Play That Funky Music (White Boy)" by Wild Cherry:
Figure 3
E7#9
|--------------------|--------------------|
|--------------------|--------------------|
|--------------------|--------------------|
|--------------------|--------------------|
|-----7-5-7-----5h7--|-----7-5-7-----5h7--|
|-0-0-------5h7------|-0-0-------5h7------|
For the double stops, you can try playing this next example:
Figure 4
A7
|-------------------|-------------------|
|-x-x-/7-5--x-7-5---|-x-x-/7-5--x-7-5---|
|-x-x-/7-5--x-7-5---|-x-x-/7-5--x-7-5---|
|-----------x-----7-|-----------x-----7-|
|-------------------|-------------------|
|-------------------|-------------------|
Wah-Wah. The Wah pedal is a great effect used in conjunction with all of the previously mentioned rhythm parts. It can add a lot more variety or cool sounds to your guitar work. But, make sure you don't use it all of the time, or your guitar work can sound cheesy. Minor Key Funk. In all of the previous examples we've been using happy sounding dominant rhythm figures. That's all because of the presence of the Mixolydian mode. It's a safe scale to play over the dominant chords, because it's a dominant mode. But, funk doesn't have to be all dominant, or all major sounding. Minor 7 chords and minor 6 chords are just as popular with funk as the dominant chords can be. Over these kind of figures, you can use the mode of Dorian (1 2 b3 4 5 6 b7) Swunk. Swunk? Did I just make that up? I think not. Swunk is a combination between Funk and swing. Swunk takes those other rhythm figures and adds a swing sixteenth feel. Outro. And that concludes my column and lesson on Funk. Do any users have any suggestions on additions for this lesson?
More The_Strat_Man lessons:
+ Blues In Depth Music Styles 09/25/2005
+ Major Scales Explained Scales 01/19/2005
+ Modes Explained Scales 12/16/2004
+ Blues Chords Music Styles 07/15/2004
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