#1
Hey guys,

Ever since I started playing, I've mostly been playing metal from tabs, not thinking for a moment about musical theory. I've always feared that would be a problem some day, and I believe that day has come. Recently I joined some colleagues in a funk/soul/blues cover band, and I just can't figure out how to play whatever it is they're playing in some of the songs we're covering.

The song I'm having most trouble with is Grace Jones - Slave to the Rhythm. The chords are right here on UG: http://tabs.ultimate-guitar.com/g/grace_jones/slave_to_the_rythm_crd.htm However, just having a list of chords isn't enough for me to figure out what to play during the song. In fact, I think playing the chords with the song sounds horrible. Can anyone point me in the right direction to find out what to actually play for a song like this?

Thanks in advance
Last edited by Ondersjaak at May 12, 2015,
#2
What's your band line-up? You the only guitarist? You asking about what to play during vocals, ??? Easier to answer then.

Make you a deal ... I've just started a thread on Musicians talk on why some people find theory hard, or are put off. You put your thoughts there, and I'll give you a detailed answer here. Deal?

https://www.ultimate-guitar.com/forum/showthread.php?p=33398373#post33398373

cheers, Jerry
Last edited by jerrykramskoy at May 12, 2015,
#3
you need to look at other voicings for those chords. if you are used to barre chords like you'd play for metal then that is part of the problem. funck tends to use more open chord voicings that sound good when played clean.
#4
I am not a great guitar player but I've spent most of my time learning to play funk. You should get on YouTube and listen to what Nile Rodgers has to say about playing funk.
As a funk player you'd want to limit yourself somewhat. If you play primarily on the high strings it'll sound a Hell of a lot better than if you're playing all the strings. It's a sort of "less is more" kinda thing.

I think you'll also find that there's a lot of funk rhythms that don't necessarily need the scratched sixteenth notes. You don't always want that "chank". Most of the time you do, but you don't want to make it sounds like you're a slave to the rhythm. Be totally in the pocket, but f### around with it too.
Last edited by paul.housley.7 at May 12, 2015,
#5
Quote by paul.housley.7
I am not a great guitar player but I've spent most of my time learning to play funk. You should get on YouTube and listen to what Nile Rodgers has to say about playing funk.
As a funk player you'd want to limit yourself somewhat. If you play primarily on the high strings it'll sound a Hell of a lot better than if you're playing all the strings. It's a sort of "less is more" kinda thing.

I think you'll also find that there's a lot of funk rhythms that don't necessarily need the scratched sixteenth notes. You don't always want that "chank". Most of the time you do, but you don't want to make it sounds like you're a slave to the rhythm. Be totally in the pocket, but f### around with it too.


good points. this is what i was getting at on the chord voicings. funk guitar tends to be very trebley.
#6
Just how much music theory do you know? Its possible your friends may be playing a little different or in a different key, which will make chords you found on the internet useless. Also, like others have said, its all about voicing and rhythm. Beyond that, I'm not much of a funk player and can't help much more on the subject.

EDIT: I see you said funk/soul/blues. With blues, you're gonna have to learn how to find the key of a song and transfer things you know into different keys. Its not that difficult, but it can be overwhelming to a beginner. Depending on how new you are to theory or improvisation, you may need to learn some pentatonic scale positions, patterns and licks. The pentatonic scale dominates blues/rock, and a lot of great improvisation can be done with solely this scale and the occasional blue notes. Tabs are almost useless here because blues is about improvisation more than anything.
Last edited by jlowe22 at May 12, 2015,
#7
Quote by Ondersjaak
Hey guys,

Ever since I started playing, I've mostly been playing metal from tabs, not thinking for a moment about musical theory. I've always feared that would be a problem some day, and I believe that day has come. Recently I joined some colleagues in a funk/soul/blues cover band, and I just can't figure out how to play whatever it is they're playing in some of the songs we're covering.

The song I'm having most trouble with is Grace Jones - Slave to the Rhythm. The chords are right here on UG: http://tabs.ultimate-guitar.com/g/grace_jones/slave_to_the_rythm_crd.htm However, just having a list of chords isn't enough for me to figure out what to play during the song. In fact, I think playing the chords with the song sounds horrible. Can anyone point me in the right direction to find out what to actually play for a song like this?

Thanks in advance



Funk is a great thing to get into. Ever since I've started studying, and practicing funk guitar a couple of years ago it's turned me into a rhythm machine, and really opened me up to new chord voicing's. I tend to notice that a lot of guitarist in general really lack in the rhythm department. It's all about lead, lead, lead, but never involving any intricate rhythms in their leads.


It's a great thing that you joined a funk based band; trust me your world will drastically change. I know it did for me ever since I started studying it, and now it's one of my mains styles. A lot of funk guitar chord progressions really aren't that complicated a lot of the songs just revolve around 1-4 chords at most. There's a lot of funk songs out there that stick with the basic E9 to E13 chords.

What I tend to notice about a lot of guitarist that just start to get into rhythmic based styles is that they feel as if they need to compensate with learning a lot of chords to better their skills just because they're playing rhythm. While learning a lot of triads, and chord inversions is great it just can't make up for the lack of rhythm, and that's what funks about rhythm! I don't think you need to replace the chords in the song you're covering you just really need to study, and understand the different grooves you can utilize to make the songs you are playing interesting.


You can stay on one chord all night if you have really great groove mate. A simple 3 chord progression can be turned into something amazing if it has that right groove to it.


I highly recommend going through this course it's nice, and short all while really covering the basics of funk. There's a lot of nice syncopated grooves in here that you can utilize in your funk playing. Also This style will definitely excel your rhythm playing if you learn it right. A good example to use for this style is J.F from the Red hot chili peppers he's a really great rhythm guitarist, and that all comes from his studying of funk guitar.


It's funny too because people tend to think that rhythm is the most boring part of music, but if you really open your mind up and study it then you'll see it for how amazing it is! Knowing when to leave space, and when to come back in playing is all based on rhythm anyways.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fMdU_lS3Izk
^Video
Here's the video the course is nice, and short cheers dude. Learn to see your pick as a paint brush instead of seeing it as something to stab things with lol.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0XcN12uVHeQ
^
Soul to squeeze is a great example of how less is more. J.F is really laid back with the rhythm, and it really compliments the song well. His dynamic style of strumming has really set himself from the rest of the guitarist out there.

I love his use of accenting with up strokes on the down beat instead of the typical down stroke. Something so simple really makes a big difference in the music it's crazy when you really break it down, and think about it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GLvohMXgcBo
^
Here's another great demonstration of his rhythm skills too. This is another example of how he really utilizes accenting those up strums on the down beat. It really gives you that syncopated feel even if he isn't landing on the up beat.


EDIT- I re read your post, and saw that you also commented about the blues. Well if you really want to sound bluesy start studying triplet rhythms as well. This includes, but not limited to quarter note triplets, 8th note triplets, and 16th note triplets which is also known as sextuplets.

Last edited by Black_devils at May 12, 2015,
#8
I learned from that too black devils. Thanks!

There's one more thing I can say. Funk has a completely different feel from most of the rock stuff I've tried, and it even has a different feel from stuff like ska, which I incorrectly assumed would be a simple style to transition into. I think it'll go faster for you if you try to forget much of what you know about playing guitar and approach this challenge as if you're starting over. It will be very obvious which skills are still useful, but you might be surprised at what doesn't transfer over.
#9
John Scofield - A Go Go album - if you want to hear the master funk guitarist - he's your guy.

Also check out James Brown - that's pretty much the foundation.

The trick for funk is that you avoid big chord strums and focus on the upper register - chord stabs, tight playing with a lot of repetition. It's a much more percussive style of playing.
#10
Quote by reverb66
John Scofield - A Go Go album - if you want to hear the master funk guitarist - he's your guy.

Also check out James Brown - that's pretty much the foundation.

The trick for funk is that you avoid big chord strums and focus on the upper register - chord stabs, tight playing with a lot of repetition. It's a much more percussive style of playing.


john scofield? not exactly the fitrst name i think of when it comes to funk. he's way more of a jazz guy.

niles rodgers or eddie hazel come to mind. look into Parliment/Funkadelic for a good funk and rock crossover. 70s era Isley Brothers as well.
#11
Thanks for all your replies, they are much appreciated!

The band I've joined is composed of a keyboard player, a drummer, a bass player and a singer.

Just to clarify: so far, I haven't played chords a lot to begin with. Most metal songs are just an abundance of riffs and solos, and I listen to each note individually or look up a tab and that's that. But in this context, it's very hard for me to hear which notes are being played, since they're (part of) chords. Right now, it doesn't matter at all whether I'm playing perfectly, I just need to get an idea of which notes to play

So if I understand correctly, to be able to play this particular song, I simply need to look at the chords in the tab I linked ( http://tabs.ultimate-guitar.com/g/grace_jones/slave_to_the_rythm_crd.htm ) and find the right voicing of the notes within those chords on the higher strings. Thanks to the lessons you've sent me, you made me realize that this is trivial whereas the rhythm part is where the trouble's at :P I'll get into that as soon as I can, thanks a lot for your help!

As for the remarks some of you have made about blues: we haven't played a lot of blues yet, but I am aware of improvisation using pentatonic ladders. Not that I'm good at it by any means And let's not even get started about rhythm! I mostly just play what feels right, not having any idea how to describe what I just played using words.

Quote by paul.housley.7
it even has a different feel from stuff like ska, which I incorrectly assumed would be a simple style to transition into.

Being a fan of ska punk music, I always assumed this too, until I tried it a couple of months ago. Ouch, is all I have to say
#12
Quote by monwobobbo
john scofield? not exactly the fitrst name i think of when it comes to funk. he's way more of a jazz guy.
.


He is a jazz guy but his focus is funk. Check out that A Go Go album and the ones that come after that - he's by far the best funk player out there - rhythm and especially lead.
#13
I gave that a listen. I don't think that's what a new player wants to listen to. Maybe it'll inspire him but he's clearly doing cover songs right now and I'd you want to get a feel for popular funk then you need to look at Nile Rodgers most out all. David Williams who played for Michael Jackson on Thriller and Off The Wall. Definitely listen to James Brown and Parliament. Look into The Meters. Tony Joe White - Swamp Rap is a perfect funky riff. Prince and Frusciante and Kravitz are all pretty funky. Maybe if you want a dash of modern funk you could check out later Jamiroquai, Bruno Mars and Maroon 5.

I'm not trying to compete with the Scofield suggestion. I just want to make sure we start with the popular foundations first. Particularly the first couple names.