Blues was out and funk was in as the new era of dance music came to prominence in the 60s. For guitarists today, funk is a vital element of rhythm playing, whatever style of music you’re into. Get the basics down here…
Funk came to prominence in the 60s and early 70s. Early pioneers like James Brown combined soul music with R&B to create a syncopated hypnotic groove-based dance style. Jimmy Nolen was Brown’s sideman; Freddie Stone was the singer and guitarist in the psychedelic funk outfit Sly And The Family Stone. Chic guitarist Nile Rodgers is one of the genre’s best-known players, crossing over into disco and pop, and racking up a huge list of production credits to his name. Prince is one of funk’s underrated players – worth checking out. Bruno Mars flies the pop flag today, while Snarky Puppy offer their own brand of jazz-funk fusion.
Dominant 7 (E7, A7 etc) chords see a lot of use in funk, and the scale of choice to complement these chords is the Mixolydian mode – that’s because the scale and the chord share a lot of notes. For example, A7 is A C# E G and A Mixolydian contains all those notes: A B C# D E F# G. The E minor pentatonic scale sounds great with an Em7 chord – again, the notes are nearly identical: E G B D in the chord and E G A B D in the scale.
The Ch ords
These chords are sure to get you off to a funky start. Em7 is a great chord for any funk jam in E minor. The one-fingered E9sus4 shape often precedes Em7 – it’s just so easy to switch between the two shapes. A7 can add movement to a jam in E minor, taking you into a brighter tonality. E7#9 is the classic Hendrix chord – great for funk-rock. Am11 was often used by funky stylists like Prince.
Genre crossing grooves from the
king of funk
E minor pentatonic
A Mixolydian mode