04 Funk

Total Guitar - - COVER FEATURE -

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…

The Play­ers

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.

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The Scales

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.

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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.

nile rodgers

Genre cross­ing grooves from the

king of funk

E mi­nor pen­ta­tonic

scale

A Mixoly­dian mode

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