Get­ting started with… funk rhythms

Im­prove your rhythm skills what­ever style of mu­sic you’re into as TG takes a look at some funk es­sen­tials

Total Guitar - - CONTENTS -

“Why do I need to learn funk gui­tar?”

Funk rhythms are used in many gen­res and your play­ing will im­prove if you try out the tech­niques. From folk or in­die to rock and blues, funk gui­tar can be ap­plied in lots of cre­ative ways.

“Okay, I’m in! What do I need to know?”

Look at the box­out on the right where we talk about the most com­mon el­e­ment of funk: the ‘four notes per beat’ rhythm.

“Four notes per beat sounds com­pli­cated!”

If you’ve ever counted to four in time with a song you’re half­way there. This four-count is known as the ‘pulse’ or ‘beat’. Funk rhythms break these beats down into four shorter, faster bits – ie, four notes per beat. Typ­i­cally, you’ll be strum­ming down-up-down-up and leav­ing out oc­ca­sional pick strokes to mix things up.

“Can you rec­om­mend some tracks?”

Sure! The open line in Prince’s Kiss is a pure ex­am­ple of a four notes per beat strum­ming pat­tern. Nile Rodgers’ open­ing line in Chic’s Good­times uses this method. Also take a lis­ten to the cho­rus in Monar­chy­ofroses by the Red Hot Chili Pep­pers for some funky 16th notes.

“What do you mean by 16th notes?”

It’s a tech­ni­cal name for the ‘four notes per beat’ rhythm. There are four notes in each beat and four beats in each bar – hence the name ‘16th notes’. They are also called semi­qua­vers.

“Got it. Can we start play­ing some­thing?”

The box­out out­lines the sound of a 16th-note rhythm and how it ap­pears in no­ta­tion. Jam to the back­ing track – it’s about groove: the more you re­peat it, the more you’ll get a feel for it.

“Okay. How can I make it more mu­si­cal?”

Take a look at the tab ex­am­ples. Here, the vibe comes from leav­ing out some of those 16ths, adding space and rhythm in­stead of play­ing in a con­tin­u­ous stream. In the sec­ond ex­am­ple we’re mix­ing up chords with a sin­gle-note line – a much used trick in funk. Re­mem­ber to syn­chro­nise your down-up-down-up pick­ing to the 16th-note rhythm for ac­cu­rate tim­ing.

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