How To Play Funk Guitar RhythmPosted by Mike Schuck
When playing funk guitar, rhythm is arguably one of the most important things you can pick up. After all, how well will your band play if you cannot keep time? More importantly, what kind of music will you play depend on how well you are able to stick to a beat!
When it comes down to it, there are two main types of rhythms in rock music. The first is an alternating pattern that sounds like ta-da-DAH or DAHH-TAHHHH. This type of rhythm goes back centuries and has been used to great effect by musicians across genres and cultures.
The second type of rhythmic pattern we will look at here is called a straight run. A straight run doesn’t have any short breaks between each note, but rather just a steady stream of notes.
Both of these types of rhythms can be applied to songs beyond their initial use as a groove element. For instance, both styles can be used for lead lines or licks. Or, they can even be mixed together and adapted to create new patterns.
So, let us get into some basics with this week’s article! In fact, I will go into more detail than ever before by breaking down the concept step-by-step.
Practice playing along with music
A lot of people start playing guitar by learning how to play individual notes, or scales. But what if I told you that having enough rhythm was more important than knowing your notes?
It’s all about being in time with the beats of the song, but how do you know where the beat is? That’s why it’s helpful to learn how to recognize meter (standard rhythmic patterns like duple, triple, or quadruple meters) and learn some basic chords!
By understanding meter and chords, you will have an easy way to identify the main beats of a song and can begin practicing timing your foot steps to those beats.
This article will go into detail on how to play funk guitar rhythm, a genre that features lots of solid bass lines and funky chord progressions.
Listen to music you like
A lot of people get stuck playing funk guitar rhythm by just using timing as their guide. They try to hit every second or third note with no success.
Music has very specific rules that govern how it is put together, which are called rhythms. When those rules are understood, then you can start creating your own new rhythms and putting them into songs.
This article will go over some basic funky bass lines and show how they work.
Watch YouTube videos of artists you like
There are so many ways to learn how to play funk guitar rhythm! One of the most basic things that aspiring musicians can do to start playing music is by listening to music they love and then trying to replicate some or all of those sounds and patterns in their own style.
A great way to get inspired and learn new songs is to watch musical performance video clips online. You can find lots of such videos from your average musician or band member’s YouTube channel, song covers and theory lessons via sites like Music Theory Hub and Beatmapping.org, and extended jam sessions on YouTube.
Videos also help you understand what parts of a song make up its rhythm section, as well as how different instruments contribute to it. For example, when watching bass licks, you will often see the player drops one down between two notes or adds a second note next to an already-dropped string. These tricks create a steady pulse that makes the song feel more comfortable to play back to back.
Try doing dance moves while playing
In rhythm guitar, how you play a note and when is important! When it comes down to it, funk music is all about timing. What makes some songs fun to listen to is how quickly they get into a rhythmic pattern or groove.
When musicians use this technique, they add syncopation. This is when one part of a sound is not immediately followed by another part. For example, instead of having two sounds follow each other, there could be three or more. It creates an interesting effect that keeps the listener interested.
This can be done with any instrument. If you are reading this article, then you probably already know what notes go together and how to play simple chords.
Become familiar with common chord progressions
The next step in playing funk guitar rhythm is becoming familiar with some common chord progression patterns. These include power chords, dominant seventh chords, and half-dominant chords.
Power chords are simply noted as “power” because they contain an equal amount of content — three notes per string. Power chords typically begin with the second or third fret and go up by stepping up one string at a time.
For example, if you wanted to play the first note of a power chord, you would use either the fifth or fourth string (depending on which way you want to approach it) and then immediately press down on the same string two strings higher.
This creates a stack of five strings that make up the initial power chord tone. If you were to slowly pull off the top three strings, the chord will remain the same length but will lose intensity. You can also add vibrato to achieve more expression!
Dominant seventh chords are just like normal seven-chord structures except that instead of moving through all of the other degrees of the chord, you shift the root position to be the dominant degree.
The most straightforward way to identify this chord is starting on the sixth string and going up via the second, third, and fifth frets. This produces a nice smooth ride that sounds good and funky!
A half-dominance chord is when the roots move around slightly.
Learn to read chord charts
Chord progressions are one of the most important things to know as a guitar player. They play an integral part in many types of songs, from simple tunes to complex riffs!
A chord progression is two or more chords that repeat themselves within a song. For example, the classic rock song “Free” uses the A-G-D-G chord sequence twice. Each time, however, it changes order (not necessarily completely, but enough) and adds new notes. You can probably guess what those chords are!
The first instance is easy to figure out — A comes right after G at the 1st position, then D immediately follows after A at the 2nd position, and so forth. That’s how the chorus starts!
But what about the verse? It doesn’t have the same chord pattern, and there’s no reason why.
Slow down and focus on precise playing
The second part of learning how to play funk guitar rhythm is slowing down! This will probably take some time to achieve, but once you do it is totally worth it. When you slow down your timing, your guitar playing can feel much more natural and fluid.
Once you have this down, you can speed up the tempo or add rhythmic syncopation to make your music even more funky. And if you are already able to apply syncopation in other areas of music, then adding this into your repertoire is easy enough.
But before you get too excited, there is one big thing you need to work on first! Since we talked about keeping time with the pulse, what I mean by that is making sure your hands are always aligned with the pulse.
This will not be an issue unless you are trying to press down on the string while lifting your finger at the same time. It is very difficult to do this so most people end up pressing the strings down with only their fingers and not using any tools. Or they use a hammer style tool which takes longer to master.
There are many good digital apps and software instruments where you can practice applying syncopation. Try experimenting with those to see what works for you.
Learn to use your pickaxe
The first thing you need to do is learn how to use your pick axe! This tool will play an important part in how well you are able to create funk rhythm patterns. Your pick can be used as either a kick drum or snare drum, depending on what sound you want to achieve.
To start off, hold down the open position of your guitar pick at a 30-degree angle and strike the string just like a normal hit stick. Then push it up and pull it back quickly to get that percussive effect.
Now try striking the strings with a closed fist – this is called hammering. When using hammers, make sure to breathe heavily while playing so the music does not become muffled. Take your time to develop muscle memory for picking by practicing slowly and consistently.
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