Play Funk Guitar – Lesson One

Welcome to a brand-new funk guitar video series! Each lesson we are going to dissect three elements of this fantastic genre. This week we are checking out how to play a dominant ‘9t chord, how to implement sixteenth note muting and a twelve-bar funk pattern.

Funk Guitar Example 1 – The Dominant 9 Chord

Learning a new chord is always exciting! For me, there is no better place to start your funk guitar journey than by learning the dominant 9th chord. I refer to this chord often as the ‘James Brown’ chord. He owns it, and always will. I have given two ways to play this chord today. The first way uses separate fingers and the second uses a barre with your ring (3rd finger,) which will require more practice. You can think of a dominant ‘9th’ chord as your dominant ‘7th’ but you have added in the 9th (or 2nd note of your major scale up one octave).

Funk Guitar Example 2 – 16th Note Muting

Sixteenth notes form the fundamental groove for most funk music. We divide each beat of the bar into 4 equal parts, and we count it using 1e+a 2e+a 3e+a 4e+a. Make sure you continue to apply down, up, down, up. This forms the complete basis for all funk rhythm playing. In this example, we are muting all the strings. Beware of harmonic sections of the guitar such as the 12th frets, 7th frets and 5th frets, as sometimes as you mute here you will get unwanted harmonics.

Funk Guitar Example 3 – 12 Bar Funk

I created a fairly simple 12-bar funk pattern today. This uses your E9 chord from example one and moves it into A9 and B9. Funk is all about groove so keep your picking hand consistent and get used to going between fretted notes and muted notes.

Recommended listening

For classic James Brown style guitar licks, I recommend buying the album “The Godfather: The Very Best Of James Brown.” My favourite track on that album being “Sex Machine.”

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Guitar Lesson Video Transcription

Hey YouTube, Simon here once again for Fundamental Changes. Today starts the start of a brand new video series, we’re going to do an introduction to funk guitar. I think it’s going to be a really fun, really enjoyable. Let’s go and have a look at all these new examples for this lesson 1. Let’s get to those next.

[guitar playing]

The dominant 9 chord is absolutely paramount and foundational to all funk guitar. I thought we’d start here today. There’s 2 different varieties you can do. We’re using an E 9, and one is slightly easier than the other.

Example 1 that I showed was the slightly easier version, where you’re going to have nothing on the 6th string, 7th fret on your middle finger of the 5th, 6th fret on the 4th on your index, 7th fret of the 3rd on your ring or 3rd finger, and 7th fret of the 7th on the 2nd string.

That is a 9 chord shape there, but it is a little bit easier than the 2nd variety that I showed, which is where you bar all the way through the top 3 strings with your ring finger.

That would be 7-7, and then 7-7-7 all with the same finger there. A little bit more tricky, that one. If you can do that one, it bodes really well for the future, because then you have a finger free – a little finger free to do all these other examples.

Try those out, see how you get on. Let’s get to Example 2.

[guitar playing]

16th notes form the foundation for most funk playing. Today I just wanted you to look at the muting side of 16th notes. We count 16th notes 1 e & a, 2 e & a, 3 e & a, 4 e & a. You’re going to have your right hand or your picking hand, I should say, for any lefties out there, going consistently. Down-up-down-up-down-up-down-up-down-up-down-up-down-up-down up. One thing to bear in mind when you’re muting, are there are certain harmonic zones on the guitar. It’s like namely stuff like 12th-7th-5th frets, there are others too.

I tend to lay my hand on, and have all fingers on when I’m muting, if I can, just because then I avoid any harmonic zones. If you just lie your hands on there and example 2, as you saw, was just getting your 16th notes nice and tidy down-up-down-up-down-up-down-up-down-up-down-up-down-up-down-up, nice and easy there.

Let’s get on to Example 3.

[guitar playing]

Example 3 here then is a little bit of a 12-bar funk pattern I put together today, quite fun. We’ve got the chords of E 9, which we looked at in Example 1, with then moving that up to the 12th fret to get A 9, 14th fret to get B 9, and then back again.

On the very end we’ve got a B 9 down at the 2nd fret, which is just the 14th fret, obviously down 1 octave. The pattern that goes up on here is you’ve got 16th note pattern down-up-down-up, that’s 16ths on the 1st beat, then you’ve got 2, and then you’ve got 4 mutes: down-up-down-up, and then back on again.

You’ve got 1 e & a, 2, 3 e & a, 4. Down-up-down-up-down, hold it, up, mute-mute-mute-mute,on. Then you’re going to put that through all the different examples here.

I didn’t do this one at slow tempo, because that would go on for ages. But just break it down, slowly, slowly, slowly, and hopefully you’ll get there. I’ll see you next time for more videos.

Hi everyone, I really hope you enjoyed this introduction to funk guitar part 1. I hope you got something from it. Please subscribe to our channel, where we upload videos every week to inspire you wherever you are in your guitar-playing journey.

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