11 ways to invigorate your funk rhythm chops

American soul singer and songwriter James Brown (1933-2006) performs live on stage with the J.B.'s, including guitarist Catfish Collins (1943-2010) behind, in East Ham, London in March 1971.
‘Catfish’ Collins performs live with James Brown in East Ham, London in March 1971. (Image credit: David Redfern/Redferns/Getty Images)

Funk is one of the most important musical styles of the past 60 years. Its musical tentacles reach into so many genres that it’s difficult to overestimate its influence. It can feed into all aspects of your playing, from holding down a basic rhythm to helping develop groove within your soloing.

All forms of funk lead back to the pioneer and Godfather of Soul, James Brown, who, in the mid-’60s, began to experiment with the syncopated rhythms of New Orleans jazz. While R&B, soul and motown tended to emphasise the backbeat (beats two and four), the classic JB signature groove was to emphasise the downbeat with a heavy emphasis on beat 1.

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Steve Allsworth

Steve is one of the UK’s most versatile guitar players and professional music educators. He has toured and played for the likes of Mica Paris, Lily Allen, Ronan Keating, Lulu, Westlife and Lianne Rimes. Between performing in the West End and recording as a busy session musician, Steve also regularly writes for Total Guitar and Guitar Techniques magazines. He’s also BIMM London’s Head of LPW (Live Performance Workshop) and one of its senior guitar specialists. He loves to share his knowledge and passion for playing and getting the best from guitarists, whatever the level.