Funk guitar rhythms that catch listeners’ ears and make them want to groove have been around for many decades. Championed by early legends like Jimmy Nolan (James Brown) and Leo Neocentelli (The Meters) all the way up to today with Mark Letteri (Snarky Puppy) and Cory Wong (Vulfpeck), funky rhythms are a vital component to being a well rounded guitarist.
This example is a short 8-bar figure that uses a clean electric tone (neck and middle pickups on an S-type guitar into a Fender Pro Kemper profile) for a snappy sound and good note clarity. The key is E Dorian (E-F#-G-A-B-C#-D), common to countless funk, pop and blues songs, with some slippery b5 (Bb) moments that reference E Blues Scale (E-G-A-Bb-B-D).
There are also some gnarly bends on the b3 (G), quick grace slides on the sixth string, and precise octave hits at the end. As for the David Williams-esque unison bends in bar 5 (eg Michael Jackson’s Burn This Disco Out), they provide a considerable dollop of 70s soul funk attitude.
Watch the video below and use our animated tab to play along with our downloadable backing track.
Downloadable backing track:
Tip: [Bar 5] For the unison bends, use your first finger on the first string and bend with your third finger on the second string. Use your first and fourth fingers for all the quick octaves in bar 9, watching your fourth finger (the higher note) to track where you are on the fretboard.
Practice by playing along with the scrolling tab:
This lesson is taken from Guitar Techniques 317. For more, subscribe or buy single issues of Guitar Techniques. For the digital edition, try pocketmags.