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Funking The Place Up

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Son of Spam, Aug 18, 2002.

  1. Okay, recently I realized how incompetent I am at funk.

    I was jamming with a few old pals, (guitar, drums, trumpet, sax, and keyboard) and we kept on switching up the styles. Jazz, I was fairly good on, I'm pretty confident in my walking basslines, and diff. chords that apply to Jazz.

    Rock, latin, ballads, I'm confident there too. We switch it up alot.

    But when the drummer yells out "Funk it up" to me, I get so utterly lost its sad. The only way I know how to funk it up is to slap and hit octaves.

    I have the rythm, I listen to alot of Tower of Power, Earth, Wind, and Fire, along with other Funk-stars and am confident on the different rythems.

    However all my funk basslines tend to sound the same. If I'm lucky the guitar or keyboard player will pick a chord to play, or make a melody to play off of. But if heaven forbid everyone wants to build off me and a chord I pick, than it turns horrible.

    Is there any certain Chords/Chord structures associated with funk? Any certain "tips" on notes to hit instead of just octaves (i.e. 3rds, 5ths and the like)? And could someone list me a few good examples of some good Funk-stars (and maybe even give me a little explanation on what he's doing on a song or two).?

    I'd be deeply appreciated.

  2. I'm not exceptionally good at it either but somethings that sound quite good are slides or hammer-ons from: minor to major third, from augmented fourth to fifth, from sixth to diminished seventh and from diminished seven to octave.

    Listen to Bootsy Collins on the Parliament record "Mothership Connection" and Jaco Pastorius on the song "Barbary coast". This are examples that are quite easy to listen to and learn from.
  3. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    For me, it's all about the rhythm of my playing. You can play simple quarter-notes, the same note too, and still have them funky as all hell if they are syncopated with the drummer properly. It's pretty much a feel thing-like when you can feel your body starting to rock back and forth, then you're on the right track, at least for me. Listen for bass/snare patterns in the drumming and try to lock in with them.

    As far as chords or keys, you can have overabundant funkiness in any key or whatever if it's played right, but I like to stick to minor chords.
    Majors are often a little too happy sounding for my tastes, so I'll play within a certain key without changing it up the majority of the time. But really, the notes you play are inconsequential compared to locking in with the drummer and getting that feel. You don't dance to notes; you dance to a beat, or a rhythm. So listen for those rhythms. Take a bassline from an existing song that you think is funky, and instead of playing all the proper notes, play just one note but with the same rhythm pattern the bassist uses. You'll find that a lot of the groove is right there.

    Good luck, and be careful not to do the slap/octave thing too much; you'll sound more disco than funky.
  4. In all honesty when a drummer or guitar player yell out Funk it up what you did is probally what they were expecting.
    Pop out the thumb, hey I'm funky.
  5. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    Maybe this would be of some help to you:

    Funk Bass by John Liebman

    which contains much useful advice about slapping, plus many examples using each technique(slap, pop, hammer-ons, pull-offs, slides, trills, shakes & bends.) These drills help you build up a "vocabulary" of funk grooves. In fact, one whole chapter is about funk soloing. That ought to impress your drummer.

    The examples are written in both standard notation and tab. There are so many examples, it may take you months to work your way through the book, but you will be learning a lot of useful material all the way along.

    If you are interested, it is a Hal Leonard publication and sells for $17.95. You may be able to find it in Barnes and Noble or Borders or it may be at


    One last comment, if slapping isn't your thing, remember that Verdine White, the monster bassist of Earth, Wind and Fire is a master of funk, but does not slap. I think E, W & F have just released a greatest hits 2-CD set. You might want to check that out and listen for the "feel" or the "groove."
  6. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
    Maybe the situation is that you haven't listened to enough funk, and so funk is not a part of your vocabulary i.e. in your ear. You play the same thing because that's all that you know. Try listening to some Hip Hop & R&B, that may get you on the right track.
  7. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    "...all my funk basslines tend to sound the same."

    All the more reason I would suggest the Liebman book "Funk Bass" because it has such a wide variety of grooves. Goodness, even if you just chose ten of the dozens, you would have an excellent start at adding variety to your basslines.

    By the way, don't just memorize the grooves. Play them in different keys. Change the speed. Change the last few notes. Make them your own.

    Try to figure out ways that the groove can be adapted to your band's music. Twenty different grooves in isolation from any music you actually play probably won't help you all that much.
  8. Hey, thanks to everyone who gave me the tips, I'll be sure to check it out.

    And you're right, the guitarist is expecting me to slap/pop, but the drummer is an actual drummer (not an ape with sticks heh) so he wants something better than that, and more importantly, I think I owe it to myself to do something better or different from just that.

    And I'll check out that book Boplicity.

    I actually jammed today, and instead of doing what I considered funk, I just did was I would consider blueish. I played like a blues guitar would, with the hammer-ons, trills, and syncopation. I used my fretless and it gave it a pretty cool feel, the others said they liked it.

    Anywayz, thanks again!
  9. punkfunkfreak


    Dec 16, 2001
    i second the funk bass book boplicity reccomended.
    listening to the cd is very daunting tho.....jesus the guy is good.

    Easy thru to very accomplished....im only about 1/4 of the way thru it (as in, i can only play the first quarter of it confidently) and ive had it a year.

    a great book.

  10. A book that I've been working with a lot that I would highly recommend is "The Finger Funk Workbook, Vol I" by Athony Vitti.

    It's basically just a bunch of 16 bar funk grooves but each groove is designed to attack certain common weaknesses in bass players like speed, string skipping, syncopated rhythms, reading music, etc... There's a CD included so, after you spend some time reading each groove, you can reference the CD to see how well you did. Also-- and this is the thing a like the most about this book-- it includes rhythms you can program on a drum machine. That way you can get a good understanding how the author uses each groove with a drum pattern, which will help you in real playing situations. It's helped my playing tremendously.

    You can check out his website at:


    I've also worked on "The Slap Bass Bible" and it's just as good.
  11. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    Hmm, all good books I'm sure... i nearly bought the liebman book myself - probly will in the future.

    I have a book by some bloke called Joaquin du Pres or summit??? I put the CD on and started playing along. I got through about 10 or 15 before they started getting seriously tricky and I've learnt all my funk from listening and playing.

    I'd say playing funk is more about feel than anything else. Go and play along to records by james brown, bootsy, larry graham (good luck!),
    sly & the family stone, even some red hot chili peppers tracks will get you there.

    Jame Brown is the best example, simple yet undeniabley the funkiest thing you'll ever hear.

    Regarding choice of notes, the rhythm is vastly more important than the notes. JBs basists use very few different notes, a prime example.
  12. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    The book you may be referring to is Slap Bass Essentials by Josquin des Pres and Bunny Brunel, each monster bassists. It has a Cd, also. Although I have the book, I have never gotten beyond the Leibman book. It has more than enough to keep anyone occupied.

    I also have Funk Fusion Bass, another book/CD set by John Liebeman. That book is jam packed with examples, but--like I said--I have never even finished his first book.

    The Adam Nitti book mentioned above by another poster sounds respectable, too. Nitti has written drills for Bass Player magazine. I liked all his "classes." Fact is, there is plenty of good information out there to help vary one's funk basslines.
  13. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    Whopps, double post. Sorry.:(
  14. Anthony Vitti, not Adam Nitti, who I'm sure has some good material as well. ;)
  15. I must thankyou all for your replies.

    I was going to post something up about funk. When i read the original post it was as it it was me posting that. Despite being Australian there is a Borders here in Adelaide, i will go and check them out.

    Thanks People!


  16. I'm thinking if your drummer says funk it up it should probanly start with him so you have something to work with.
    But if you want ideas maybe a simple one would be to work with the beat your drummer is producing (providing it is relatively funky ie not like a simple punk beat or something) accenting his accents and adding some filler notes to carry on to the next note and I think staying simple and achieving a sort of groove is part way there.

    Oh yeah and listen to a variety of funk cause things like Tower of Power, Earth, Wind, and Fire, James Brown may not be so adaptable to your bands style and maybe something like RHCP or Infectous Grooves might be.

    I hope it helps.
    p.s I think it relys on getting an actual groove to be funky now I just have to work out the definition of funky!:D
  17. tomtom


    Jun 17, 2002
    Philthy, PA
    don't forget, you gotta be a drummer too! If you get too lost in bassland you'll go crazy. when in doubt, lock with the kick pattern, the notes will almost write themselves.... I try to keep the K.I.S.S. mentality (keep it simple, stupid)


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