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What Makes Funk, Funk?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Lower-Than-Low, Dec 17, 2006.

  1. Lower-Than-Low


    Jun 7, 2006
    Hey fellow bassists,

    I hope to start writing music for my band (I have lyrics already and need to start writing the stuff that really matters) and really want to incorporate some intense gooves and funk fills/break-outs/solos.

    After a completely useless search on google, I have come here to ask, what on earth makes funk, funk? Is it the actual notes you play, the rhythms, or both?
    Does it matter whether you play finger-, pick- or slap-style?

    Sorry if I sound like a super-noob, I still haven't been able to get lessons or find a good resource on the net (other than here, that is).

    Thanks for reading!
  2. Alvaro Martín Gómez A.

    Alvaro Martín Gómez A. TalkBass' resident Bongo + cowbell player

    To me, the basis of funk is to play heavy 16th note-based syncopations against a strict 4/4 pulse dictated by the drums. Most funk bassists use standard fingerstyle or slap (Right now I can't recall a funk bassist that uses a pick) with plenty of dead notes (percussive clicks).
  3. Lower-Than-Low


    Jun 7, 2006
    This is good news, I like 16th notes, fast and fun.
    That and if the drums are in strict 4/4 my drummer will be able to deal with my awesomeness :p

    And I actually prefer Finger-Style just because of how natural it feels for me. More good news.

    Any more help is very welcome!
  4. James Hart

    James Hart

    Feb 1, 2002
    Endorsing Artist: see profile
    Funk is a feel... it transcends technique.

    It's all about the wait... the tension within the spaces
  5. +1 on Alvaro. It's has alot of percussive sounds (dead notes, or slap/pop), lots of syncopation, you know.. the stuff that gets your booty shakin'.
    I think that the main thing that makes funk, funk.. is the rhythm
  6. Lower-Than-Low


    Jun 7, 2006
    Dang, thats deep, I'll have to remember it when writing.
  7. Jared Lash

    Jared Lash Born under punches

    Aug 21, 2006
    Denver, CO
    Funk is all about the ONE.

    James Brown, Parliament, The Meters, Sly, Tower of Power, Kool & the Gang, and anybody else you can think of that really lay down the funk. They all hit the one hard. Everything else after that is gravy.

    Straight 16ths work when done right (see Prestia, Rocco) but the problem with most kids I see today trying to play funk is that they are trying to fill every ounce of open space with noise. Slappers are especially bad about this. Check out Larry Graham. He can move at warp speed when he wants to, but he lets his grooves breathe.

    Funk is most importantly about rhythm and feel. And ALL about the one.

    Here are some videos that will "do it to you in your ear-hole" as George would say.

    Mr. Slap Bass himself
    Creole Funk from the Meters
    Smooth grooves from Sly
    Some ToP
  8. Lower-Than-Low


    Jun 7, 2006
    Duuude, thanks a ton, thats exactly what I was looking for.

    When I get my stuff written up and recorded somehow, I will be sure to post it up for critquing.
  9. Basshole

    Basshole Banned

    Jan 28, 2005
    Funk is about what you DON'T play, and when you don't play it. The anticipation, the spaces. The beauty of how you can say so much more, by saying less. Rhythmic invention, tension, space, and syncopation. The rhythm IS the star of the song. Something that makes you want to move. Something that rhythmically feels so sexy, and makes you want to move so much, that it MUST be against the teachings of some church, somewhere.


    It can be thumped, picked, or fingered.
  10. arbitrary

    arbitrary Supporting Member

    Oct 24, 2005
    Boston, MA
  11. Freddels

    Freddels Musical Anarchist

    Apr 7, 2005
    Sutton, MA
    Funk with a pick! Check out Bobby Vega!!!!!
  12. Syncopation is a huge part to be sure, and not just on the bass.
  13. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    Wilton Felder (with the Crusaders)
    Bobby Vega
  14. Bayou_Brawler

    Bayou_Brawler The most hurtful thing ever realized

    Oct 23, 2003
    Ann Arbor, MI
    dude you just need to go buy A BUNCH of funk albums and learn em.....
  15. Phalex

    Phalex Semper Gumby Supporting Member

    Oct 3, 2006
    G.R. MI
    I believe what makes funk funk is tempo. I read somewhere long ago that when George Clinton invented the term, and the genre as well, he created music that had a slower tempo than rock & roll, but was a bit faster than R&B.

    The resulting sound and feel was ..........Funky!
  16. slybass3000

    slybass3000 Banned

    Nov 5, 2004
    Hummm! Good question!
    Some people say it's in the fried chicken!:D

  17. As a wanna be funkateer I try and feel the "i" and "e". If you've been trained in western music you might be stuck on the 1/2/3/4. Practice coming in on the " 1E" or accent the "3E" ( Big Easy feel). You have to try and shake some of the "whiteness" off your meter, get into the "E" and I. I also try to be somewhat "Boosty spartan" with my notes. But most of all, I close my eyes and try and visualize the groove and dance with it. Really. No drugs. I bump it a bit, then hold it close and steady, then bump it a bit, going from typical "dance beat" to a syncopated off beat, and back from bar to bar. It gets you with the groove.

    Also, why my band doesnt sound "funky" to me ( it does to the unknowing) is that a funk band, to me, is a MASS of people up on stage, not just a bass and guitar. But, we try!
  18. James Hart

    James Hart

    Feb 1, 2002
    Endorsing Artist: see profile
    Close, but George wasn't even born when it was invented... he just rode the top in it's biggest moment.

    Here is a good reference IMO...

    the rest is here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Funk
  19. jomahu


    Dec 15, 2004
    Bos, MA
    rock solid groove and rock solid connection between bassplayer and drummer. and you can't help but move some part of your body (ideally, below the waist :))

    i remember having dinner in a bar where they were playing james brown on the jukebox. it took me almost an hour to eat, 'cause i couldn't stop bobbing my head. :D
  20. Freddels

    Freddels Musical Anarchist

    Apr 7, 2005
    Sutton, MA
    If you like a MASS of people you should check out fellow TB'er Zac's (Zac2944) band Booty Vortex. I checked them out the night before Thanksgiving and they were funky. 14 people on stage. Great show and Zac was in the pocket!

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