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An Introduction To Funk Strumming

Updated: 3 days ago

Have you ever listened to your favourite funk record and wondered how it sounds so cool to play something so simple sounding but yet so groovy? If you have then this article is for you! In this article we will be going over these topics to get you own your way to understand funk strumming!

Having The Right Technique

There are a few things that are overlooked when it comes to funk strumming and the first thing is how you hold your pick.

Holding Your Pick

Example 1: The Common Way to Hold the Pick
Example 1: The Common Way to Hold the Pick

I bet that wasn't the first thing to come to mind when looking at strumming technique. Let's just say that in this instance it really adds to the sound of funk strumming. How you grip the pick usually is to hold the fatter end of the pick than the pointy end. This works for most situations but for funk strumming you want to change this to holding the pointy end of the pick and strumming with the fatter end of the pick. Example 1: The Common way to hold the pick:

Example 2: The Funk Way to Hold the Pick
Example 2: The Funk Way to Hold the Pick

Example 2: The Funk way to hold the pick:

What this does, "sound wise", is that it makes the pick fan over the strings, giving it a very percussive, yet smooth sound as opposed to using the pointy end which drags in between each string giving a more direct and harder sound due to the force exerted on the strings. This helps your funk strumming sound more authentic.

Muting Properly

Muting is a big aspect of funk strumming as alot of funk strumming has a syncopated (off beat) feel. If muting isnt done correctly it can sound like the funk part you are playing doesnt belong in that piece of music.

When we are employing muting in funk, our picking hand is always swinging up and down to 16th notes, this makes it harder to mute with (it can be done but isnt recommended). What is recommended is muting with your fretting hand. The way you do this is by releasing pressure with the fretting hand but keeping the fingers over the fretted notes you want to fret.

This sound when your strumming over the released pressure on the fretted notes creates a mute. It takes some getting used to but its very simple after a few tries of releasing pressure and putting it back on.

Try using these techniques going forward as we approach the next topic

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3 Excersizes For 16th Note Strumming

Let's just quickly go over how to practice this material

Funk music is usually a very upbeat temp from anywhere from 100 bpms to 160, with this in mind we should try to start at 100 bpms to gain a feel for subdivising 16ths and then gradually increase the tempo when comfortable.

Example 2:

An Introduction To Funk Strumming - Picture 2 | Grokit Guitar
An Introduction To Funk Strumming - Picture 2 | Grokit Guitar


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This first excersize is a very simple one but also a very important one. it goes over getting used to strumming straight 16th notes. The key to this is to accent every downbeat on the 1 2 3 4. You want to always be moving that strumming hand even if it is not playing anything, this is a good approach to take when you know you have alot of 16th notes to do in a song.

To emphasise this even more lets look at

Example 3:

An Introduction To Funk Strumming - Picture 3 | Grokit Guitar
An Introduction To Funk Strumming - Picture 3 | Grokit Guitar

This next excersize is very useful for a couple of reasons.

Firstly it goes over teaching the importance of landing on the first beat.

In funk music landing on the 1 gives the grove your playing against consistency and funk is all about being consistent and knowing your part.

Landing on the 1 gives the listener the chance to trust that something starts at each measure. Secondly it teaches the importance of moving your strumming hand at all times on 16th notes even when you are not playing something. your hand should always be moving intime to accomodate for whats going to happen in the next excersize. Example 4:

An Introduction To Funk Strumming - Picture 4 | Grokit Guitar
An Introduction To Funk Strumming - Picture 4 | Grokit Guitar

Often in funk music you will find that with guitar parts they will have rhythms that will repeat quite alot but in a particular way.

In Example 4 you can see that the first two beats are the same followed by a reverse in the last two beats which gives it a certain groove. Then in bar 3 the same occurs but the mute has shifted. When combining both of these contrasting rhythms together we get a compelling funk part that sounds really groovy. A general practice is to move where you mute the 16th note in each bar to gain mastery of the mute.

I hope that this article has helped give you an introduction to funk strumming and it will inform how you approach funk.

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24 mars
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Funky! Thanks Funk Dr Weiland!

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