The mainstay of funk is bass. A great rhythm is generated when the bassist and the drummer blend in and make everyone dance, it is something beautiful and easier to achieve than you imagine. As in many other great musical styles, funk bass is easy to play but difficult to master. To make your life a funkier adventure, all you need is a little practice.
Method 1 of 3: Learning to Feel the Rhythm
Step 1. Practice with a drummer, a backing track, or a metronome
While a bass does provide a melodic line, it is considered part of the rhythmic base. He keeps the rhythm settled and does not waver. If you want to play funky bass, you need to have a perfect, confident beat that the rest of your band can lean on. When you practice, always do it accompanied by another rhythm with which you can connect.
- 99% of funky music is written in 4/4 time, which means that "1, 2, 3, 4" is counted, and immediately afterwards the bass line is repeated in 4 beats again. Set your metronome to a 4/4 beat or ask your practice partner to play this beat at a comfortable speed and get ready to enjoy.
Most of today's music is in 4/4 - this should be the most comfortable rhythm for you
- Funk is more about building a hypnotic, danceable rhythm than it is about playing a wide variety of musical notes or the most impressive melodic lines. In funky music it is more important to have a precise musical cadence than to play with ever-changing and wild melodies.
Step 2. Make sure the first note you play is dazzling
In funk, the first beat is always the most important. You need to give it perfectly, always on time all the time. If you hit the first beat with perfect timing and hit the bass with a tremendous burst of satisfaction, you'll immediately notice how the rhythm really starts to move. Look no further, on D'Angelo and the Vanguard's latest single, "Back to the Future (Part 1)," the bass line is almost a single note played at all times. The bass player plays the first note twice in a row and the result is a delicate but powerful intensity. Like the audience, the rest of the band is hooked in the first half.
Step 3. To put together a basic funk rhythm, accentuate the first and third beats of each measure
Funky music is written in a 4/4 time signature, where the first and third notes are the most important. To put a funky spin on any bass line, add intensity to these two notes. Concentrate on touching them just in time and don't touch anything else around them. The more precise you are and the better you match the drummer's line, the more lilting the rhythm will be.
- To get started, decide which notes to use. Remember - funky music, it shouldn't be complicated, it's made for dancing. Find the essence of the song by determining the note that works perfectly for the first beat and stick to it. If you know different scales, use them to choose the notes that you are going to use in the third beat.
- Check out the song "One Nation Under a Groove" by Parliament Funkadelics. Notice how the bass line almost stops immediately after the third note, while the fourth is barely suggested, this arrangement makes the first one resonate with greater intensity the moment the measure repeats itself and the silence is broken. The rest of the notes are padded, which helps make the first and third notes really stand out.
- Play with how long you let the notes play. Try short, high-pitched notes that "pop" right into the first one, then hold all three for a bit longer. Reverse them. Once you start learning how to develop a rhythm with just these two simple notes, you will be ahead of most beginning bass players.
Step 4. Play with the gaps between the first and third beats to create your pattern
The first and third beats are the backbone of funk and should always be played with more intensity than the others. But the real fun begins when you try to fill in the gaps between them. Start by improvising a few notes to fill in the first and fourth beats and then forcefully return to your base form to continue the cadence. You can also fill them in with a scale, walk on the arm towards the third of the chord, play with the rests, or hold notes for longer. As long as you keep the first and third beats solid, the rest will fall right into place.
To take a master class with bassist Larry Graham, nothing like listening to the long and incredible instrumental solo that is on the song "Sex Machine" by the band Sly and the Family Stones. In the first and third beats the notes are sharp, around them the bassist leaves a space. These notes keep the rhythm settled. But if you look closely, in the second and fourth beats the notes are fast and discreet, which gives the song a lot of power
Method 2 of 3: Perfecting Your Licks
Step 1. Exercise your fingers and hands with the strings of your bass
The thick strings of a bass can withstand all kinds of abuse, feel free and really play with them. Use your big toe to gently strum them, and right afterward, pluck one of the lower strings, so that a crisp and pleasant explosion of music is heard. With the palm of your hand, touch a slap and let it sound. In order to hit a percussive note instead of a melody, don't step on the fret all the way, play mute the notes. Experimenting with these variations of musical textures is a good way to develop a sense of rhythm in your bass line.
Step 2. Let repetition become your best friend
Funky music picks up on repetitions. You as the bassist are the base of the band and the melody, you are the one who provides the support on which the rest of the instruments can play. While it is true that occasional variations add freshness to the music and make it exciting and very funky, you do not want to be changing your pattern or your rhythm every 2 or 3 bars, you must be reliable. Every 4, 6, or 8 bars spice up the bass line using a higher note (8th) from the tonic, sliding toward the note to alternate the line. By restricting your playing style, you make your variations more stimulating.
Stevie Wonder's song "Higher Ground" has a very percussive and fairly regular bass line. When your voice rises to the upper octave, the bass line also bends the octave towards the highs in the last 2 beats with a somewhat aggressive glide that highlights the entry and exit of the chord change
Step 3. Don't be afraid of spaces and silences, the notes are just as important as these
Syncopation, which is when you leave pauses and spaces where the listener is waiting for notes, is vital to creating good funk. Spaces are generally used to enhance the sound of the note played immediately after or just before them, so that the second and fourth beats are perfect for small rests.
- Rhythmic variations are created with spaces. And it's in that variety, especially when you sync with the drummer, that the funk starts to shine.
- Check out Kendrick Lamar's song "King Kunta", pay attention to the pause right after the third beat, it's almost syncopation. While you're waiting for the note to sustain, just like it does right after the first beat, syncopation takes a surprising twist that creates a fresh feeling and gets everyone dancing.
Step 4. To expand your knowledge, learn bass lines that you like
Once you've got your groove on and hit that funk essence by strumming a few simple notes, you're ready to experiment with other tricks that you copy from the great funk masters. Consult all the tablatures that catch your attention. Concentrate on getting them perfect, note by note. Take a good look at the way the great musicians fill in the spaces, how they manage to accentuate the first and third beats, how they use silences to their advantage. Listen to all the music that you like, but it is important that you begin to have among your must-have music tracks some classic bassists such as:
- Larry Graham (from Sly and the Family Stone, Graham Central Station)
- Bootsy Collins (from Parliament-Funkadelic, James Brown and his band)
- James Jamerson (of the James Brown Band)
- Victor Wooten (soloist and with SMV)
Method 3 of 3: Learning to Use Funky Scales
Step 1. Learn the minor pentatonic scale
This scale is perfect for making melodic variations on your baseline, it also fits very well with funky music, with blues, rock and chord progressions in pop. It has a slight melancholic and bluesy accent. As always, remember to shine the first and third beats and don't forget to use the tonic frequently. Next we put you the pentatonic scale of A minor. The note in the parentheses is a melodic ornament that is used to give a bluesy touch, you can put it aside if you prefer: G | ---------- 5-7- (8) - | D | ----------- 5 --- 7- | A | ----- 5- (6) -7 ------- | E | -5-8 --- ---------- |
Step 2. For a sense of rhythmic thrust, learn the major pentatonic scale
This scale offers the favorite variation within the pentatonics but with a more upbeat sound. It is not as vivid as the major scale, but it is still a brilliant scale and has been used as such. The following is the A major pentatonic scale:
G | ----------- 4 --- 6- |
D | ----------- 4 --- 7- |
A | ----- 4 --- 7- |
E | -5-7 ------------- |
Step 3. For warmer, more cheerful tones, play the major scale
You start the scale by playing the tonic and from there you start looking for notes to use in your patterns. The following is for the A Major scale, starting at the fourth fret (A):
G | ----------------- |
D | ----------- 4-6-7- |
A | ----- 4-5-7 ------- |
E | -5-7 ------------- |
Step 4. To give darker and sadder tones, use the minor scale
It is not a commonly used tone in funk, but it can be easily modified so that it can be used that way. This scale will give you darker tones, a more intense sound that you can use when you feel that a song requires it. When played without ornamentation it may sound a bit plain, however that rhythmic emphasis will give the beat a funky feel. The following is for A minor:
G | ----------------- |
D | ------------- 5-7- |
A | ------- 5-7 ----- |
E | -5-7-8 ----------- |
- Listen to a lot of music and play your bass as much as you can until you feel the excitement that the funk style provokes. Funky is pure emotion.
- To play this style you have to feel the rhythm. If you can't feel the cadence in you, you can never be a good funky bass player.
- When practicing the bass slap, it is important that your technique is correct, this way you will go further. It is not easy but it is not that difficult either