This week I did a funk guitar lesson teaching a few more ideas of how to play rhythm guitar over a dominant vamp in C. There are a lot of different ways you can approach playing rhythm guitar over a funk groove. What works best often depends on what the musicians around you are playing. In this lesson I show you how using riffs, chord voicings, and fills can work together to create a full sounding funk song.
The example opens with a repeated riff. This is very common technique in funk music and can be heard often in songs from bands like the Meters. Just like in blues playing, funk guitarists play around with both the minor and major 3rds in their playing. This idea starts with a double stop using the b3 and 5 of C7. Give the Eb a slight bend to give the lick a bit more attitude. The rest of the idea is pretty straight forward. Try experimenting with different levels of palm muting on the lower strings to get a more percussive sound.
The second lick is a chord example. This kind of playing tends to work like an acoustic guitar does in a pop or country tune. It helps drive the rhythm and lays down the foundation of the chord sound. The picking hand strums in straight sixteenth notes while the fretting hand uses muting to control when the chord is audible.
The third idea is an example of a fill rhythm part. I’ve heard these kind of ideas occasionally described as ‘bubble’ parts and I think that is a good term for how they sound. Use slight palm muting to make the notes pop and sound percussive. These parts work because of how well the contrast the main rhythm parts.
The fourth lick is another chord idea. This time the voicings are all on the top three strings. Small voicings like these are very important in this style of music because there is often a lot of different musicians playing at the same time. When there are drums, percussion, an active bass player, horns, and multiple guitars or keyboard all playing together those five and six string chord voicings will tend to clutter up the mix. Simple two and three note voicings like this keep everything sounding tight while leaving space for the other musicians.
The final lick is another bubbly fill idea. This one uses double stops to walk up between two C chord voicings. Again using slight palm muting can add to a cool percussive sound.