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How to achieve 'Funk'

Jmoen3

Member
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41
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Colorado
Trying to get funky here!

Macro has been playing for half the day for me, and I have been doing some research.

It seems that the pentatonic scales are pretty much a must, but how does it differ from blues/rock? Is it all in the emotion, and emphasis? Even trying to play alongside Maceo, I can't seem to match the feel.

I have been tracking down some Funk backing tracks where I can, but the sound is eluding me. What am I missing?
 

Wade Cornell

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New Zealand and Australia
Timing/rhythm is most important. You've got to have a feel for the rhythm and ensure that whatever you do works with it. It's much more important to be thinking in terms of notes you want to hear rather than playing formulated scales or arpeggios that say nothing. If you want to practice with other funk tunes go to the funk tracks in the wikiloops section on this site which has examples with sax as well as the template without sax for you to practice. Note that there are lots of tracks there with various combinations of instruments, funk stylings and tempos, so lots to choose from.
Wikiloops Backing Tracks
Try singing/humming what you think would sound good with the template, then see if you can play that. Avoid any type of formulated playing as that's the antithesis of improvisation. Even if you only play a few notes, make them groove within the funk rhythm.
 
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Jmoen3

Jmoen3

Member
Messages
41
Locality
Colorado
Thanks for sharing! Someone tried to send me to WikiLoops before and It never worked. But that definitely worked. Thanks for such a huge resource and the information! I'll give that a try and hopefully attain some Funk! :)
 

randulo

Playing alto 2 1/2 years
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France
A few suggestions to check out. As Wade says, it's all in the rhythmic approach. Try to understand the rhythmic figures they play, the mix of staccato notes, triplets, and the contrast between loud and soft.

Charlie Hunter

Kenny Garrett (with Miles)

Brecker Brothers

I think Strasbourg Saint-Denis by Roy Hargrove is an exemplary piece of very funky, very musical and very well-received by the audience. The piano solo deserves careful listening, it's very funky IMO. Often funk is more frugal in its use of notes and fast passages. Maceo is a great, maybe the best example of funky.

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PZ4oyVMtVvg


Listen to anything with Zigaboo Modeliste:
View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZvsPlGqG0Bc

He even has an interview video on YouTube called "what is Funk?"

Les McCann & Eddie Harris
View: https://youtu.be/kCDMQqDUtv4?t=141
 

Colin the Bear

Well-Known Member
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Burnley bb9 9dn
Play straight. No swing. With a back beat. Emphasising 2 and 4. Keep it simple. Tell a story. Say something and add to it. Play phrases that sound like speech. Leave gaps. Sometimes big gaps. Get in the groove and make it dance. ;)
 

Veggie Dave

Sax Worker
Messages
3,157
Locality
Citizen of Nowhere
As Bear has said, you're part of the rhythm section.

Jazz funk and funk are slightly different - full-on funk is more staccato and aggressive. You can hear its roots in old school R&B and soul where the rhythm was more important than virtuosity and/or pushing what is and isn't melodic. Just like R&B, it's clearly blues-based - you'll rarely hear anything that isn't solidly rooted in the pentatonic, whether major or minor.

Assuming you're talking about what most people would consider funk, rather than jazz funk, then it's about riffs. Yes, you may get to solo but your job is predominantly to be a member of the rhythm section. Of all the techniques in a player's arsenal by far the most important one in funk is the ability to tongue solidly and at speed. Again, something that comes from funk's R&B roots.

Crescendos and heavily tongued repeated riffs are the mainstay of a funk horn section. Here's a small example section (my transcription) from Tower Of Power:
Just A Funk Example.jpg


As you can see, it's all repeated riffs, accentuating the syncopated rhythm.

As for solos, if you're sticking to funk then you're expanding the riffs of the song using predominantly the pentatonic (usually including the 2nd (or 9nth if you prefer)), avoiding 'blue' or 'jazz' notes. However, when it comes to the solo it is possible to use any of your jazz vocabulary, as long as you retain a solid rhythm and the rhythm section is keeping the funk front and centre.

Check out Jan Van Duikeren's absolutely stunning trumpet solo for an amazing example of mixing jazz and funk faultlessly:
View: https://youtu.be/pgQQ7k30Ti4?t=132


This is an incredibly long-winded way of saying, it's all about the rhythm. Without it, it's not funk.
 
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Jmoen3

Jmoen3

Member
Messages
41
Locality
Colorado
Thanks everyone! Definitely looking more stacatto rhythmic. Tone is something I'm also trying to find here, I generally have a darker sound so I'm struggling to brighten things up. I'll be in the shed later today and maybe get a small recording of what I'm battling here.

First things first, so much to listen too! Thanks for all the great material, I'll have it on all day!
 

ellinas

Senior Member
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Athens, Greece
Oh man I remember buying and enjoying this LP. Great playing boss!

Now about getting the funk feeling involves listening and enjoying an awful lot funk music. Emphasize beat 1. Syncopate. Lots of major pentatonics/blues scales. Transcribe small phrases from the greats such as maceo Parker etc.... A bright Reed and/mouthpiece helps but sound guys help even more if you play live :).

Even if you like modern funk don't skip listening to funk oldies ... The acid jazz genre has a lot of funk sax with taste.

List John willmott killing it with the James Taylor Quartet, the perceptions, the boogalator .... Etc.

Nice "applied" funk tenor sax. Just don't copy his posture.. just his mojo :)

Nice Example for your first transcriptions. Lick by lick play pause imitate. Repeat until you get it right. Then the next lick.


Funk is fun... At the right dose :)
 

Nikki

Formerly SaxyNikki
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942
Locality
Canada
Both trumpet and sax solos are dope!:eek:
This is as fun to watch as it is to hear.
Thanks for posting it.:thumb:
It’s hawt!
 
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Jmoen3

Jmoen3

Member
Messages
41
Locality
Colorado
So, Here is a small sample of something over Concert F I found.
https://soundcloud.com/user-805266588%2Ffunky-sax
Theres a lot of maceo-esque attempts. I felt my tone was better than expected though. Definitely emphasizing rhythmic variations. I feel like you could say a lot with just 1-2 notes in funk.

Hoping to build this skill. I want to make a funky recording for my Youtube, but want to do it justice.
 

randulo

Playing alto 2 1/2 years
Subscriber
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4,714
Locality
France
One of the [many] challenges of funk is the way time is felt. Because the notes are short, this is more obvious than in, say, a ballad. In a ballad, you actually "play with the time", as Miles Davis would call it. You may start a note before the beat, or lay back on a lot of the phrases. But with short notes, you absolutely have to fall where you expect to hit, where you hear it in your head. Great musicians, from my current teacher to my brother have all told me, it's annoying, but you need to practice with a metronome. The first songs I played were all ballads. They say it's harder to play slow than fast. It's not. It's harder to say something when you play slow. In funk, it's harder to say something without hiding behind those fast bebop riffs. (Not that one can't build up to those, as in the Roy Hargrove tune above.)

In this example you posted, it sounds to me like you have the concept of funk. It's just a matter of time.
 

GJ77

Senior Member
Messages
706
Locality
Dunmow, Essex.
When listening to other players, pay close attention to their articulation, not just notes and rhythm. The best funk players tend to have such a varied approach In this regard, and really make the horn ’speak’. Pee Wee Ellis is another great funk player, and well worth exploring.
 

Adrian63

Formerly Malachi
Messages
792
Locality
United Kingdom
Oh man I remember buying and enjoying this LP. Great playing boss!

Now about getting the funk feeling involves listening and enjoying an awful lot funk music. Emphasize beat 1. Syncopate. Lots of major pentatonics/blues scales. Transcribe small phrases from the greats such as maceo Parker etc.... A bright Reed and/mouthpiece helps but sound guys help even more if you play live :).

Even if you like modern funk don't skip listening to funk oldies ... The acid jazz genre has a lot of funk sax with taste.

List John willmott killing it with the James Taylor Quartet, the perceptions, the boogalator .... Etc.

Nice "applied" funk tenor sax. Just don't copy his posture.. just his mojo :)

Nice Example for your first transcriptions. Lick by lick play pause imitate. Repeat until you get it right. Then the next lick.


Funk is fun... At the right dose :)
@ ellinas : THANKYOU! For me its always been about the sound / tone and this guy ( Mark Willmott ? ) is just a great player full stop. I do wonder as to what mpc he is using ? Any more information on him would be appreciated.
For now , thanks again. This , for me is what it's all about.
Later
M
 
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Adrian63

Formerly Malachi
Messages
792
Locality
United Kingdom
So, Here is a small sample of something over Concert F I found.
https://soundcloud.com/user-805266588%2Ffunky-sax
Theres a lot of maceo-esque attempts. I felt my tone was better than expected though. Definitely emphasizing rhythmic variations. I feel like you could say a lot with just 1-2 notes in funk.

Hoping to build this skill. I want to make a funky recording for my Youtube, but want to do it justice.
@ Jmoen3. Hi:
These " Eastman St. " tenors have always interested me. If you get half a chance , your opinion of them and maybe a shot or two would be be great.
Many Thanks , ( if you get time )
Best
M
 
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GJ77

Senior Member
Messages
706
Locality
Dunmow, Essex.
I can't believe that when mentioning great players earlier, I didn't mention Wilton Felder. That man could play funk!!!
 
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