Funk is groove, just like air is oxygen. If you can’t flow, or if you struggle to make your playing liquid and seamless, then you will have trouble playing funk. There is no funk without groove, plain and simple.
If you want to learn how to groove, the best way to do it is by listening to other bands. Studying other bands music will allow you to see what works and why, and more importantly, what doesn’t work, and why it doesn’t.
In this article, we’ll go over some great bass funk grooves to learn so that you will be able to start off your funk studies in the right places.
Our first song is Shaky Ground by The Temptations. This was their last hit of the seventies, but it has an undeniable appeal do to its flowing nature. The bass line is simple, but it works magnificently with the song. When you learn this song, pay attention to how the bass groove, while different from the guitar, follows it somewhat closely.
It almost borders around the guitar groove. This is a common concept in funk; to make the bass groove ‘hug’ the other instruments. It makes the song more free form and allows more freedom on the bass players part.
The next song to learn is Superstition by Stevie Wonder. This song is a classic. Not only is it an unmistakable riff (who hasn’t heard this groove?) but it is also one of the smoothest bass lines ever written. If you are studying funk bass lines, this is a great way to see how such a simple riff can make such a large impact.
In funk, you don’t have to show off your bag of tricks and put on a clinic in technical ability; teaching lessons only gets you so far. Simplicity gets you much farther. If your soul is in your notes, just like in this bass funk groove, everyone will know it.
Our last funk groove for you to learn is Graham Central Stations Pow. This is one of the most involved funk songs from the time. Not only is it exciting, but it is just plain fun to sing Pow that’s how I gotcha. When you study this song, be sure to pay close attention to the subtle variations in the bass line.
It follows the same basic pattern throughout most of the song, but once in a while you may notice that some of the notes change slightly. This is a great tactic to keep the playing dynamic and interesting, even if it is just adding a hammer on or an open note. It keeps the song the same without any drastic changes, while allowing a bit of extra freedom.
Now that you have some great bass funk grooves to learn, the next step is to actually learn them. Take your time, and remember; it is just as important to study the bass line as it is to learn it. You want to be able to understand just why every note works the way it does, and why each slap and pop are where they are. Have fun.
Here are more grooves to learn…
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