What makes a funky piece... funky?

Can you help me to distil what is that I am hearing and recognizing when I hear a funky piece? There is an unmistakable something. Is it a dotted rhythm? Are the ghost notes part of it? Can you distil a simple recipe of “funkiness”? For instance if I were to ask about the bare bones of a blues you could tell me to play the chords of I, IV and V and that simple recipe ‘sounds’ bluesy.

So in short… can you give me a beginner definition of what is funk?


To be clear, a blues progression is going to incorporate Dominant 7th chords to achieve that “bluesy” sound.

Funk heavily uses rhythm to achieve its signature feel and resulting sound: syncopation, ghost notes, and a percussive attack. Think of it as playing drums on a bass.


The shorthand description of funk above really is a simplistic, quick take “Cliff Note”, but syncopation is one of the key elements of funk’s core and soulfulness.

That said, even more important than syncopation is coming in on the one. All the syncopation in the world doesn’t matter if the bass player misses that key element.

Just make sure to come in on the one, then go to syncopated town until the next one downbeat.


Bootsy says hit the root on one. Also funk bass is twangy, so rounds and more bridge pickup. Verdine White is one of the greats



Josh did this one…

Beginner Funk Bass Made Simple (Bootsy’s Funk Formula)



Pop R&B


Nuff said, lol.


In Rich Brown’s metronome exercises he rotates which 1/8th or 1/16th he’s going to play or leave out. The funky patterns emerge.


Funk is about The One :slight_smile:

More funked-up Prince:


The original of that one is pretty funky though too :rofl:


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I knew I was being too simplistic! Thanks for correcting me.

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I can “hear” it but my ears and my brain are not good enough to decode what’s going on…

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I know the basic rule of being spot on, marking the one.

There is just a small problem: keeping the one is basically the only thing that I can do, and I know for sure that if I play 1 / rest / rest / rest / 1 / rest / rest / rest… it doesn’t sound funky at all.

It sounds super beginner and not much fun. You may say: “but you actually are a super beginner” (and you would be right in saying so)… but I would like to have a bit of fun, too :slight_smile: So I would like to add something to this “on the one”.


OK, let’s make it a tiny teeny bit more funky - and I am sure you can play that: go to grooveful.io and use this simple pattern:

Use perhaps 150 bpm (or less, at first) and just play roots along with the kick. That has got to be the “smallest possible funk unit” :grin:
Later, experiment with pushing that last kick a 16th note sooner or later in the grid and see how that “feels”.


I like this! It is an “actionable” task, something that I can actually try. Thanks @joergkutter , maybe with your help I will finally “understand” and not only “feel” …


funk is about space…a drummer told me that more than 20 yrs ago and I can’t find a better explanation. whether it is created with the guitar, drums or bass, someone is creating space to groove. Look at billie jean, the bass is churning but the drum and guitar are creating space to make it groove. I was watching a bassist on youtube discussing creating basslines and just kept stripping notes from his line until it became funky.


Don’t underestimate the importance of “feel” when making music, @f.guerrieri !!
But, yes, I also always want to “understand” :wink:


This sounds like an excellent approach. Make a bassline, start removing notes on beats other than the One, leaving in the subdivided notes :slight_smile:


I agree, feeling is important. But sometimes it seems to me that when talking about music one goes beyond the “right amount of feeling” and resorts to some “vague reference” which… is not clear at all. A bit like discussing the magical properties of wood on the tone of electric basses :smiley:

I am not asking something “intangible” like “how can you be as good as […]”, but “teach me some practical aspects which I perceive but cannot articulate yet” so that I am at least “on the good way”. Your example seems promising!


Yes, try to play with grooveful for a while with simple patterns to get a “feel” for where the accents lie (just leave the “1” always there), and buy @gcancella a cup of coffee (through the applet).

Then, check out this webpage: https://funklet.com/ - lots to study there!

I like to work/play with this one in particular: The Same Blood /// Funklet

First, turn down the bpm a bit to where you feel comfortable.

Then, start with just playing along with the kick, those double taps there. Just keep doing that for a while!

After that, kick and some of the snare hits - not all of them at once (in a way, this is a similar approach to what @Tokyo_Rat and @howard were talking about). Pick some of them and hit them along with the drummer!

Note how the snare hits are often on tricky subdivisions; so, this is clearly a more advanced exercise. I like expanding this until I play every hit of kick and snare (and I translate that to notes in a box pattern on the bass) - that is getting funky :grin: