HOW TO PLAY FUNK BASS
How to play funk bass - introduction, facts and basics is put together for the benefit of bass players that are starting to learn the tools of the trade. Learning how to play funk bass techniques IS serious business among bass players on the entire planet. The sound of funk bass is among the most sought after in modern bass playing styles. Musicians of all levels are always spending time learning and perfecting how to play funk bass in the most perfect manner. Ever since the mid 1960s when Larry Graham introduced his unique bass style, bass players unanimously immersed themselves into a sound called funk.
Before we proceed I want every bass player interested to learn how to play funk bass to acknowledge and take their hats of to a man who started it all – Larry Graham . Now, who is Larry Graham? He is THE godfather of funk bass. An innovator of finger style and slap bass techniques. The following is an excerpt taken from www.startribune.com. It tells us how Larry came about with his very own and unique funk bass technique that forever revolutionized the style of playing the bass.
ON HIS THUMPING, PLUCKING BASS STYLE
“My mother is a pianist and vocalist. When I was 15, I was playing guitar in her Dell Graham Trio. This club we were playing had an organ with bass pedals. So I learned how to play the bass pedals at the same time as playing guitar and singing. But the organ broke down. We got used to having bottom [sound] and now it sounded empty. So I rented a bass. As it turned out, the organ couldn’t be repaired and I got stuck on the bass. And my mom decides she wants to go duo — just bass and piano.
“Now I didn’t have a drummer, so that’s when I started to thump the strings to make up for not having that bass drum sound, and pluck the strings to make up for not having that backbeat. It was kind of like playing the drums on the bass — the drummer mentality.”
The following are video footage of Larry Graham, where he talks about his incredible technique and effect that he use to enhance the bass sound.
How to play funk bass – Facts
Before we get into the how to play funk bass topic, here are facts to remember:
- Funk IS groove.
- Funk IS feel
- Funk creates intense groove by using strong bass guitar riffs.
- No funk without great tempo
My previous articles ‘how to play funk guitar’ and ‘how to play funk groove on the piano’, described in length about ‘what is funk’ and ‘what is groove.’ For the sake of its importance, I will include again the basic definitions here.
What is funk?
It is a type of rhythm that is the basis to a type of dance music that was particularly popular during the late 1960s to the late 70s. Funk music evolved from different types of African-American music such as blues and soul. The characteristics of funk are in its syncopated rhythms, with emphasis on the first beat, distinctive grooves and melodic bass lines.
What is groove?
In a nutshell, groove is “what makes the music breathe” and the “sense of motion in the context of a song.” It naturally prompts a listener to tap his/her feet to the beat of a particular music. In musical terms, it simply means the rhythm of the music is rhythmically well executed, cleanly orchestrated, and proficiently performed.
Now that you have a clear understanding of funk and groove, it makes it easy relating to how to play funk bass.
How to play funk bass – Basics
It is a style of playing the bass which involve the following basic fundamentals.
Percussive effect, played by slapping or finger style technique, is produced by muting the notes with either the left or right hand fingers.This technique produces a separation between notes on the bass.The following video gives you an example of playing in a percussive manner.
Rhythm is created by subdividing of a beat. It is made up of sounds and silences. These are put together to form patterns of sounds that are repeated to create a rhythm. A rhythm has a steady beat. Yet, it may also contain different kinds of beats. Some beats may be stronger, longer, shorter or vice versa. A music arranger and composer can use many different rhythms to create music. For the purpose of explaining basic rhythmic structure on bass; the following video describes the basic meaning of subdivisions of a beat.
Groove is a combination of percussive and rhythmic elements with a touch of dynamics. Many bass educator says groove is”what makes the music breathe” and the “sense of motion in the context of a song.” Basically, groove is achieved when the listener moves in motion to the song, by tapping their feet, snapping their fingers, moving their head, and an urge to dance. While you’re playing the bass, and suddenly noticed your listeners are doing any of the things mentioned; you have achieved groove. The following video describes how to build a funk bass groove.
How to play funk bass – tips and suggestions
Funk bass sounds exist in many genres. They are R&B, Soul, Hip-Hop, Reggae, Modern Jazz (as in jazz fusion and smooth jazz). The influence of funk is evident in almost all modern music genre that included Top 40s radio friendly music. Funk music is compatible to all listeners.
Tips to remember
- ALWAYS practice with a metronome. This method gives you the proper development of good tempo. Practice slowly to develop your technique. Only increase the tempo when you achieved your desired progress. You will never be a bass player without great sense of tempo.
- Listen to as many funk tunes as you possibly can. Pay attention to the bass lines. This will enhance your feel and ‘ear’ for the genre.
- Copy and transcribe your favorite funk bass lines. By doing this, you will acquire: a) adding songs to your repertoire, b) learning a new technique, c) a better understanding of how to build funk bass lines
- Read about funk bass pioneer bass players. Knowing where it all started provides you an added dimension to your style of playing.
- Play with a band. As a musician, there is simply no substitute for musical joy than playing with a band. Remember, music is an entity. It lives and breathe through our attitude, behavior, mood and feelings. I’m pretty sure you’ve heard of the phrase ‘Man! This bass player has great feel and groove’
- Have a serious and discipline practice routine. Do not take anything for granted. Practice diligently. If you don’t feel good about whatever that you’re playing, don’t expect your listeners to relate to anything that you play. Revise your practice sessions in an explaining manner. Why? Because if you cannot explain what you’ve learned, you’ve simply learned nothing. Perfect practice makes perfect!
- Learn to read music. This helps a lot because not all bass instructional materials are written in tablature.
- As a bass player, your closest ally is the drummer. Music is deemed lifeless when bass and drums do not lock in a tight manner. Listen to various funk drumming patterns to absorb as much as you can all elements of funk rhythm.
- Pay close attention to the kick drum pattern. Your basic bass lines should be closely knit with the kick drum.
- Whatever you do while you’re playing, always KEEP the groove with good tempo. Whether you’re accompanying a vocalist or doing a bass solo, base everything on the groove of the moment. You want your listeners to have a good time listening to you and your band.
The video below explains the basics of ‘thinking like a drummer’
As a bass player, you should always lock tightly into the rhythm section. In other words, get immersed into the rhythm of any genre that you play. Therefore, always think percussively and rhythmically, just like a drummer. Always remember that simple is good. So, always play according to the concept of a particular music. Not all intricate bass lines fit into every genre of music. You’re playing to a listening audience. As such, never ever indulge in self glorification. A selfish attitude will get you nowhere.
Remember: APTITUDE + ATTITUDE = ALTITUDE. You can be the best player on earth, but if your attitude is wrong, no one will ever want to work with you.
Musicians are creative people blessed with a very special gift from God. No matter what you play, you should share your thoughts and feelings to your audience via your music instrument. Always be honest with your individual musical abilities. There are always someone better than us. So, don’t be afraid to ask, and at the same time learn from musicians that are of a higher level. Strive to play with better musicians. Simply because eventually you will be a better player.
How to play funk bass is an article written based on my experience over many years as a professional bass player and bass educator. I hope you have enjoyed reading it as much as I’ve had enjoyed putting up for you as much facts as I possibly can. In addition, it gives me much joy to know that you have benefit from it. Please do not hesitate to contact me for further inquiries pertaining to ‘how to play funk bass.’
Cheers! and keep the GROOVE!
The following videos are courtesy of PlayBassNow.Com I would like to thank Thomas ‘MarloweDK’ Risell for his sincere kindness to allow me to use them for reference on How To Play Funk Bass topic. All the videos below shows you great examples of how to build great sounding funk bass lines. Visit PlayBassNow.Com for more easy-to-understand bass lessons.
More play funk bass video reference:
FRANCIS ROCCO PRESTIA of Tower Of Power