Let’s take a look at some basic 16th-note finger funk rhythms and grooves. This style of playing is great fun. You need to be precise and accurate with your fingers and really dig in to get the best tone. Don’t be tempted to rush through the examples below: take it steady with your metronome or drum machine set to 80BPM and increase as you get more confident with the examples. The masters of this style have to be Jaco Pastorius and Francis Rocco Prestia. Check out these legends with Weather Report and Tower Of Power.
It is really important in this first example to get the 16th notes even with a continuous flow. To achieve this, you need to make sure your plucking hand fingers are alternating. Watch out for the syncopation in the line and the first figure, our old friend 16th, eighth, 16th (semiquaver, quaver, semiquaver). The note in the middle of the grouping is longer than the two either side, so make sure it is played that way.
In the last bar before the line repeats, watch out for the Bb played on the first fret of the A string. This note starts the fill right up to the D on the fifth fret of the A string. It’s a chromatic run up that gets you nicely back to the beginning of the example on the repeat. Make sure you start the run up with your first finger on the Bb, first fret A string, playing each note with one finger per fret, first, second, third and fourth. At that point on the C sharp move your hand to play the D note on the fifth fret of the A string with your little finger. Note that the repeat sign is a thick line followed by a thin line and two dots either side of the D on the bass clef, written on the stave itself.
This next one is a G minor groove with a tie on the first note of the crochet to an eighth note quaver. It can be tricky to get the exact timing of the tie, but just think of it as a quarter note with a dot leading to two sixteenths. Set your metronome at 80BPM as a starting point. You should be able to pick this one up quite quickly. Again, watch out for the last bar. It has a tricky sixteenth note (semiquaver) rest before the Bb. This note leads into the repeat so it is really important that you play it cleanly. Try to make the sixteenth notes flow, making sure you are continuously alternating your picking-hand fingers.
Back to the key of E minor with this one. Watch out for the variations in bars two and four. In bar two we have two eighth notes on the low G (third fret, E string) leading on to bar three. Bar four is quite syncopated, with a sixteenth note rest and a tricky dotted F sharp eighth note played on the second fret of the E string. Try this one at 100BPM, making sure everything is played evenly and you can hear every note clearly. Top tip: try recording yourself. Just use your phone. Listen to it back and make adjustments if necessary. The tape, or I should say the flash memory, never lies.
In this next example, watch out for the dotted eighth note rest. It occurs in bars one to three. Remember, a dot after a note or rest means that you extend the note or rest by half its value, so in this example the dot is worth a 16th note. Don’t confuse this with a dot above a note, which means you have to play the note staccato or short. The last bar is slightly different to the rest as it has two crochets at the beginning and two eighth notes that lead into the repeat.
This last example might be familiar to some of you. It is similar to part of the riff of a track called ‘The Chicken’ by Weather Report with Jaco Pastorius on bass. It is definitely worth checking out this tune in its entirety. I couldn’t resist giving you this one as it is such a great example of a 16th note funk riff, and it develops as the song progresses. As in the last example with a dotted eighth note rest, watch out for the dotted eighth note that starts the line. Make sure you start the line with the second finger of your fretting hand on the low G (third fret, E string). This will make the switch to the B on the second fret of the A string so much easier using your first finger. We are finishing as we started with the first example, where again we have a sixteenth, eighth, sixteenth note rhythm. This time however, it is tied to another sixteenth note. As usual, set your metronome or drum machine to a medium tempo of 80BPM and increase as you get more confident with the lines.
Next time we will continue to explore more 16th-note finger funk rhythms and grooves. Until then, get to work.