Funk E - A 12 Bar Blues Lesson
Guitar Lesson by Kirk Lorange
Difficulty Rating: Intermediate-Advanced
It's funky and it's in E, hence the silly name FunkE ... more often than not, coming up with names for these is the hardest bit for me!
It's a 12 bar, count 'em, but not quite the usual I-IV-V format. Here's the progression:
| I - - - | - - - - | - - - - | - - - - | IV - - - | - - - - |
| I - - - | - - - - | #V - - - | V - - - | I - - - | - - - - |
So there's that #V chord there (C in this case) that replaces the usual V. C, of course, is not in the key of E, so it's an outsider. I also made it a 9th chord just because I like the sound. The B starts out as a sharp9 chord (the Hendrix chord), then goes to plain old 7th, and the end chord is also a sharp9.
This funky rhythm part is well and truly the sum of its parts. You'll quickly hear the pattern I set up that goes right through until bar 8. It applies to both the E7 and A7 chords, and basically does the same thing over each chord:
Root note, up to the flat5 to 5, two stabs at a chord fragment, to a flat3 to 3 , root note, bass riff again using the flat3 to 3. So you can see that makes good use of the flat5 and flat3 and flat7, which is what the blues/funk/R&B is all about. What makes it interesting (I think, anyway) in this example is the way it keeps bouncing around and changing octaves. If you're observant, you'll see that I add a tiny detail to the pattern every second measure, just one note. I didn't even realize I was doing that until I started to tab it out; it just came naturally for me to vary it a little.
As with all music, everything hinges off the chords, so if you know your chord shapes, you should be able to get this down quite quickly. If you don't it will be more of a join the dots exercise. I strongly recommend that you do learn the way chords stretch out the whole length of the fretboard, and the best way to do that is to order my book Planetalk. Once you can see the underlying chord, all these little bits and pieces make perfect, logical sense and there's no mystery to any of it ... there's just the task of moving fingers to and fro.
You'll hear that I attack the notes and keep them clipped and funky. That first bass note, for example, is really twanged -- I sort of get underneath the string and pop it -- but then I immediately mute it with the side of my thumb. In fact, you can see how it lays firmly across all those bass strings to keep them dead quiet while I attack to next part of the riff on the treble strings; when I return to using the thumb, you can see my finger tips resting on the treble strings, muting them while I attack the bass strings. This is something that has evolved over the years as a way of keeping any stray miss-hits or resonances out of the picture. For the most part, only the strings I want ringing are allowed to do so.
The C9 > B9+ > B7 are just four-string chords ... you can see how the 9 from the C shape becomes the sharp9 of the B chord ... a nice bit of pure logic there. As it all turns out, one of the best ways to analyze guitar music is to use the grid of the fretboard itself. It's like natural guitar graph paper once you tune your brain to see it that way.
I think the best way to attack this is to take each little element separately, get them locked into the brain and fingers, then assemble them into 'the part'.
That descending end bit I have written as E7; it's not really ... but neither are they true chords as true chords require three notes. These consist of just two notes (the notes on the treble and bass strings are the same note). It's a pretty standard bluesy move though.
It's very fun to play once you do get it down.
As well as putting together these fingerstyle guitar lessons, I am also the author of PlaneTalk - The Truly Totally Different Guitar Instruction Package, which teaches a mindset, a way of thinking about music and a way of tracking it all on the guitar fretboard. Yes, there IS a constant down there in the maze of strings and fret wire, a landmark that points to everything at all times. I call it The Easiest Yet Most Powerful Guitar Lesson You Will Ever Learn and many testimonials at my site will back up that rather superlative description. If your goal as a guitar player is to be able to truly PLAY the guitar, not just learn by rote; to be able to invent on the fly, not memorize every note; to be able to see the WHOLE fretboard as friendly, familiar territory, not just the first 5 frets and to do it all without thinking about all those scales and modes, then you should read more here.