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16th notes and funk

Back to sixteenths…

A discussion of 16th notes needs to include funk. Develop your ability to play funk, and you develop feel and groove. This is important for overall development of rhythmic abilities.


Funk basics

First step: play nothing but four 16ths to the beat.


4 16ths scratch

The ‘x’ noteheads mean that you need to mute the strings while you strum them. This is called scratching.

To get the right feel, do the following:


  • lay your left hand fingers lightly on the strings
  • keep your right arm and wrist loose as you strum
  • go through the strings quickly as you strum whether the tempo is slow or fast. Try to make it sound like a percussion instrument


Tap your foot on each beat, and count “1 ee and uh, 2 ee and uh, 3 ee and uh, 4 ee and uh.” Be patient. This can feel weird if you’re not used to doing it.


Placing accents

 Once you’re comfortable playing the scratch rhythm above, move on to the second step: placing accents on different parts of the beat.

Placing accents on different parts of the beat is really important for funk. It’s also important for developing a strong overall rhythmic feel.

Here are a couple of examples.

1. Accent on the first sixteenth note.

funk - 1st 16th


2. Accent on the third sixteenth note.

funk 3rd 16th



The slash indicates a chord.  Use scratches for the rest of the 16ths. Pretend your strumming arm is a machine and keep the 16ths even.

This works best if it’s a chord that covers all the strings that you’re playing. Open string chords generally don’t work, since some of the strings will ring when you release the chord.

This one works. A lot do, but this is a classic funk chord. It’s the E7#9 chord.


E7 #9 chord

As you’re strumming, release it just enough to keep your fingers lightly on the strings for the scratches.

Try to play just the strings that have your fingers on them. This chord is very forgiving since both the low E and high E strings are part of the chord. It won’t sound that bad if you hit them.


Combining rhythms

Mix the two rhythms I provided above, and create some four-beat loops. For instance:


funk rhythmic pattern 1


Come up with as many as you can.

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