The new beginner harmonica lesson about the funky. We will learn several licks and practise them with the metronome, then we are going to play some of these to perform a whole funky chorus on the backing track. This lesson is supported by tabs containing the notes and the harmonica holes.
You will need a C harmonica for this lesson.
Today’s harmonica lesson will bring to you some fresh music: the funky style. Yes, it is a beginner lesson, but you can play funky harmonica even if you are not able to bend notes yet: the characteristics of funky involve other aspects, like the rhythm.
Funky is less about navigating chord progressions or creating winding melodies and more about the rhythmic content. When performing and improvising in the funk style, the first thing to think about is beat placement. What is the feel of the music? Do we want to create a forward drive (potentially quite aggressive in sound), is it all incredibly precise or is the music more laid-back? If the feel is laid-back, we want to make the music sound as relaxed and ‘groovy’ as possible. Therefore, whatever you choose to play, try to sit on the ‘back’ of the beat (i.e. ‘behind’ or just after the beat, rather than ahead of it).
Simplicity is often key. If you can present an idea and make it sit ‘in the pocket’, this will sound a million times better than rushing into a complex run of notes, which bear little resemblance to the style.
Often you can find a funky tune in a minor key, using minor chords in the progression. Concerning the scales, on minor key songs we can use different minor type scales, amoung these, the ‘dorian’ minor scale is often used.
As we are playing using a C harmonica on a D minor backing track, we are in third position. This harmonica position is very useful when performing on minor tunes, and the ‘dorian’ minor scale has the same notes of a major scale, in particular, if we are in D minor, we have the same notes of the C major scale. C, D, E, F, G, A and B. For this reason, third position harp playing has become very common for minor songs.
Do you want to master 3rd position playing on harmonica? Have a look at our complete course here.
This lesson is addressed to beginner harmonica player, so you don’t need to be able to bend notes, and every melody you will learn has been designed around the fundamental chords tones. You will see that even using few simple notes you can get to play some nice sequences.
Before learning the first funky lick, have a look at the chord progression I created in the picture below: it is pretty much a minor blues chord progression, with a variation on measure 9, where I put a C major chord in place of an expected A minor chord. You should now that these two chords share the same notes, in fact C major chord is made of C, E and G, whereas A minor contains A, C and E. All these notes are part of the C major scale.
In lick 1 we play first the note D, root of the Dm7 chord and of the key scale. We then play the notes C, D and F, in line with the chord progression. These notes are all part of the D minor seventh chord.
In the second lick we work more on the rhythm, playing 4 times the root note D. In measure 4 we play two eight notes, C and D, part of the D minor seventh chord.
When the chord progression moves to the 4th degree chord, G minor seventh, we help the harmony playing the notes F, G and D, all contained in the Gm7 chord. This chord contains G, B, D and F. In measure 6 we perform A, 2nd degree of the G minor scale. The second degree sounds always nice in every context.
In lick 4 we help the harmony in bringing us back ‘home’, ending the phrases on G, 7th of the A minor seventh chord, and in measure 10 on F, seventh of the Gm7 chord. Notice that the chord in measure 9 is C and not A minor, but as stated before in this lesson, they work pretty much in the same way.
Here is the full funky chorus, give it a try!
In the following video you can practise alone on the backing track:
As you have experienced yourself, learning using the ‘listen and repeat’ approach is really valuable and funny. The use of the audio and visual metronome helps you to keep the tempo and makes you to acquire the right skills to perform later on the backing tracks or with a band.
I’m pretty sure you enjoied learning with me and I hope to see you soon in a more complete harmonicaleraning.com course, like the ‘ Diatonic harmonica beginner course’. Keep harpin’ !
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Simple and clear, I always like funky riffs and I suppose they should be played more on minor keys. Thank you for the lesson, I will follow you.
Some easy funky riffs for harp, what I was looking for! Thanks for your lessons, I always appreciate your interactive videos. Keep up the great work!
Nice one. I already know these free lessons from your online harmonica school, I just enrolled in your 3rd position harmonica workout course and I find it really useful. Thank you teacher :)