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Lesson Series

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Michael Casswell - Pro Concepts Season 3 - Part 3 - Jazz Funk Leanings

Lesson Notes

** As featured in issue 26 **

For this guitar lesson I would like to explore the Jazz idiom married to some Funk guitar. To be a more expressive guitarist, both genres can add a lot of flavour to your playing. The Jazz guitar approach needs you to rethink your phrasing and the way you execute your scale knowledge with less huge Rock string bends and more chromatic passing notes and possible outside-the-scale ideas. You could also consider adjusting your usual ‘Rock’ guitar tone to maybe a smoother, less saturated sound.

Personally, for me, the sound and tone plays a big part in how I play. If the tone is in the ballpark of the genre I’m going for, then the playing seems to follow close behind. Being able to manipulate tone, and get the best from your gear, is an art form in itself, and a skill that most players don’t seem to develop.

In this tutorial I used mostly my neck EMG pickup, through a Fulltone Fulldrive overdrive into the clean channel of the five Watt studio amp. The tone pot on my guitar was rolled off a little as was my guitar volume pot, depending on how clean I wanted it.

The Funk side of things is a more generic term in this case, but what it does mean is being able to deliver a nice rhythmic groove, with the right feel, touch, and voicing choice. I can’t stress enough how important this area of playing is if you are serious about making some kind of career as a player, and rarely does any guitarist break through to an appreciative public if they cannot play excellent rhythm guitar or have a very good instinct of what is the right thing to play when they are not soloing. 90% of the time you will be playing rhythm, so if you are not on top of this, then 90% of the time you will be showing the world your shortcomings.

Funk guitar is a great style to absorb because once you have that level of rhythmic command, it seeps through to everything else you are likely to want to play. It’s strange to think that some of the greatest Rock, Blues or Jazz players on the planet use a Funk approach to add an extra dimension to their playing. Steve Lukather, Larry Carlton, Mike Stern, Joe Walsh, Jeff Beck, Scott Henderson, Mike Landau, and Nuno Bettencourt are all known for genres other than Funk, but you can hear the groove coming out of their pores. To be able to internalise the pulse and then come up with a strong rhythmic part to suit your situation is what the Funk vibe will give you. If you ignore it, then your playing will only ever reach a certain level, and nowadays the bar is very high for a professional player.

For pure Funk greatness, give a listen to anything that Nile Rodgers has played on. He wrote the book on great Funk rhythm playing. So our filmed tutorial consists of a Funk riff, a repeating chord sequence, a strong Funk popping line that adds to the brew, then some stylistically correct ideas for how you might approach playing a solo over it. Over the years I have been in many situations where groove and Jazz Funk were the order of the day, so please take it from me, this is an area that does make you a better player all round and gives you a distinct advantage over other guitarists that don’t have ‘the Funk’.

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