Counting 16th Notes In Funk
In this first lesson we're going to be exploring 16th notes and now to count them. I know it doesn't sound like the most exciting start to a funk course, but it's a real big deal and mastering this skill will make the rest of the course a lot easier and therefore a lot more fun!
Mastering The Count
When we divide a bar into 16 parts we are dividing each beat into 4. I hope you're hip with the idea of having 4 beats in the bar and counting then 1 2 3 and 4. If we divide each beat in half, we name the halfway point as "and", usually shown as +. Just numbers and + gives us 8 divisions in the bar (also known as 8th notes) so:
1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +
When we divide each of those eight 8th notes in the bar, we get 18 divisions and we have an "ee" sound before the + and an "ahh" sound after the + so:
1 e + a 2 e + a 3 e + a 4 e + a
I recommend you practice saying this out loud a LOT, until it rolls easily off the tongue. Try setting the metronome very slowly (like 50bm) and see if you can count along, the metronome will only click on the numbers and you'll count the e + a between clicks! Do it lots, you don't need to be with your guitar, do it anywhere, and if you're real smart you can learn to count it in your mind.
Tap your Foot On The Beat Only
Make sure that you just tap your foot on the beat only! This may feel a little awkward at first but it's essential that you get used to this, and the way to do it is slow and careful practice.
T . . . T . . . T . . . T . . . 1 e + a 2 e + a 3 e + a 4 e + a
Start slow and without a metronome, but once you have it at a consistent speed, start talking and tapping along with a metronome.
Adding Arm Movements
16th note strumming has 16 arm movements in a bar, 8 up and 8 down. The down strums will be on the beat and the +, and the up strums will come in between, on the "e" and the "a". Shown below is the foot tap, count and arm movements.
T . . . T . . . T . . . T . . . 1 e + a 2 e + a 3 e + a 4 e + a D U D U D U D U D U D U D U D U
Summary of Practice...
I suggest 10 minutes a day for a week or two making sure you are solid with your 16th count and hand movements before continuing on the course.
1. Counting Out Loud
Counting the 16th notes out loud away from the guitar - do it anywhere, anytime you have some spare time. You can say it in your head, but actually vocalizing it out loud is best. Do it so often that it rolls easily off your tongue! Try to count along with a metronome and get your foot tapping on the beat (with the metronome).
2. Play 16ths
Really slowly play 16th note strumming (mute the strings so it's just a muted hit) and making sure you only tap your foot on the beat and not on every down strum. This is a common problem for people who are used to playing 8th note strumming only (where you always tap your foot with the down strum) but it's very important that you break that now and tap your foot only on the beat.
3. Make friends with the metronome!
Metronomes are not forgiving and if you start to speed up or slow down it won't care and you'll fall out with it! So start real slow, around 50-60bpm (any slower and it gets harder!) and practice staying in time with the metronome. Try to 'lock in' with it - in Funk music, the groove is where it's all at and that is about timing - so really learning to sync perfectly with the metronome is where it's at! You might like to check out my JustinGuitar Time Trainer Metronome app for iOS devices :)
Start with just down strums on the beat, then add in the 'ands' (also down) and then add the ups on "e" and "a". Keep all the strings muted at this point, we'll be adding in some chords real soon - but wanna help you build a great foundation first!
4. Make the metronome disappear
If you want to get really in the pocket you want that metronome to disappear when you play, you play so perfectly in sync with it that you just don't hear it! Check out my lesson on The Disappearing Metronome, but get confident on all the above first.
You ain't never going to get the Funk if you're not listening to the greats! So with each lesson, I'm going to recommend a funk album for you to sink your ears into and help you get in the groove - some of the all-time classics and maybe some slightly less known albums too that I really dig.
The Meters - The Meters (1969)
One of the pioneers of Funk, The Meters are incredible. You'll likely recognize their hits Cissy Strut and Look-Ka Py Py which are Funk classics - but this is an album you NEED to absorb - the grooves are absolutely where the whole Funk thing is at. Guitarist Leo Nocentelli is one of if not THE best Funk guitar player ever. Just get it! Now! :)