How To Play Funk Piano
In this lesson we are going to talk about Funk and how it relates to the piano.
Funk is a hard thing to define but it’s fair to say that if you are playing piano with a rhythm section in New Orleans, at some point you will be playing Funk.
So What Is Funk?
In the earlier lessons we explored how we can break up the 4 beats of a bar, placing accents on the weak beats, and introducing dissonance in our chord voicings to make them sound ‘greasy’ and ‘nasty’.
Funk in a New Orleans context is something that has been going on for 100 years. In the accepted meaning of the word we are going to look at music that came out of New Orleans in the 1960s and 1970s.
The piano players that are associated with that generation and that era are Huey ‘Piano’ Smith, Allen Toussaint, Mac Rebennack, and to a degree James Booker.
Huey ‘Piano’ Smith
Huey Smith had a band called ‘The Clowns’. His style of playing was perhaps not what you would associate with the word Funk, but it was Funk in New Orleans.
In Jon’s examples we can see that the bass lines Huey Smith used were rooted in the tuba bass lines that we explored earlier in this course. The rhythms are played slightly slurred and there is an interplay between the left hand and the right hand which gives the music a certain swagger.
Huey Smith was a big influence on the piano players that came after him such as Mac Rebennack – also known as Dr John – and Allen Toussaint.
A Repeating Riff Or Motif
A lot of Funk records would revolve around a repeating riff or motif. A good example of this is tune "Sissy Strut" which was produced by Alen Toussaint. These ‘slabs of music’ contained an identifiable hook which the piano would weave around.
Funk in the New Orleans context is maximising the elements that we covered earlier in this course; the syncopation and the dissonance. This requires that we develop independence between our right hand and our left hand.
Funk Rhythms & Grooves File Type: pdf
Huey Smith Funk Groove File Type: pdf
Classified James Booker File Type: pdf