Jeff McErlain’s BluesRock:Evolution
Funky Child Rhythm
This month we’re going to approach rhythm playing from a funk perspective, as opposed to a bluesy one. “Funky Child” is a fast-paced
song that channels a little bit of Jimi in its low-end groove and sparse
chording ala “Voodoo Child.” As we explore this song, we’ll have the
chance to work on our right hand rhythms and timing.
One of the first things you’ll notice is the bass-heavy nature of the first
few bars – we do this for several reasons. The first is essentially a vibe
thing. Imagine playing this low, quick line perfectly in step with a bassist;
it gives the song a real sense of groove and propulsion. Of course, it will
take a lot of practice to lock in that kind of feel with another musician,
but once you get it, you’ll be hooked.
So let’s look at the opening line itself and how it’s played. It’s all based
around the E minor pentatonic, starting off with a low E and G on the
bottom E string. From there you’ll move to the 5th string, for a D and a
E before hitting a quarter-step bend on the low E string. The bend gives
the line a little bit of that bluesy feel, although for the most part it’s very
simple and very minimal – we’re working with only three notes through
the repeated motif (four if you count the short slide to a B at the end of
the entire line). But while the notes themselves might seem simple, the
tough part about this lesson lies in the groove. This line has to move,
it needs urgency, and that ultimately comes from the right hand. While
we’re playing continuous 16th notes – your right hand should never
stop moving – you’ll want to practice palm muting to break things up.
Playing down low also gives us a lot of opportunities to expand later on
– it lays a good, simple base to build upon when you’re ready to start
expanding it into a solo, or even just more complex rhythm lines. The
third reason we start off “Funky Child” with this kind of undercover line
is that it stays out of the way of the singer or soloist. As they build up,
you can build with them by moving to a higher register, for example.
This build-up may not happen until the end of the song, but you’ve set
the proper base to put it all in motion. Remember that you always need
to follow what the leader of the band is doing; if you don’t, you’ll sound
like the guy who shouldn’t be there.
When we move to the G and the A chords, we’re doing exactly what
Hendrix did on “Voodoo Child.” We actually omit parts of both chords
in these measures; we play the 3rd and 5th of the G chord (B and D)
and the root and 3rd of the A chord (A and C#). This gives both chords
an “undefined” feeling, which resolves strongly when we return to our
main riff. Note that even during the chords you should keep your hand
moving in 16th note patterns; use your palm to break up the rhythms.
Practice your rhythms with a metronome and get that groove locked
in. Next month we’ll look at a solo that will fit right over the top of