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The Roots & Theory of Funk

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The 70's were a time of great happening within our culture. The impact of those events would be felt through popular music and society in general for years to come. This decade brought a series of musical styles that had never been heard before. The most evident offspring was funk. I happen to be a musician and was curious about music.

Funk is a musical genre that originated in the United States of America. It blended African American Soul, Jazz, and R&B. This created a very beat, bass, and rhythm driven form of music. (Schwartz 2008) Funk's creation occurred in the mid -late 1960's. It lasted until the late 1970's, when it was replaced by the more modern disco, soon to be accompanied by the early version of rock and roll.

The roots of this genre can be traced back to original and traditional West African musical expressions that rely heavily on rhythm. It can also be said that music is a huge form of expression in African culture. After Africans were enslaved and brought to America, they brought this cultural gem along with them. The rest is history.

One of the biggest influences on funk is none other than blues. Technically it brought along bass lines and minor pentatonics. The most important contribution was the "feel". Blues music is all about the "feel". Funk music is all about the "feel". (Schwartz 2008) African American musicians used their unique feel for music in the form of blues and rhythms.

Jazz was also a huge influence on funk. In fact a lot of jazz players believed that funk players were sell outs. Funk was considered to be the popular version of Jazz. It makes sense that a lot of jazz and funk songs are similar. Even a few Jazz standards are considered funk. An example of this would be Herbie Hancock's "Chameleon". The piece begins with an important bass line and starts to open into a funk typical beat and guitar riff. The central theme is the screaming image of any pop-funk song. "Chameleon" was created years before funk made it into the light of mainstream popular culture. (Nero, 2007)

Soul and Funk seem to go hand in hand with each other. They both follow the same music theory "rules" and ideas. With the use of simple musical modes, such as the dorian or mixolydian, they share melodic lines and simple ideas of song-flow and direction. The main difference between a soul song and funk song is the rhythm. Soul songs tend to have a slower feel and more vocally driven than anything. Funk is completely set in motion by rhythmical comps and bass lines. The bottom line is that funk would not be around without soul, jazz, or blues. (Nero, 2007)

The instrumentation that creates funk is very typical. In most cases there is a front vocalist, one or two guitars, a bass and percussion in the form of a drum set. In all forms of music



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