The guitar parts of the funk and soul tunes are some of the most fun to listen to and play. The guitar parts of funks songs have their own character with 16 note strums, lots of mutes, and highly rhythmic playing. It makes the audience feel like the guitar is an extension of drum and bass.
The genre has a long history since the early ’70s with artists such as James Brown, Stevie Wonder, and Funkadelic. Later bands such as Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, and Rolling Stones started using funk elements on their hard rock-based tunes, creating a funk-rock synthesis. With the 80’s disco wave funk also got into the discos with dancy rhythms.
Funk is ultimately an educative, especially for strumming and rhythmic aspect of your playing, and an entertaining genre for guitarists of any kind.
Uptown Funk – Mark Ronson
The famous Uptown Funk by British-American artist Mark Ronson is a funk-pop, soul, boogie style track with a light EDM influence. The tune also features Bruno Mars and resembles 1980’s disco-funk tunes with its upbeat, dancy, and energizing.
The straightforward main riff is played on two strings with a few notes. The chords are standard funk chords with minor and major 7’s, strummed pretty rhythmically with 16th notes.
Treasure – Bruno Mars
The pop icon Bruno Mars uses many influences from funk on his pop tunes. Heavily influenced by R&B, Treasure from 2013 is one of the best examples of the disco, soul, funk-pop, and synth-pop influences that Mars fuses in one pot.
You can play this tune with basic three-note chords and a fast-paced, funky strum pattern. To play it properly, you will need a quick strumming hand with accurate stops and mutes.
If you want to play more pop tunes, you can check out my article Top 50 Famous&Easy Pop Songs For Guitar – Tabs Included
Get Lucky – Daft Punk
Get Lucky by Daft Punk is the 2013 Grammy Winner funk-pop tune. Written by Pharrel Williams, it features a basic yet outstanding melody. The song topped the charts in many countries with a huge success.
You can play this piece with four basic chords, but you have to concentrate on the strum pattern to make it sound funky. Try to play it fast with dynamics and mutes in between. With a capo on the 2nd fret, the tune sounds better and is easier to sing.
September – Earth, Wind & Fire
September is the disco-funk hit by Earth, Wind & Fire, released as a single in 1978. The tune was used in many movies as a soundtrack and had a role in a popular culture used by many football chants and TV shows.
It is one of the easiest songs to play on this list, with all the notes of the main riff on the same string. The riff is played with a funky rhythm and slides in between to keep things more interesting.
If you want to play more solos rather than rhythm guitar partitions, this list might just be for you Top 50 Famous&Easy Guitar Solos For Beginners – Tabs Included
Can’t Stop – Red Hot Chili Peppers
Released in 2003, Can’t Stop is, undoubtedly, one of the most famous tunes of the American rock band Red Hot Chili Peppers. The funk-rock tune has topped the charts globally and received huge success as a worldwide hit with its fantastic video clip, funky rhythm, and the iconic chorus where the rhythm goes slower.
The riffs and chords of the tune are pretty straightforward and repetitive. Many techniques and rhythmic aspects are used, such as palm mutes, legatos, and slides, which are characteristics of funk-rock tunes.
Heart Of Glass – Blondie
Heart of Glass is the 1979 hit song by the American new wave band Blondie. The tune received international success and was included in the Rolling Stones’ top 500 songs of all time. The new-wave funk tune was later covered by many artists like Miley Cyrus, Gisele, Bob Sinclar, and Crabtree.
The song is played with standard open chords and basic funky riffs with lots of dead notes, giving the tune a funky feel. As always, you have to focus on the rhythmic aspect to feel the funky soul.
This Love – Maroon 5
American pop-rock band Maroon 5’s successful debut hit This Love rocked the world when released in tune with patience 2004. The piece features a funky foundation with Stevie Wonder-esque vocals and a funky R&B beat.
The tune features many chords that are easy to play in different positions on the fretboard. There are many mutes that create the rhythmic groove, and the lead guitar partitions are also pretty easy. This is a great song to step up to the funk guitar.
If you are looking for more electric guitar tunes to play, do not forget to check out my list Top 50 Famous & Easy Electric Guitar Songs For Beginners – Tabs Included
Lose Yourself To Dance – Daft Punk
The disco-funk icon duo Daft Punk’s Lose Yourself To Dance was released in 2013. The tune resembles an 80’s disco and funk scene with its dancy rhythms, funky guitar strums, big multi-layered claps, and thrashing cymbals.
The piece is played with triad chords on the higher strings with a funky pattern. You should time the mutes and strums accurately to create the funky groove.
Stayin Alive – Bee Gees
The Bee Gees classic Stayin Alive is yet another tremendous funky tune from the ’70s. The song has global fame is considered one of the best 500 greatest songs of all time by Rolling Stones magazine.
This one may be a little challenging for beginners as it features a funky lead guitar groove along with a funky rhythm played by the rhythm guitar with many mutes and different chord shapes. Individually it is not hard to play, but you have to take your time to play the partitions accurately.
Daddy Cool – Boney M
1976 hit and a staple of disco music, Daddy Cool was Boney M.’s first hit that gave them international fame. The tune is closer to the disco genre rather than funk, but it clearly has the influence, especially in terms of the rhythm.
Daddy Cool is straightforward to play with repetitive single-note riffs and basic rhythm. Great for absolute beginners.
If you are liking these easy electric guitar riffs, you might like this list too Top 45 Famous & Easy Guitar Riffs For Beginners – Tabs Included
I Got You I Feel Good – James Brown
When it comes to funk, one of the first musicians that come to mind is James Brown. He is a significant figure and the central progenitor of funk music. He is also called the “Godfather of Soul.”
One of his most fantastic tunes from his more than a 50-year long career is I Got You (I Feel Good), released in 1965. The piece is remembered with funky grooves and the emphasis “on the one,” the first beat of the measure that characterizes Brown’s developing funk style.
The main riff repeated throughout the tune is pretty straightforward with funky chords and the iconic slide that gives the spirit to the tune.
Kiss – Prince
The famous American funk-rock musician Prince’s Kiss was released back in 1986 with a huge success globally. The tune topped the charts for two weeks and sold more than 500 000 copies.
The tune features many different chord variations and a basic funky strum pattern; it is an excellent song to get familiar with funk-style rhythm guitar. Some of the chord shapes may be challenging in the beginning but keep practicing to get them to the muscle memory.
Love Shack – The B-52’s
Love Shack is the famous single by the American new wave funk band the B-52 from 1989. With its upbeat, lyrically positive, and infectious dance grooves, it is the signature song of the band, which became a worldwide known piece.
This tune has every characteristic of funk-style guitar playing with triad chords and mutes, funk chords, mutes, groovy lead partitions, and chord slides. Take your time with the song and try to play every detail it has.
If you are having a hard time with the barre chords and looking for easier tunes to play, you can start from something easier like this list 35 Easy Guitar Songs Without Barre Chords/Capo – Tabs Included
Never Too Much – Luther Vandross
The 1981 hit Never Too Much is the debut and lead single of the American R&B-funk musician Luther Vandross. The tune became an international hit and was used in many movies, TV series, and games. It was also covered by many artists such as Jessie J, Paul Kalkbrenner, and Mary Jane Blige.
The tune is easy to play with double stops and single-note repetitive fills. As in many funk tunes, it is not about the note or chord sheet but about the spirit and the style of playing that makes it a real funk tune.
Play That Funky Music – Wild Cherry
Play That Funky Music by Wild Cherry is one of the most famous funk tunes from the ’70s with its iconic chorus. The single sold more than 2.5 million copies which gave it the platinum certification. With its dancy-funky groove and guitar parts, it is a fantastic funk tune.
The guitar parts of the tune are mostly single-note groovy fills that are easy to play. The chords are played with muted downstrokes and open upstrokes.
Brick House – Commodores
Released in 1977, Brick House is the funk tune by the American funk and soul band Commodores. The upbeat tune got its place in the top 10 charts in the U.S.A. and U.K.
Although the main riff of the tune is pretty easy, the various chord shapes can be challenging for beginners. Some odd chord shapes require a bit of practice, but with patience, you can nail it in no time.
If you feel strumming chords are not for you, you should check my list Top 30 Easy Songs Without Chords For Beginners – Tabs Included
Hot Stuff – Donna Summer
Donne Summer’S Hot Stuff 1979 is yet another famous disco-funk tune that won a Grammy for best female vocals. The tune stayed more than 3 months on the top 10 lists, which was a record for that year. The upbeat dance tune was covered by many artists such as Pussycat Dolls, Elize, and Kygo.
With 4 basic open chores, this one is an easy piece of cake to play for beginners. Just keep the focus on the strumming to create a funky feeling.
Fame – David Bowie
David Bowie’s funky tune from 1975, Fame is another excellent tune written by him and John Lennon. The tune talks about dissatisfaction with the troubles of fame and stardom.
It is a great tune to get familiar with funk-rock style lead guitar playing, as the tune features many fills and lead guitar interludes. All the partitions are beginner-friendly and straightforward to learn.
Long Train Running – The Doobie Brothers
Long Train Running is the famous funk tune by The Doobie Brothers was released in 1973. The song features funk-style guitar with country and rock elements which is a peculiar combination.
The tune is played with major 7th and minor 7th chords, which are characteristic funk chords. Keep the strumming fast-paced and dynamic. Also, add some mutes to give the funky rhythm groove clearly.
Good Times – Chic
Good Times is the disco-funk song by American R&B band Chic that was released in 1979. This is one of the most sampled songs in history, most notably for hip hop songs. It was number one in U.S.A. charts in 1979 and got pretty famous globally too.
The tune is played like a standard funk tune with major 7th and minor 7th chords along with a funky 16th note strum pattern that includes many mutes. Listen to the song carefully and play it slowly at first to master it accurately.
Funk 49 – James Gang
Funk 49 is the funk-rock song written by American hard rock band The James Gang in 1969. It got pretty successful even the most of the song was instrumental with Joe Walsh’s guitar, Dale Peters’s bass work, and Jim Fox’s drumming.
The tune consists of the main riff that is repeated throughout the song. It is a great funk riff with bends, slides, mutes, and triad chords. Take your time to learn it well.
Fresh – Kool & the Gang
Released in 1984, Fresh is the funk-R&B tune by the American band Kool & the Gang. The tune introduced a new meaning to the word fresh, meaning good.
With only 3 open chords, you can play the tune easily; Bm, G, and A. You should play with a fast-paced, groovy strum pattern to match the recording.
Hush – Deep Purple
The legendary hard rock band, Deep Purple’s cover of Billie Joe Royal’s Hush is another excellent funk-rock tune to learn for beginner guitarists. Released in 1968, Hush was the first hit single of the band, peaking at number 4 on the Hot 100.
It can be played with basic chords, but you will have to listen to the groove pattern to replicate it carefully. It is played with many mutes and a quick rhythm strum pattern.
I Want Your Love – Chic
I Want Your Love is a funky song by the American band Chic that was released in 1979. The funk-influenced disco tune topped the charts in many countries and received massive success after the release.
The tune can be played minor 7th and 9th chord along with a major 7th chord. It is a pretty straightforward tune to play if you are comfortable with the barring technique.
Le Freak – Chic
The first and the most famous hit by the American band Chic is Le Freak from the year 1978. The funky R&B and disco tune topped the charts and sold more than 7 million copies.
The song is pretty easy with power chords and double stops in the main riff. Some instrumental interludes are very entertaining to learn and play.
Sex Machine – James Brown
Another great tune by the godfather of funk and soul, James Brown, is Sex Machine from 1970. As one of the first songs recorded by James Brown and his band, it got huge success and fame with the iconic vocals of James Brown in between the funky lines.
It is a pretty easy song to groove and play with triad chords on the lower three strings and double stops along with muted strums. You can paint outside the lines and improvise with this one if you feel comfortable.
If You Want Me To Stay – Sly & The Family Stone
The 1973 single of Sly & The Family Stone, If You Want Me To Stay is a great funk tune to learn for novice guitarists. The famous songs were covered by many artists such as Etta James, Eric Benet, and Red Hot Chili Peppers.
It is an easy song to play with minor 7th and major 7th chords and a funky strum pattern. If you play the chords with the baring technique as shown on the chord sheet, it sounds much better.
Papas Got A Brand New Bag – James Brown
James Brown’s first song to achieve success was Papas Got A Brand New Bag in 1965. There he began building on top, eventually becoming the pioneer of the funk. He also won a Grammy with this song.
You can play this fantastic tune with three chords of major 7th and 9th. It is better to play the chords higher on the fretboard with the barring technique to groove more comfortably.
Get On The Good Foot – James Brown
Another great James Brown funk song to learn and play is Get on the Good Foot from 1972. This tune is the first gold record of James Brown, and it is considered one of the best funk turns of all time.
The piece is played with a basic main riff on one string and a funk chord that should be played funky and percussively as much as possible.
Jungle Boogie – Kool & the Gang
Released in 1973, Jungle Boogie is an amazing funk tune by the American band Kool & The Gang. The piece became highly famous in nightclubs and found a place in the top 10 charts in many countries.
It is an easy song to play with triad chords and mutes in between. The guitar partitions are pretty straightforward on the tab sheet, but you will have to show your percussive skills on the fretboard to make it enjoyable.
Last Child – Aerosmith
Last Child is one of the funky tunes of the famous American rock band Aerosmith. It was released in 1976 and became a regular radio song that year.
The song is played with rhythmic single-note riffs after an arpeggiated intro. Instead of chords, there are many double stops and mutes that create a funky rhythmic groove.
Baby Love – Mother’s Finest
Baby Love is one of the most famous tunes of the American funk-rock band Mother’s Finest. The rhythm guitar partitions consist of power chords, mutes, and triad chords played in a percussive way.
The tune has many partitions with double stops; lead fills that are extremely fun to play and learn.
Hit It And Quit It – Funkadelic
American funk-rock band Funkadelic’s Hit It And Quit It is a great funk tune with a fantastic percussive riff. All of the riff parts are played in the same position, which makes it easy for beginners.
The chords of the tune are standard A, C, and D. It is better if you play them barring, which will make it easier to play the chords percussively and funky.
Cissy Strut – The Meters
Cissy Strut is a 1969 funk instrumental by the funk band The Meters. It is considered one of the best songs for a guitarist to start playing funk tunes as it is easy but has all the fundamentals of funk style playing.
It is a fantastic tune to add to the funk repertoire with percussive playing style, funk chords, and rhythmic single-note partitions.
Night Train – James Brown
Godfather of funk, James Brown’s cover of twelve-bar blues tune Night Train is yet another great tune to learn for novice guitarists. All of the tunes are played with a simple main riff with A, D, and E chords.
The riff is quite funky, but the real percussive style comes from the dancy chord strums. You should play the tune pretty fast to make it funkier.
Red Hot Mama – Funkadelic
Another great Funkadelic tune to learn is Red Hot Mama, which was released back in 1974. The piece features a relatively easy structure with a basic main riff and power chords with slide transitions.
There is also some excellent lead guitar fills in between the main riffs and chords, which are pretty rhythmic and funky, making the tune more fun to play.
Stratus – Billy Cobham
Jaz fusion drummer Billy Cobham’s Stratus features unique funky partitions for guitarists who want to play some crazy funky riffs. The song also can be heard in the video game Grand Theft Auto IV on the Fusion FM radio.
The repetitive main riff is relatively easy, funky, and fun to play, as the rhythm riff with slides. Try to play it as percussive as possible to create a funky atmosphere.
If You Have To Ask – Red Hot Chili Peppers
Released in 1991, If You Have To Ask is the funk-rock hit by the famous American band Red Hot Chili Peppers. The song features a scratchy, minimalist funk lick played on the guitar, with a busier bass melody playing behind it, creating a great contrast.
There are many mutes on the tune that makes it easier to play it more percussively to elevate the funky feeling. Behind the chorus, the guitars play a funky riff, which is relatively easy with slides, mutes, and a slight bend.
You Know What I Mean – Jeff Beck
The 1975 Jeff Beck song You Know What I Mean offers great parts for funk fan guitarists. The rhythm guitar part consists of standard funk chords, which are major and minor 7ths, along with a brilliant funk main riff which includes the whammy bar too.
Try to play this tune extra funky and be patient with it, as the whammy bar manipulation can be challenging initially. If your guitar does not have a bar, you can try bending instead.
Look-Ka Py Py – The Meters
Another hit by the American funk band The Meters is Look-Ka Py Py which is the opening song of their same-titled album. It is a pretty easy song with a basic riff followed by funk chords and simple lead guitar fills. If you get a hard time with the chord shapes, you can use your thumb to press the frets on the 5th or 6th strings.
Funk is a great style where strumming and the percussive feeling get more important than the notes played. It is all about the feeling and the lively grooves. You can play the same note, but with nuances on the rhythm, dynamics, and percussive techniques, you can make the same chord sound amazingly different.
When you master some of these songs, you will better understand the genre in general and progress pretty fast with the rest of the tunes. Combining the funky technique with other songs and genres is also great to add some spice and keep things interesting. So grab your guitar and enjoy playing those fast-paced, funky rhythms.
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