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Funk Guitar Chords

In this lesson we'll be looking at some of the staple guitar chords used in funk, from basic barre shapes to more efficient, "cut-down" chord voicings on the higher strings of the guitar.

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There's a definite bluesy/jazzy feel to the chords used in funk music, since that's where its stylistic origins lie. However, certain chord shapes help enhance those syncopated, groove-laiden rhythms heard in funk, which you'll discover when you go on to learn funk rhythm/picking.

So, first we'll look at some essential funk guitar chords to build up our vocabulary, then we'll move on to things like chord phrasing and harmonising. Enjoy it!

Essential funk guitar chords

Funk uses some very interesting chord voicings and, similar to jazz, most are built from a 7th chord base, often extended from that to 9th and 13th chords. Don't worry if you don't know what that means, the important thing is you experiment with adding notes to the basic chord shapes you learn as a beginner, to really "big them up" for that funk sound.fingers numbered 1 (index) to 4 (pinky)

First, we're going to look at the common barre chord shapes used in funk. Make sure you're comfortable with barre chords before we move on as these are used all the time in funk!

There are two main barre shapes/forms used in funk - E and A. E form chords are rooted on the low E string, whereas A shape chords are rooted on the A string.

Rather than just use the basic major/minor barre chords, we're going to use 7th and extended voicings to add more of a jazzy/funky flavour - you'll hear it immediately when you play or hear them (click the diagrams to hear examples).

All the audio examples are played in the key of D, but remember these are movable shapes, so they keep their formation when you move up and down the fretboard with them!

Major E form funk guitar chords

Dominant 7th (e.g. D7)
Dominant 7th chord (e.g. D7)
Added 6th (e.g. D7add6)
Added 6th chord (e.g. D7add6)
13th (e.g. D13)
13th chord (e.g. D13)
Sharp 9th (e.g. D7#9)
Sharp 9th chord (e.g. D7#9)

Minor E form funk chords

Minor 7th (e.g. Dm7)
Minor 7th chord (e.g. Dm7)
Alternative Minor 7th
Alternative Minor 7th chord
Added 6th (e.g. Dm7add6)
Added 6th chord (e.g. Dm7add6)
Minor 13th (e.g. Dm13)
Minor 13th chord (e.g. Dm13)
Minor 9th (e.g. Dm9)
Minor 9th chord (e.g. Dm9)

Suspended E form funk chord

Suspended 13th (e.g. Dsus13)
Suspended 13th chord (e.g. Dsus13)

Try the above chords over the backing track below. It's in the key of D, just like the audio examples, so that means the low E string root of these chords will be positioned at fret 10.

Download the backing track

Built around A form barre chords with an A string bass/root, you can get some really nice, classic funk tones with these positions. Again, they're movable shapes, but I'm playing in the key of E in the audio examples (that's fret 7 on the A string).

Major A form funk guitar chords

Dominant 7th (e.g. E7)
Dominant 7th chord (e.g. E7)
Alternative Dominant 7th
Alternative Dominant 7th chord
Added 6th (e.g. E7add6)
Added 6th chord (e.g. E7add6)
Added 6th without 7th (e.g. Eadd6)
Added 6th without 7th (e.g. Eadd6)

Minor A form funk chords

Minor 7th (e.g Em7)
Minor 7th shape (e.g Em7)
Alternative Minor 7th
Alternative Minor 7th shape
Added 6th (e.g. Em7add6)
Added 6th shape (e.g. Em7add6)

Suspended A form chords

Sus 4th Added 6th (e.g. E7sus4add6)
Suspended 4th Added 6th shape
Suspended 2nd (e.g. E7sus2)
Suspended 2nd shape
9th Suspended 4th (e.g. E9sus4)
9th Suspended 4th shape (e.g. E9sus4)
Sus 2nd Added 6th (e.g. E7sus2add6)
Suspended 2nd Added 6th shape
Suspended 13th (e.g. Esus13)
Suspended 13th shape (e.g. Esus13)

Try the above chords over the backing track below. It's in the key of E, just like the audio examples, so that means the A string root of these chords will be positioned at the 7th fret.

Download the backing track

Other movable funk chord shapes

So already we have a rather large library of funk chords to play with. But there's more! Aside from the common E and A shape barre chords, there's some other nice sounding shapes, rooted on those low E and A strings, that descend rather than ascend from their root note positions. Take a look (and listen), starting with chords rooted on the E string...

13th (e.g. D13)
13th chord (e.g. D13)
9th Suspended 4th (e.g. D9sus4)
9th Suspended 4th chord (e.g. D9sus4)
Added 9th (e.g. D7add9)
Added 9th chord (e.g. D7add9)
Suspended 2nd (e.g. D7sus2)
Suspended 2nd chord (e.g. D7sus2)
Added 6th/9th (e.g. Dadd6/9)
Added 6th/9th chord (e.g. Dadd6/9)

Now rooted on the A string...

Dominant 7th (e.g. E7)
Dominant 7th chord (e.g. E7)
9th (e.g. E9)
9th chord (e.g. E9)
Major 9th (e.g. Emaj9)
Major 9th chord (e.g. Emaj9)
13th (e.g. E13)
13th chord (e.g. E13)
Sharp 9th (e.g. E7#9)
Sharp 9th chord (e.g. E7#9)
Added 6th/9th (e.g. Eadd6/9)
Added 6th/9th chord (e.g. Eadd6/9)
Minor 9th (e.g. Em9)
Minor 9th chord (e.g. Em9)

Bloody hell that's a lot of chords, and by no means the limit!

In the lessons linked to below, you can learn how to cut down these fuller barre shapes for more efficient fingering, allowing us to create intricate chord phrasings to complement those jumpy funk rhythms.

As always, experiment, for example by adding and removing fingers/notes from those basic barre chord shapes. There are tons of chord voicings to discover just from these core shapes.

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