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"Pass The Peas";"Le Freak"; "Get up and Jump";"Shake your Pants""The Crunge"....They all use very similar chords in a Funk setting - what are some Standard Funk Chords and why (from a Music Theory Perspective) have these chords evolved into being embraced as such?

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The mother of all funk chords: youtube.com/watch?v=tprMEs-zfQA –  Anonymous Jan 30 '11 at 0:05

2 Answers 2

Some of the most popular chords in funk include E9, E7, and E7+9 (also widely known as the so-called "Hendrix Chord", since Jimi used it in "Purple Haze" and other songs), transposed as necessary. Here are their canonical voicings:

E9 and E13 (Often, players will play these without the bass note):

$A.7.$D.6.$G.7.$B.7.$e.7 | $A.7.$D.6.$G.7.$B.7.$e.9

Example song: "Sex Machine" by James Brown (played in Eb rather than E).

E7:

$D.6.$G.7.$B.5.$e.7

Example song: "Who's Gonna Take The Weight" by Kool & the Gang

E7+9:

$A.7.$D.6.$G.7.$B.8

Example song: "Flashlight" by Parliament

Update: A little love to the Am7 and Am9 chords as used in funk:

$D.5.$G.5.$B.5.$e.5 | $D.5.$G.5.$B.5.$e.7

And the Em11:

$A.7.$D.7.$G.7.$B.8

As to why these chords became popular funk chords, the most simplistic answer is "Because the R&B musicians who went on to develop funk (James Brown, George Clinton, etc.) used these chords a lot, and for whatever reason, their songs sold lots of records, so the chords became identified with the 'funk' sound and other funk musicians copied them."

A less simplistic but more speculative answer would point out that these are all dominant chords, and that funk, like the blues, doesn't really adhere to the harmonic principles of Western diatonic music. From the diatonic perspective, dominant chords---the E7+9 chord, especially---don't make any sense when used as I and IV chords, as funk does all the time ("Flashlight", for example, is built entirely around a I-IV progression, with seventh chords used for both). The E7+9 is particularly out of place (again, from Western music theory's perspective) due to it's having both a major and a minor third in it.

But again, funk and blues aren't really based on Western music theory principles but instead on African rhythms and harmonies, filtered through Western instruments. In the purest 12-bar blues form from which funk evolved, all the chords are dominant 7th chords, and the scales are based around pentatonic plus blues notes---decidedly not the traditional Western major scale. So it's a bit of a mistake to try to analyze these genres of music from the perspective of Western music theory, since they don't really fit in that context.

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If you can give a little love to the min7th chord, 11th it's all you.... –  Anonymous Jan 31 '11 at 20:06
    
Cool-it looks like you win the bounty: Thanks! –  Anonymous Jan 31 '11 at 21:39
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Heard a joke once. Guy shows up at an audition for James Brown. Sets up, and James asks him "Can you play an E9 chord?" He plays it. "Can you play it for 3 hours?" –  VarLogRant Feb 21 '11 at 1:36
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More seriously, this is a great post and all it is missing is the "how", and the how is that the bass and guitar in funk act like the kick and snare drums of the kit. Thick tones and sustain get in the way of the role. –  VarLogRant Feb 21 '11 at 3:25

http://guitar.about.com/od/funkguitar/ss/funk-guitar-lesson_2.htm

http://guitar.about.com/od/funkguitar/ss/funk-guitar-lesson_4.htm

http://www.gianlucaverrengia.com/funkchords.htm

http://www.ultimate-guitar.com/lessons/music_styles/funk_music.html

etc... etc.. etc.. (google is your friend)

A basic funk chord is Em9 played on the top 4 strings. It is very easy to play(just barre across those strings), is movable, and sounds nice, easy to get the funky sound because you can mute the strings easy(just lift up your finger).

Funk is more about style then specific chords. It is syncopated with lots of ghost notes and "rakes". Some chords make it easier to do so and sound more hip than others but ultimately an chords could be used.

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No, Em11 is what you play when you strum the strings of a guitar without fretting any notes if it is in standard tuning. E A D G B E. Take out the A and you have E A D G B E. The top 4 strings is Em7. Add the F# and you get Em9. I Mentioned it wrong but both of those chord forms are used a lot in funk and are very similar. You can call it D G B F# = Bmadd6 instead of Em9. –  Anonymous Jan 29 '11 at 16:53
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Google it isn't a very good answer. There are lots of questions that are googleable, but the point of the stack exchange sites is to provide definitive answers to questions, regardless of whether the question is easy to answer. –  yossarian Jan 29 '11 at 18:51
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Also, it's a good idea to summarize the information in your links rather than just linking to them. This helps for two reasons, 1 the info is now actually in the answer, requiring less steps for someone to understand your answer but more importantly 2) it helps avoid link rot. If the link stops working, your answer is still useful. –  yossarian Jan 29 '11 at 18:53
    
The Dom9 (E9....) is one of the most oft used "Funk Chords" pick 5 James Brown songs and 3 will have a Dom9 chord vamp. A-Em7 is the minor cousin and so forth..Then you have all of the 11th and then chords w/o Thirds.... –  Anonymous Jan 30 '11 at 16:53

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