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I hope this question isn't too "noob"-ish for you guys (but hey I've gotta start somewhere).

What scales are suitable for funk?

Is there a funk scale, akin to the blues scale?

I'm pretty sure the answer is no, seeing as Google doesn't turn up any useful results for "Funk scale", but what scales are suitable?

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Funk is an evolution/combination of jazz and rock, essentially. It's thus going to be based on the scales used in these two. –  Noldorin Jul 15 '11 at 16:09
13  
I think it is fair to say that it uses the Bootytonic scale, though some musicians are split on whether to get up or get down. –  horatio Jul 15 '11 at 20:29
    
@horatio - That was amazing... –  5StringRyan Dec 13 '11 at 19:28
    
@5StringRyan: Hey, the getup/get down debate is serious business (see: theonion.com/articles/… ) –  horatio Dec 13 '11 at 19:30
    
Major, Mixolydian and Dorian are used, just as they are in rock. –  Wheat Williams Feb 1 at 22:40

6 Answers 6

up vote 15 down vote accepted

Funk doesn't have a scale. Funk gets it's sound by rhythmic intervals with lots of pauses. Like reggae, ska... Thats why sometimes when we hear a riff we say it has a funk feel.So being, any scale will fit funk.

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Is there a funk scale, akin to the blues scale?

If you use the blues scale, you won't be going too far wrong.

The defining feature of funk is its rhythms. If you're looking for a specific tonal feature of funk, try this guitar tab, a simplified version of the riff which forms the vast majority of the song Another Brick in the Wall Part 2 (We Don't Need No Education) by Pink Floyd (The dash represents a hammer-on):

    e 5  5    5
    B 6  5-6  6
    G 7  5-7  7
    D 7  5-7  7
    A 5  5    5
    E

Basically, what we have here is a Dm chord (which in this case goes on for ages) punctuated by an approximation to a Cmaj chord formed by the notes of the barre. C is of course the (minor) seventh of Dminor.

This use of barred minor chords punctuated by the "chord" that happens to be formed by the open bar, strums of muted strings, and several other modifications of the basic minor chord are an essential feature of funk.

The bass will be playing the roots of the chords (generally minor) with frequent use of the sevenths of those chords as passing notes, plus complicated scale runs and (if you want to bluff it) the "disco" rhythms formed by playing two different root notes an octave apart.

Take those rhythmic elements away and listen to a saxophone, keyboard or guitar solo on its own, and you will be hard pressed to identify the music as funk (as distinct from blues, jazz or rock.)

So you will be using normal diatonic and pentatonic scales, particularly the minor-sounding ones (dorian, the aeolian/minor scale itself, phrygian) and of course the blues scale.

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Listen to "the boss" by james brown. I guess it's in G# major and the 4th note of the scale is half step higher (which makes that funky confident feel).

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Well, you mention the blues scale which is pretty common.

Akin to that one, adding chromatic notes from the b7, 7, R adds some funk as well as the #9 chord, which the guitar plays in just about every James Brown song ever.

Just like the A blues scale has three notes in a row - D, Eb, E, add a note between G and A, so you get -

A B C D Eb E G Gb A

I left out the F#, but you can add that if you want.

Good ol' pentatonic sure rears its head in a lot of funk - A C D E G

The #9 means you use both C natural AND C# if you are playing a chord (again in A), on bass playing off that half-step gives some interesting sounds.

But as people have pointed out already, it is 2011, you can play anything over anything and make it work if you really want.

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Dorian is used a fair amount as well, I think. The bassline to Chic's "Good Times" is an example I believe.

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I get the impression that DimeBagFan may be right with his assertion that there is no such entity as a funk scale but that said it is worth mentioning that most if not all of the funk guitar licks I have ever played/worked out on the guitar tend to just use the minor pentatonic scale

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