Funk Beats on The Drum Set

Funk beats in drum set drumming. Learning these grooves strengthens your ability to play drums. This page will help you along the path to playing these drum beats proficiently on the drum set.

Funk rhythms came from a blend of soul, jazz and rhythm and blues. Funk started in America in the 1960's. The funk beat is on the down beat on one instead of the normal back beat on two and four.

Funk music was formed from a blend of several genres. James Brown is the musician who made funk music what it is by bringing his musicians in on one instead the traditional two.

Funk music in 4/4 time

Funk music is in 4/4 time signature which means there are four beats to the bar. The top number four represents the four beats to the bar while the bottom number four represents the four quarter notes to the bar. So the count for 4/4 time signature is |1234|.

Funk drummer

Funk Music Notation Example

Here is an example of the funk drum beat in 4/4 time and four beats to the bar. The x notes are on the high-hat. The bottom notes are for the bass drum. The middle notes are on the snare drum.

Funk beat music notation

Eight Beats and Sixteen Beats To The Bar

This time signature also has eighth notes and sixteenth notes on the hi-hat that can be played for an up tempo funk beat. This means there are eight notes to the bar and are counted |1a2a3a4a|.

Funk Music Notation Example with Eight Beats to the Bar.

Here is an example of the funk drum beat in 4/4 time and eight beats to the bar. The x notes are on the high-hat. The bottom notes are for the bass drum. The middle notes are on the snare drum.

Funk rhythm notation

The same applies to the sixteenth notes which are counted |1 e an a 2 e an a 3 e an a 4 e an a|. Depending on the speed of the tempo will determine how these notes are played on the hi-hat.

When the tempo is quite fast the notes are played with the left and right hands in an alternating fashion on the hi-hat. So this would be played L R L R L R L R L R L R L R L R or R L R L R L R L R L R L R L R L to each bar on the hi-hat depending if you are right or left handed.



Funk Music Example with Sixteen Beats to the Bar.

Here is an example of the funk drum beat in 4/4 time and sixteen beats to the bar. The x notes are on the high-hat. The bottom notes are for the bass drum. The middle notes are on the snare drum.

Funk music beat notation

As you can see in the music notation the funk drum beat looks quite different from other more common 4/4 time beats. This is because the snare is played on the down beat one instead of the back beat two as in most other music genres in 4/4 time.

This is the major difference between genuine funk beats and the funk rock beat which is on the back beat two and four. It is also harder to play than the traditional back beat rhythms common in other music genres.

With many musicians used to the snare being played on two it makes it difficult to transition to the snare being played on one.

This is especially true when this rhythm is played on one and three because it sounds the same as the back beat rhythm on two and four. So there is a tendency to drift back into the two and four back beat especially after a fill.

Live funk drummer

Origins of Funk

Funk beats came out of America from African American people who brought there music from Africa as slaves. These African people developed their music into spiritual work chants, gospel songs and blues.

Funk is a mixture or blend of soul, jazz and rhythm and blues music. This new music form was originally a slow mellow, riff oriented groove on the drum set.

Later it became a hard driving insistent drum beat that is now part of the funk groove. Funks popularity rose from the mid sixties and through the seventies. It had a strong influence on the development of disco which was developed from funk beats. This lead to what is called the disco beat in disco music.

Drummer and Bass Player Brought to the Front

Funk brought the drummer and bass player from the back ground into the fore ground. This gives this music its unique foot print and sound which is different from other styles of music.

These rhythms and beats are used by a lot of modern musicians in their music. So to be a competent drummer learning funk drum beats is a must so that you the drummer blend in well with other musicians who are playing funk influenced music.

Ear Training

Because of the differculty between playing from a back beat to an on beat it is necessary for drummers to be competent at reading drum music aswell as training their ears to listen to make sure that the correct timing and beat is being used. Training the ear is an essential part of playing the funk beat aswell as being part of becoming a well rounded drummer.

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