Did Funk Music Have Highly Complex Chord Progressions?

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


Funk music is known for its groovy, danceable beats. But did you know that many funk songs also have highly complex chord progressions? In this blog post, we’ll take a look at some of the most famous funk songs and analyze their chord progressions.

The Birth of Funk

Funk is a music genre that originated in the mid-1960s. It is a style of African-American music that is characterized by a set of musical elements such as complex chord progressions, repetitive beats, and a call-and-response pattern.

James Brown and the Birth of Funk

In the 1960s, James Brown and his band created a new style of music called funk. Unlike previous styles of music, funk was based on highly complex chord progressions and rhythms. This made it difficult for other musicians to copied. As a result, funk became one of the most influential and popular genres of music in the 20th century.

The Funk Brothers

The Funk Brothers were a group of Motown studio musicians who played on many of the hit records released by Motown during the 1960s and 1970s. They were an important part of the Motown sound. The group was made up of bassist James Jamerson, keyboardists Earl Van Dyke and Joe Hunter, guitarist Robert White, drummer Richard “Pistol” Allen, and percussionist Jack Ashford.

The Funk Brothers first came to prominence in the early 1960s with their work on Motown’s first big hit, “Please Mr. Postman” by The Marvelettes. They went on to play on many otherMotown hits including “My Girl” by The Temptations, “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” by Marvin Gaye, and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Diana Ross.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Funk Brothers became less prominent as Motown began to use more outside musicians. However, they regained prominence in the early 1980s with their work on hits such as “The Way You Do the Things You Do” by The Temptations and “Standing in the Shadows of Love” by The Four Tops.

The Funk Brothers were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002.

The Chord Progressions of Funk

Funk chord progressions often made use of “complex” harmonies. These harmonies were usually achieved by stacking thirds on top of one another. While this may seem like a simple concept, the way these harmonies were used in funk created a uniquely complex sound.

The One

The most fundamental chord progression in funk is the “one.” It’s a simple I-IV-V progression, but the way it’s played is what makes it funk. The one chord is usually played on the first and third beats of the measure, while the IV and V chords are played on the second and fourth beats. This gives the music a driving, syncopated feel that is essential to funk.

The other important component of funk chord progressions is rhythm. Funk rhythms are often very complex, with multiple layers of syncopation going on at once. This can make them difficult to play, but it also gives funk its distinctive sound. If you’re a guitar player, try playing a basic I-IV-V progression using funk rhythms. It’s not easy, but it’s a great way to get started with this style of music.

The Two-Five-One

The two-five-one chord progression is a very common progression found in many different styles of music. In funk music, the two-five-one progression is often used to create a groove and a sense of movement. The two chords are usually related by fourths, and the fifth chord is usually related by a tritone. For example, in the key of C, the two-five-one progression would be Cmaj7-F7-Bb7.

The Six-Nine

The six-nine chord is a dominant ninth chord with an added sixth. It typically uses the root, flat nine, sharp nine, third, fifth and sixth of the scale, although the sixth is not always present.

The six-nine chord is most commonly used as a passing chord or a chord to bring resolution to a piece of music. It is often used in funk and jazz music, and can be found in some pop and rock songs as well.

The Future of Funk

Funk music was created in the early 1970s by African American artists who were looking to create a new kind of music that was different from what was currently popular. Funk music has a unique sound that is created by the use of complex chord progressions. Some people believe that funk music is the forerunner of Hip Hop and Rap music.

The New Funk Movement

The New Funk Movement is a group of Funk musicians who are bringing the genre back to its roots. The group is made up of experienced and talented musicians who are passionate about the Funk genre. The New Funk Movement is committed to creating new and innovative music that is true to the spirit of the genre. The group has released two albums, “The Future of Funk” and “Funkadelic”, which have been well received by critics and fans alike.

The Legacy of Funk

The genre of funk music developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and it is characterized by a distinctive groove that is often syncopated and based on a repeating bass line. The music also typically features horns, electric guitars, and percussion instruments. While funk songs often have simple lyrics, they are often underpinned by complex chord progressions.

Funk pioneers like James Brown and Sly Stone were influenced by earlier genres like rhythm and blues and soul music. Brown’s hit song “Cold Sweat” (1967) is often credited as being the first funk song. Funk quickly gained popularity in the 1970s, with artists like Parliament-Funkadelic, Bootsy Collins, and George Clinton helping to define the sound of the genre.

While funk music fell out of favor in the 1980s, it has experienced a resurgence in recent years, thanks in part to artists like Bruno Mars, Mark Ronson, and Justin Timberlake who have incorporated elements of funk into their own music. There is also a new generation of funk musicians keeping the genre alive, including D’Angelo, Janelle MonĂ¡e, and Anderson .Paak.

There is no doubt that funk has had a profound impact on popular music, and its legacy is sure to continue for many years to come.

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