Rock Perspectives

Funk Patterns

by Ken Katz

R&B or Funk is one of the most interesting concepts for the modern drummer because it is primarily constituted of time and feeling. It is fun, danceable music that is free-spirited leaving plenty of room for creativity. There is little so exhilarating and infectious as a locked-together bass and drums weaving patterns in and out of an unmistakable pulse. What follows are some aspects of playing R&B that have contributed to its being so much fun for a drummer. A personalized conception is an easily attainable goal since Funk is made up of such diverse elements.
A. CHANGING GEARS:
One device for working up a Funk stew is what I call a change of gears. The first half of the measure is sparsely notated, while the second half is a rush of notes. The first half is felt, the second, heard. The first half builds tension, the second releases it.
Rock Perspectives 1B. THE RIGHT HAND (Less is More):
Many of the players are leaving much to the imagination especially in the right hand. Some of what is being played is truly independent whereas some is patterned. Variation III is a pattern I developed upon hearing variation II mixed in the studio with too much echo.
rp 2C, UNEXPECTED ACCENTS:
The Funk rhythm section needs more than just 2 & 4, and one successful device for breaking up the monotony is the unexpected accent. The following patterns feature accents on the and of beat 3 and the and of beat 4.
rp 3D. LISTENING, THE KEY:
If you enjoy a pattern, write it down, play it, and practice variations. Some of the players to listen for include Bernard Purdie, Harvey Mason, Paul Humphries and David Garibaldi, to name a few. Here is an example from George Benson’s Breezin album (WB BS2919). The drummer is Harvey Mason and the cut, So This is Love.

rp 4