Axeology w/ Sav Izzi

Sav Izzi
4 min readNov 6, 2020

Groove Central Part 1

This month’s lesson focuses on rhythm guitar playing. Specifically, keeping a groove in a band setting. I recall the days as a student attending Musicians Institute. I was a novice player at the time and maybe a semester or so into my studies. It was at this time that I discovered a new style of guitar. A new sound that was quite captivating. This sound was funk guitar.

My rhythm playing back then consisted of 4 to the floor type strumming and eighth note patterns with occasional syncopation. This was a whole new world to me. A lively, bubbly, funky universe I just had to tap into. One in which I still reside in today and spend plenty of time as a guitar player. So let’s board the mothership and explore the cosmos of groove guitar!

Review the Basics

Let’s start with a couple examples using straight eighth note and quarter note strum patterns on the beat.

Ex.1 is an eight note chord progression in the key of Am. Ex.2 is a four to the floor chord progression in the key of Bb.

Ex.1

Ex.2

Groove Rhythm Playing

Now that we have looked at a couple basic rhythm patterns let’s branch out into 16th note territory.

One 16th note is a quarter of a beat. So four consecutive 16th notes would equal one beat. Let’s start by muting the guitar strings with the fret hand and playing scratched 16th notes. Make sure to keep a continuous down up strum pattern as you play. (Ex.3)

Ex.3

When playing a 16th note groove it is important to be able to play any 16th note within the beat. The way we count or feel 16th notes is as follows:

1 e + a , 2 e + a, 3 e + a, 4 e + a

Let’s take a common funk chord E9 for example. We will continue our muted strum pattern from Ex.3. However, this time we will target different 16th notes within the beat and accent that note by playing an E9 chord. This exercise is an excellent way to develop your strum hand technique for funk rhythm playing. The following 4 examples show what this looks like with the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th 16th notes accented respectively. (Ex. 4a-4d)

Ex.4a-4b

Ex.4c-4d

Funking It Up

How did those last examples sound? Totally funky right? Makes you want to move like your back ain’t got a bone! Not exactly. However, we are on the right path to further explore this style of playing. With the right chordal ingredients and fret/strum hand persuasion we can start to lock into a groove. If we syncopate the 16th note strum pattern and keep the muted strumming we have the example below (Ex.5). Notice the chromatic half step turnaround at the end of measure 4? This is a staple in vamps like this and helps get us back in the groove.

Ex.5

Scratchless

Maintaining a 16th note groove with the strum hand is vital to funk rhythm playing. However, that does not mean we need to play on every 16th note of a beat. Many times a groove will sound better if we leave off the scratches but still keep the rhythm in our strum hand. Take Ex. 6 below. The 1st measure shows it with muted scratching. Try it this way first to get a feel for the rhythm. Once that is comfortable play the 2nd measure. Keep the 16th note strum going for the entire bar. Instead of playing scratches just pass over the strings for all rests. Playing it this way presents an entirely different feel and you can hear the chords pop out as you play them. Next time we will continue our exploration of groove based guitar playing. See you then.

Ex.6

Sav Izzi is a guitar instructor, songwriter, and musician based in Chicago, IL. He currently performs with the Chicago funk, rock, and soul group BabyBrutha. His debut album Mad Chill Sessions will be released this Fall. For column questions and music related inquiries contact: savizzimusic@gmail.com

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Sav Izzi

Sav Izzi is a guitar instructor, songwriter, and musician based in Chicago, IL. He currently performs with the Chicago funk, rock, and soul group BabyBrutha.