Written by Sigrid Yiakmis
‘Ain’t it funky?’ James Brown reckons, over the top of Clyde Stubblefield’s improvised pattern on the 1970 track ‘Funky Drummer’. And he’s right, it’s funky. So funky that this uncredited solo by Stubblefield went on to become a ubiquitous drum pattern in recorded music and what’s arguably hip-hop’s most definitive drum sample. A quick search of ‘Funky Drummer’ on whosampled.com returns a humble 1,441 results.
Stubblefield is untrained and self-taught. His early influences were the rhythms of industry in his hometown of Chattanooga, Tennessee, where his dad worked in a steel mill. He put patterns to the sounds of his environment; train tracks, factories, washing machines. In his 1999 instructional DVD ‘Soul of the Funky Drummers’ Clyde acknowledges he can’t read music. If he felt it, he played it, and this ethos cemented his work with James Brown as the gold standard of funk drumming.
In this course ‘Ain’t It Funky’ we have taken aspects of Clyde’s style, those beats that feel ad-libbed and environmental – ghost notes, off-beat open hats, sly swung 16th notes – and created seven lessons that will leave you with a foundation for funk drumming. Each lesson we’ll encourage you to adapt to your own environment by introducing a small variation that significantly shifts the feel of the groove. To complete the course, you’ll bring those variations together and play them out in a complete song. If you can already hold down a basic rock beat then this course is for you. Once you’re confident with funk drums, you can pretty much add the hip-hop beat to your résumé, too.
Here’s how you’ll progress through the course:
- The first lesson in the course, The Main Groove, lays out the bare bones of the song. You’re introduced to the snare, hat & kick patterns that will help anchor you during your practice.
- In Hats Off you’ll get accustomed to shifting the open-hat.
- Move Your Feet introduces a kick variation that tightens up the beat.
- Do You Believe In Ghost Notes? You will after this 4th lesson. Add an off-beat snare to the pattern that will complement the kick.
- Song Structure combines the above variations into a structured order that will make up the bars of the final song you’ve been learning throughout the course.
- OK, Give The Drummer Some. Play the entire song for the final lesson.
Congrats, you’re on your way to becoming a funky drummer 🥁
Ain’t It Funky
Expand on a basic Funk beat with a series of variations in the style of Clyde Stubblefield. The variations will focus on kick, snare, open hi-hat placements and tom fills. Structure what you’ve learned into a song format to complete the course.
Open course in Melodics