Copyright

What is Funk Music? - Definition & Characteristics

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: History of Funk Music

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
 Replay
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:00 A New Musical Style
  • 0:36 Characteristics
  • 2:29 Legacy & Influence
  • 3:13 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Timeline
Autoplay
Autoplay
Speed Speed

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Stephanie Przybylek

Stephanie has taught studio art and art history classes to audiences of all ages. She holds a master's degree in Art History.

Have you ever listened to a piece of music that made you want to get up and dance? Could you feel the pulse of a strong bass line? Maybe you were listening to funk! In this lesson, you'll learn about the definition and characteristics of funk music.

A New Musical Style

Funk music is a style of popular music that emerged in the late 1960s as an outgrowth of R&B (rhythm and blues). African-American musicians created it by combining elements of soul and jazz with R&B and amping up the moving beat. Funk features strong bass lines, or music lines played by low-pitched instruments and has a heavy syncopated beat, meaning a beat with emphasis changed from strong beats to off beats and accents. Funk music also possesses a distinctive groove, or sense of rhythmic movement that makes you want to get up and dance.

Characteristics

Funk music has more complex rhythms than soul music. It often involves lots of drums and provides a more starring role for electric bass, an instrument that, prior to funk's development, hadn't been featured as prominently in popular music. It's the continual groove of the bass line in funk that makes you want to move. Melody is less important than the beat in funk. The music often has extended vamps, or repeated bars of music that can be played as many times as necessary or until the group decides to move on, of a single chord rather than many different series of chord progressions.

Sometimes funk groups also included horns, such as saxophones and trumpets, which were used for emphasis, almost like percussion instruments. When you listen to many funk songs, you can hear horns pop out aggressive bursts of notes. To make music funky, it was syncopated and had displaced rhythms. Instead of a standard straight beat (for example, 1 and 2 and 3 and 4), funk threw beats off the regular stroke and placed them on the and of the beat, such as 1 and 2 and 3 and 4).

Funk also had a distinct social dimension. Its lyrics often involved social or political issues. It tended to be urban music and with its infectious, danceable beat, it didn't shy away from commenting on inequality, racial issues, or other social challenges. Funk singers and groups in the early 1970s also adopted a similar type of style: wild costumes, exuberant flair with feathers and bright colors, oversized sunglasses, and platform shoes.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about Study.com
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account
Support