Watch Cory Wong’s top 3 funk tips for guitarists

No one can really tell you how to truly feel the funk, but there are a few people who can put you on the right path. Which is why we asked a certain Minnesotan axeman how to approach playing funk.

We sat down with Cory during his tour of Europe to glean as much from one of the funkiest guitarists in the world right now as possible.

Here are Cory Wong’s top 3 funk tips for guitarists.

1. Work on that right-hand timing

“There's a lot of people that ask me like, 'What's the main thing that I can do to sound like you on funk guitar?' or whatever. And then I'll hear them play.

“The number one thing is timing. Most people, their time is not amazing, they're not as focused on their rhythm and the right [picking] hand is a little bit sloppy. 

"So the number one thing I always tell people to practice is to play with a metronome, get your timing exactly on and just try to get this motor thing running.”

2. Ease up on all those notes, less is more

“So even though my right hand is together, the next thing is to build some nuance in the left [fretting] hand, and one of the biggest things is to pay a little more attention to the releases of notes.

“A lot of times, what I'll see people do with their left hand is they don't do enough muting, and they hold on to the notes a little too long for my taste. So, for example, they'll play really thick voicings. 

"Sometimes I'll see somebody playing like a fifth, sixth string rooted 7th chord and they'll play the entire voicing, but that doesn't feel good to me.

“Most of the time in funk guitar playing the role is a lot more of a percussive role and sometimes filling out some harmonic space. I can still accomplish the harmonic sense of a 7th, but also kind of cover the role of like what bongos, congas or a shaker would do with this thing. 

"So if I think of taking the role of percussion player, and a little bit of some keyboards for harmonic information and mixing them together, it kind of creates what I do. So I'm always thinking about those two things, bringing them together." 

3. Play musical phrases

“Take that 7th chord, with the right hand motor running, I'm breaking up this voice into smaller voices within that and it ends up a lot of times you're sounding more like a riff. 

"Which can be cool because then you come up with a specific part and makes it feel signature to the song rather than just like ‘I don't know what you're doing, you're just jamming on a 7th’. 

“It's a musical phrase, that can be the signature for a verse of a song, or something? And if that's the part you play, it has more intentionality and it's a phrase that makes sense that somebody can grasp onto, so it doesn't just sound like jamming on a 7th."

Simon Arblaster
Video Producer & Reviews Editor

I take care of the reviews on MusicRadar and Future Music magazine, though can sometimes be spotted in front of a camera talking little sense in the presence of real musicians. For the past 30 years, I have been unable to decide on which instrument to master, so haven't bothered. Currently, a lover of all things high-gain in the guitar stakes and never one to resist churning out sub-standard funky breaks, the likes of which you'll never hear.