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Learn key chords from Bruno Mars songs

Bruno Mars
(Image credit: Rich Fury/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)

Bruno Mars might not be your typical guitar slinger, but his funk-inspired pop is full of fantastic chords and interesting voicings. In this lesson we’re going to break down a few funky chord choices from some of Bruno’s hits.

As well as his own guitar chops, some big name players have contributed to Bruno’s work, both live and in the studio. You can expect to hear guitar tracks on record and live from Mateus Asato, Mark Ronson and Phredley Brown among others.

Let’s check out some chords from Bruno’s catalogue and get funky!

Fmin9

Chord

(Image credit: Future)

The Fmin9 chord is a fantastic funk chord. You can hear it all over the Bruno Mars track 24K Magic. It’s refreshing to hear interesting chords like a min9 across a mainstream track.

This makes a great substitute for any Minor or Minor 7 style chord, the 9 combined with the b3 makes for a dark but funky sound.

This shape can be a bit of a stretch when you play it from lower root notes, but it’s worth the stretch!


G#maj7

Chord

(Image credit: Future)

This G#maj7, as heard in Treasure, is an interesting take on the chord, because although this is technical a major 7, the major 3rd has been removed.

In funk, a lot of the time guitar players will remove notes from chords to free up space for other instruments in the mix. This is a great example of how an important note can be removed, but the chord can still function as intended. This contains just the 1, 5 and 7.


C#7

Chord

(Image credit: Future)

In the track Billionaire, which is a track Bruno guested on (But he himself regularly plays on his own tours), starts with a laid back acoustic loop. This loop contains a C#7 chord with the lowest 5th removed.

The root is handled with the thumb and the higher notes with the index finger and middle finger (Though the third finger will also work). This removal of duplicate intervals is a great way to free up some space in a chord and make it sound more “to the point”. 


B7#9

Chord

(Image credit: Future)

On the Silk Sonic track Fly Like Me, you can hear this great variation of the E7#9 'Hendrix' Chord. This is a chord that you don’t often see many players shift around but, in this track, there are a few James Brown-style stabs with this famous chord rooted from a B.

Mateus Asato handles guitar duties live for this project but it’s likely that the studio guitar was tracked by Mars himself.

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Leigh Fuge is a guitar player and content creator with a love for all things '80s. When he’s not creating gear demos for his Youtube channel (opens in new tab) he’s teaching students via his online guitar course Right Notes Music Tuition (opens in new tab). Off camera he spends most of his time travelling around the UK performing at functions and corporate events.  www.instagram.com/leighfugeguitar