Beginners Funk Groove Apexes
An apex is defined as a high point or climax. In the context of funk grooves, the word apex may not be the best one used to describe it, since an 'apex' can ascend OR descend harmonically speaking and indeed it is the harmony that creates the apex. We could call them peaks & troughs, but we'll stick with apex for now.
Every groove or bassline can be said to have an apex, but I'd like to suggest that it would be useful if we only describe a groove as having an apex when it is immediately apparent & can be felt without searching for it. Typically, the apex of a groove is the highest or lowest note played.
With that said, I'd just like to highlight a few easy funk groove apexes that I've transcribed for everyone to sink their teeth into.
Note that an apex could be used to describe other aspects of the music such as dynamics, rhythm etc. but since funk grooves are primarily driven by rhythmic repetition & heavy accents on certain beats, we're getting the whole package anyway.
This first groove, is to me, the pinnacle of funk groove apex examples because it contains a clear ascending apex in the first bar and a just as clear descending apex in the second.
It's a D7 groove and it just climbs up the arpeggio: Root, Major 3rd, 5th, b7, octave or D, F#, A, C, D. There is beauty in simplicity. Note that when we're on the root, the rhythm is relaxed. There's a sense of staticness with the breif relief on both ends, but when we're travelling, there is harmonic AND rhythmic tension. Don't forget to pin the groove to the first beat of every measure with a heavy accent.
When I first heard this song and thus when I first danced to it, the apex was so strong that even when I was dancing, I distinctly remember doing something that involved me finishing standing erect at the end of the first bar and then descending into a hunched position at the end of the second; and this was long before I even played bass or knew anything about the theory of music; that bassline made me move according to how it was played.
The song is The JB's - Gimme Some More
This next groove is a strong 8th note based line in Cm and has a distinct descending apex, with a more faultering, ascending pick up at the end of every second bar. I always picture this groove as steadily falling down some '8th note stairs' before reaching the bottom and scrambling to the top again before the start of the next bar. Harmonically, we're just travelling down the C minor blues scale and resting on the 4: C, Bb, G, F#, F. Parliament - Flashlight
If the last groove apex had a strong, steady, descending line and a less pronounced, fast ascending one, then this groove has a slow, strong, ascending line and a speedier more complex descending one. Another JB tune, this time an Eb dominant groove. James Brown - Talkin' Loud And Saying Nothin'
Finally, here is a more ambiguous groove apex. Again in D7, the first 3 notes give the impression that we're about to just descend down the D7 arpeggio
Note that in 3 out of 4 of these groove apexes, once you have reached the peak or trough, you're left hanging around for around just over a beat, this feels like the key to these apexes for me. It's the motion followed by pausing and space that really brings them out.