Funk/Rock and R&B Guitar Soloing

Author: Thaddeus Hogarth   •   Course Code: OGUIT-328

Influential funk guitar greats like Eddie Hazel from Parliament-Funkadelic and Ernie Isley from The Isley Brothers were masters at the percussive riffs and solos that give funk its distinctive groove-based feel. Funk/Rock and R&B Guitar Soloing teaches the tools and effective soloing techniques of the legendary funk guitarists: the appropriate scales, the best use of effects (such as wah-wah, overdrive, distortion, and fuzz), and the rhythmic and melodic development that work together to create an authentic funk-based solo and sound.

The course begins with a primer on the rhythm section and the importance of the Minor Pentatonic scale. You'll move on to cover articulation and picking/plucking techniques, pentatonic superimposition, and creating new scales with string bending.

Throughout the course, you'll review examples from artists such as James Brown, Curtis Mayfield, Isaac Hayes, Ohio Players, Stevie Wonder, Sly and the Family Stone, Jimi Hendrix, Prince, and Soulive to develop a greater understanding of how to apply the techniques covered. The course makes extensive use of state-of-the-art video demonstrations, animated illustrations, and hundreds of notated and recorded examples.

As the course progresses you will practice your soloing over the provided rhythm tracks, and receive expert feedback from your instructor on how to improve your performance.

The course provides the knowledge and skills needed to solo in this genre and any blues based genre with greater facility and awareness, in the context of a professional recording or live music performance.

By the end of the course, you will be able to:

  • Use funk/ R&B picking and string bending techniques in your playing
  • Superimpose the pentatonic scale to expand the harmonic sounds in your solos
  • Apply practice techniques to improve your ear
  • Develop new ideas for your solos
  • Use appropriate scales in your solos
  • Create more interesting, rhythmic and melodic solos
  • Use pedal effects appropriate for the genre
  • Improve your tone

Lesson 1: The Basics of Funk/R&B

  • What Is Funk/R&B?
  • Feeling the Groove: The Importance of Rhythm
  • Playing the Minor Pentatonic Scale

Lesson 2: Learning to Solo

  • Overdrive vs. Fuzz
  • Tube-Powered vs. Solid-State Amplifiers
  • Recognizing Notes on the Fretboard
  • Recognizing Notes by Ear
  • Soloing over Minor Grooves

Lesson 3: Creating Interest with Minor Grooves

  • Using Minor Pentatonic Skips and Steps
  • Creating Rhythmic Solos
  • Using the Minor Pentatonic Scale over Different Chord Tones
  • Non-Diatonic Intervals on the Fretboard

Lesson 4: Using Articulation and Tone Effectively

  • Picking vs. Plucking
  • Muting Techniques
  • Using Slides
  • Hammer-Ons
  • Pull-Offs
  • Using All Attack Devices
  • Ear Training

Lesson 5: String Bending

  • String Bending Techniques
  • Strengthening Finders and Avoiding Injury
  • Playing a Bending Scale

Lesson 6: Major and Dominant 7th Static Grooves

  • Another Funk Scale
  • Playing the Minor Pentatonic Scale over Major Chords
  • Playing the Minor Pentatonic Scale over Dominant 7th Chords

Lesson 7: More Funk/R&B Sounds and Bends

  • More Funk Scales
  • Scale Bends
  • Using Chorus, Phase, Uni-Vibe, and Flange

Lesson 8: Essential Funk/R&B Bends

  • The 4-5 (2-3) Bend/Lick
  • The b7-1 Bend/Lick
  • The 5-b7 Bend/Lick
  • The b3-4 Bend/Lick
  • Using Fretboard Maps to Play Bends and Licks

Lesson 9: Common Musical Scale Combinations

  • The 4-b5, b3-3 Scale
  • All Positions of the 2-b3, 6-b7 Scale
  • Combining the 2-b3 and 6-b7 Scales
  • Using Grace Notes
  • Using Legato

Lesson 10: Sounds and Musical Effects

  • Double-Stop Bends
  • Whole-Tone Licks
  • Diminished Scale Licks
  • Trills and Bends
  • Sustain with Feedback
  • Wah-Wah vs. Envelope Filter

Lesson 11: Expanding Funk/R&B Harmony

  • Minor Pentatonic over a Dominant 7th Chord with a #9 Tension
  • Minor Pentatonic over a Major 7th Chord to Emphasize a #11 Tension
  • 1-b2, b7-7, and 5-b6 Bend Scales
  • Training Your Ears to Recognize Which Modes to Use
  • Determining Which Combinations of Melodic Tools to Solo With

Lesson 12: Putting It All Together

  • Pedalboard Signal Path
  • Economy and Space
  • Transcribing Solos
  • Creating a Listening List

Thaddeus Hogarth

Author & Instructor

Born in the U.K. and raised in the West Indies, Thaddeus Hogarth is an associate professor in the Guitar department at Berklee College of Music. A two-time winner of the Independent Music Award for R&sB/Blues (2001, 2006), he has been a prominent guitar player and singer-songwriter on the New England music scene since 1990, when he graduated from Berklee. He leads his own group, the Thaddeus Hogarth Band, featuring David Buda on bass, Joey Scrima on drums, and David Sparr on keyboards. They have shared the bill or stage with such legends as Tower of Power, Average White Band, James Montgomery, Fred Wesley, and Johnny Winter, and were recently hand-picked to represent Bose nationwide for the launch of its revolutionary live music amplification technology.

His work also includes collaboration with the reggae legend and Grammy nominee, Sister Carol. Prior to this, Hogarth was the principal singer-songwriter and guitarist for Heavy Metal Horns, known for their original heavy hitting funk-rock grooves and full brass sound. The band released two CDs with international distribution—Heavy Metal Horns (Square Records) and Horns In The House (Polystar Japan/Danger), in addition to garnering awards such as Best New Band (Boston magazine, 1990) and Outstanding Club Act (Boston Music Awards, 1992). Since then, he has released four award-winning solo CDs and a live concert DVD, and is the author of Funk/R&sB Guitar: Creative Solos, Grooves, and Sounds (Hal Leonard/Berklee Press). His music and voice can be heard worldwide in full-length and independent short feature films, commercial television, PBS, and MTV. Billboard magazine describes Hogarth's music as "Soul Terra Firma," and the Boston Globe calls him a "guitar virtuoso."

For more information on Thaddeus Hogarth, visit his Web site at:


Completion of Guitar Chords 101 and Guitar Scales 101 or equivalent knowledge and experience is required. A minimum of two years of electric guitar playing experience with fundamental knowledge of chords and rhythm, in addition to good single note scale facility. Guitar tablature, fretboard maps, and traditional notation will be used throughout the course.

Required Textbook

Funk/R&B Guitar: Creative Solos, Grooves, and Sounds by Thaddeus Hogarth, Berklee Press/Hal Leonard

Software Requirements

Mac Users

  • OS X 10.9 Mavericks or higher (click here for system requirements)
  • Latest version of Google Chrome

Windows Users

  • Windows 7 or higher (click here for system requirements)
  • Latest version of Google Chrome

A recording tool is provided within the course that will allow students to record videos of themselves playing for assignment submission.  Alternatively, students can use a digital camera, smartphone, or tablet to record assignments.

Hardware Requirements

  • Recommended pedals: wah-wah, distortion
  • Other useful effects include overdrive, fuzz, chorus, phase, uni-vibe, flange, and envelope filter
  • A built-in microphone or an external microphone plugged directly into your computer
  • USB audio interface to record guitar to your computer if not using microphone (recommended)
  • 2 GB RAM (4 GB recommended)
  • 500 MB hard drive space
  • Speakers or headphones
  • Webcam
  • Internet connection with at least 4 Mbps download speed ( to verify or download the Speedtest by Ookla app from your mobile app store)


Got a question? Contact our Academic Advisors by phone at 1-866-BERKLEE (U.S.), 1-617-747-2146 (INT'L), or by email at We can also answer basic questions in the comments below. Please note that all comments are public.

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