Funk/Rock and R&B Guitar Soloing


Authored by Thaddeus Hogarth


Course Code: OGUIT-328

Next semester starts September 23

12 Weeks

Level 3

Level 3

3-Credit Tuition


Non-Credit Tuition


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.

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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
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Overview Syllabus Requirements Instructors
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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


Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements 

Prerequisite Courses, Knowledge, and/or Skills
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.



  • Students are required to record video while performing with a backing track for their assignments. Options for recording video include:
    • Smartphone
    • Digital camera
    • Webcam (using either video recording software, or the video recording tool that is built into the learning environment)


  • Electric guitar
  • Recommended pedals/effects:
    • Wah-wah
    • Distortion
    • Overdrive
    • Fuzz
    • Chorus
    • Phaser
    • Uni-vibe
    • Flanger
    • Envelope filter


  • Students are required to capture their instrumental performance, as well as monitor audio output. Options include:
    • Input (one required):
      • Instrument connected directly to audio interface (recommended option; alternatively, the microphone options below can be used with amplified instruments)
      • XLR microphone and audio interface
      • USB microphone
      • Built-in computer/mobile device microphone
    • Output (one required):
      • Headphones (recommended option; required if multitracking and/or input monitoring a microphone)
      • Studio monitors and audio interface
      • Built-in or external speakers
  • Instrument cable
  • Note: Depending on your setup, you may also need additional instrument or XLR cables and a microphone stand.

Student Deals
After enrolling, be sure to check out our Student Deals page for various offers on software, hardware, and more. Please contact with any questions.

General Course Requirements

Below are the minimum requirements to access the course environment and participate in Live Classes. Please make sure to also check the Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements section above, and ensure your computer meets or exceeds the minimum system requirements for all software needed for your course. 

Mac Users

PC Users

All Users

  • Latest version of Google Chrome
  • Zoom meeting software
  • Webcam
  • Speakers or headphones
  • External or internal microphone
  • Broadband Internet connection


Thaddeus Hogarth

Author & Instructor

Born in the U.K. and raised in the West Indies, Thaddeus Hogarth is a Professor in the Guitar department at Berklee College of Music. A two-time winner of the Independent Music Award for Best R&B/Blues, he has been a prominent singer songwriter and guitar/chromatic harmonica player on the New England music scene since the early 90's, after graduating from Berklee.

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Thaddeus leads his own group, the Thaddeus Hogarth Band, featuring Tony “Thunder” Smith on drums, Winston Maccow on bass, and David Sparr on keyboards. He has shared the bill or stage with such legends as Tower of Power, Fred Wesley, Ernie Isley, Bernie Worrell, Sinbad, Average White Band, Donald Harrison, James Montgomery, Johnny Winter, and Matt Schofield.

When Bose launched their Personal Amplification System (L1 Series), Thaddeus' band was hand-picked to represent Bose nationwide for the launch of this 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 Boston's Heavy Metal Horns, known for their original heavy hitting funk-rock grooves and full brass sound. Thaddeus was featured on 2 of their internationally released CD’s: Heavy Metal Horns (Square Records) and Horns In The House (Polystar Japan/Danger), and garnered 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 under his own name, a Jimi Hendrix tribute CD and a live concert DVD.

Thaddeus is the author of Funk/R&B Guitar: Creative Solos, Grooves, and Sounds (Hal Leonard/Berklee Press) and Funk/Rock R&B Guitar Soloing (Berklee Online). His "Introduction to Guitar" course on Coursera/Berklee has been featured on The TODAY Show and has reached enrollment surpassing 500,000. 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.” Read Less

What's Next?

When taken for credit, Funk/Rock and R&B Guitar Soloing can be applied towards the completion of these related programs:


Contact our Academic Advisors by phone at 1-866-BERKLEE (U.S.), 1-617-747-2146 (INT'L), or by email at

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