I’ve pulled together 10 funk chord progressions from some of the most famous songs ever written, and a few of my favorites from my life.
From the punchy guitar strumming to the slapping bass lines to the tight drum beats to the poppy horn sections, funk music makes your body move (even if you don’t want it to). I believe that the world could use more dancing, and that means the world could use more funk.
So I hope this list will help you to add some more dance-able music to this world.
1. iv VI i VII
These first two chords progressions come from the most popular funk songs in recent memory. This one is from “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk. Daft Punk is known for songs that are incredibly repetitive, but also incredibly catch. This song is no exception. “Get Lucky” uses the same chord progression throughout the entire song.
Chords from the song: B minor, D major, F# minor, E major
2. ii IV ii IV
The other incredibly popular funk song in recent memory is “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson/Bruno Mars. There are a handful of chord progressions you can use in this song, but I’ve picked out the one from the bridge, where they say “uptown funk you up, uptown funk you up.”
Related List: 8 Reggae Chord Progressions That Define The Genre
Chords from the song: D minor, G major, D minor, G major
3. i iv V
This funk chord progression comes from my favorite funk song, “Boogie Wonderland.” There’s just something about this song that will not let my body sit still.
Chords from the song: D minor, G minor, A major
4. IV7 I7 IV7 I7
Another of my favorite funk songs, this comes from “(Every Time I Turn Around) Back In Love Again” by L.T.D. A lot of the accompaniment in this song is done by the horn section, which is super common in the genre. This progression comes from the song’s chorus.
Chords from the song: A flat major 7, E flat major 7, A flat major 7, E flat major 7
5. I IV I
This funk chord progression comes from one of the most well known funk songs (and the only song I know to implement the lyric “scooby dooby doo”), “Everyday People” by Sly and the Family Stone. Not all funk songs have a prominent drum track. Some, like this one, get their rhythmic feel from the piano. And the result is a more low key funk vibe.
Related List: 8 Joyful Calypso Chord Progressions
Chords from the Song: G major, C major, Gmajor
6. I IV I IV I V
“Celebration” by Kool & The Gang is one of my go to songs for casual family karaoke. Sometimes I will just turn YouTube karaoke on our TV at home in the evenings and my daughters and I will sing along and dance around the room. We use the remote controls as our microphones and it’s such a blast.
Anyways…this song has a great quick moving chord progression using the three most used chords in popular music: the I, IV and V chords. You’ll hear these chords in nearly every style of music as well (in dreamy music for example).
Chords in the song: C major, F major, C major, F major, C major, G major
7. iv VI VII iv
This chord progression comes from “Brick House” by the Commodores. 90% of the sound in the song is provided by the drums, bass guitar and the horn section. This is like a genre defining song here. Truth be told, this chord progression isn’t doing a lot of work. I think you could play this whole song on the A minor chord and there would be a huge change in the sound, but the main riff does follow the somewhat rare iv VI VII iv progression.
Chords from the song: A minor, D major, C major, A minor
8. I I7 I6 I
This subtle funk progression comes from “Play That Funky Music” by Wild Cherry. A lot of the flavor of this song comes from a little funk-style guitar riff that plays over the verses. The prominent bass line is all centered around the root note, and the guitar riff hits the 7th, 6th and 5th in the scale.
Chords from the song: E major, E dominant 7, E major add 6, E major
9. I7 IV7 I7 V7 IV7 I7
This chord progression comes from the main riff of “I Got You (I Feel Good)” by James Brown & The Famous Flames. It’s for sure one of the most famous and recognizable funk songs ever recorded, so it’s no wonder that it’s using the most recognizable chords.
Chords from the song: D dominant 7, G dominant 7, D dominant 7, A dominant 7, G dominant 7, D dominant 7
10. iv i VII i
This chord progression comes from “Super Freak” by Rick James, and while it sounds like a I, IV, V chord progression it actually turns out to be a i, iv, VII. The sound in this song comes almost completely from the guitar riff. It’s almost hard to call it a chord progression, but if you listen to the echoing keyboard behind the riff you can hear the chords.
Chords from the song: D minor, A minor, G major, A minor
Making Your Music Funky
Chord progressions will never be enough to create a certain style of music. There are characteristics outside of the notes that define those styles. Here are some of the common themes I’ve seen in funk music that differentiate it.
- Tempo – Funk music makes you want to dance, this almost always means the music has a tempo between 100 bpm and 140 bpm
- Standard drum beats – Underneath most of these songs you’ll hear a 4/4 time signature with the bass drum hitting on 1 and 3 and the snare hitting on 2 and 4.
- Bass riffs – Not all bass riffs are played by a bass guitar (see “Play That Funky Music”), but lots of funk songs has bassy riffs that carry the song
- Horns – Trumpets, French horns and trombones (maybe a tuba here and there) are featured often
- Poppy rhythm guitar – Rhythm guitar in funk music is very much a style of its own. There’s lots of quick, poppy strumming, often only on the top 2-3 strings of the guitar.
So take these 10 funk chord progressions for what they are: a starting point for the creation of music that requires a personal fingerprint to come to life.