Trumpet player Gary Winters is a member of Fred Wesley and the New JB’s. He has worked with some of the most prestigious names in funk and jazz including Pee Wee Ellis, Fred Wesley, Bootsy Collins, George Clinton, Bobby Byrd, Lenny Kravitz and performed with artists that include The Temptations, Lionel Richie, and Aretha Franklin among many others. He is an established jazz and commercial musician, arranger and educator, founding and co-directing ‘Funk 101’ open workshops with Pee Wee.
He will be leading our ninth Artistic Directors Series in August alongside Pee Wee Ellis.
Here Gary shares his top tips for playing, composing and performing funk…
1. Keep your part simple. When playing or composing a funk groove, you are playing only part of an interlocking musical statement. If you play too much you do not allow any space for the other musicians to make their musical statement in forming the groove. In most cases playing less is better.
2. Stick to your part. Funk grooves are composed of repetitive musical statements by each instrument. If you change your part it effects the whole groove. If you do change your part make sure to communicate with the other musicians in the group. They may have to change their part to make the groove work.
3. Keep the tempo steady. To make everyone’s parts lock-in, the beat must be consistent. Varying tempos will result in uncertainty of where to play one’s part. This uncertainty can be felt by the players as well as by the audience. Use the audience as a barometer of the effectiveness of the groove. If they are “movin’, groovin’ and smilin'” then the groove is working. If not, then take notice and fix it so that it does work.
4. Build a strong foundation. The drums and bass player have to be funk brothers. They are responsible for laying the foundation so that others can build upon that foundation. The communication between the drums and bass is paramount for everything to work. Look at and listen to each other. Would you ever carry on a conversation with someone having your back turned to them and not listening to what they have to say? Communication between the drums and bass is a crucial part in establishing a strong and effective groove.
5. Funk music is a communication that involves everyone; the musicians and the audience. There should be no barrier separating the performers on stage and the audience. It is a music filled with heart-felt emotion and should be played with enthusiasm and attitude. Just playing the notes does not work. Play as if you are carrying a conversation to get your audience excited. As in being an effective speaker use a range of dynamics, emotions, and silence which allows one to breath and creates a dramatic effect. Allow the audience the opportunity to communicate back to you. And, most of all “HAVE FUN!”