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  • Chris Anderson

Music Revision - Vocal Music - Funk & Gospel

Continuing our alphabetical trip through vocal music today we stop at funk and gospel.


Funk music is a genre that originated in the United States in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It is characterised by its rhythmic grooves, syncopated bass-lines, and emphasis on danceability. Funk music emerged as a fusion of various musical styles, including soul, R&B (rhythm and blues), and jazz, and it has since influenced a wide range of genres - including disco.

Rhythm and Groove: Funk is known for its infectious and tight rhythms. It typically features a strong emphasis on the downbeat, with syncopated rhythms and a driving, energetic feel. The drum patterns in funk are often intricate, and they incorporate elements of syncopation and polyrhythms.

Bass-lines: The bass guitar plays a crucial role in funk music. Funk bass-lines are often melodic, groovy, and prominent in the mix. They are typically played with a percussive and rhythmic approach, creating a solid foundation for the rest of the music.

Horn Section: Funk often incorporates a horn section, including trumpets, saxophones, and trombones. The horn arrangements add punch, power, and a sense of dynamics to the music. Horns are frequently used to play catchy riffs and melodic hooks.

Syncopation and Offbeat Accents: Funk heavily employs syncopated rhythms and offbeat accents. These rhythmic variations create a sense of groove and make the music feel exciting and lively. Instruments in the funk ensemble, such as guitars, keyboards, and percussion, contribute to this rhythmic complexity.

Call-and-Response: Funk frequently employs call-and-response patterns between different instruments or vocalists. This technique involves one part of the music “calling” with a musical phrase, followed by another part “responding” with a complementary phrase. Call-and-response adds a dynamic and interactive element to the music.

Improvisation: Funk music often allows for improvisation, particularly in instrumental sections. Musicians have the freedom to express themselves through solos and spontaneous musical ideas, showcasing their individual skills and creativity.

Soulful Vocals: Funk vocals are characterised by their soulful and expressive delivery. Singers in funk often use a mix of melodic singing, shouting, and rhythmic spoken-word elements. The lyrics may touch upon social issues, personal experiences, or simply celebrate the joy of dancing and having a good time.

Sampling and Sampling Culture: Funk has had a significant influence on hip-hop music and culture. Many classic funk recordings have been sampled in hip-hop tracks, allowing funk music to reach new audiences and continue to inspire generations of musicians.

Some notable artists associated with funk include James Brown, George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic, Sly and the Family Stone, Earth, Wind & Fire, and Prince. Funk music's energetic and infectious grooves continue to be enjoyed and appreciated by music lovers around the world.


Gospel music is a genre deeply rooted in African American religious traditions and has strong ties to Christian faith. It emerged in the early 20th century as a form of expression within African American churches, drawing influences from spirituals, hymns, and blues. Gospel music is characterised by its passionate vocals, uplifting lyrics, and soulful sound.

Christian Lyrics and Themes: Gospel music's lyrics revolve around Christian themes, including faith, salvation, praise, worship, and biblical narratives. The lyrics often express personal and collective experiences of religious devotion, struggles, and triumphs.

Vocal Power and Expressiveness: Gospel music is known for its powerful and emotive vocal performances. Singers employ various techniques such as melisma (ornamental vocal runs), vocal runs, and ad-libs to convey deep emotions and spiritual fervour. Gospel vocalists often showcase their range, control, and ability to convey the message with intensity and soulfulness.

Call and Response: Gospel music frequently incorporates call and response patterns, where a lead singer or group calls out a phrase or line, and the choir or congregation responds. This creates a participatory and interactive element, encouraging engagement and collective worship.

Gospel Choirs and Vocal Harmony: Gospel music often features choirs that provide rich vocal harmonies and backing vocals. The harmonies enhance the overall sound, adding depth and creating a sense of unity and community. Gospel choirs are known for their ability to create a powerful and uplifting atmosphere.

Rhythmic Diversity: Gospel music encompasses a wide range of rhythmic styles. It can have a steady and rhythmic feel or incorporate elements of syncopation, creating a dynamic and lively groove. The rhythmic patterns in gospel draw influences from African rhythms, blues, and other African American musical traditions.

Instrumentation: While gospel music initially relied primarily on vocal performances, it has incorporated various musical instruments over time. Traditional gospel music often features piano, organ, and drums, but modern gospel can also include guitars, bass, horns, and other instruments.

Gospel Quartets: Gospel quartets are smaller vocal groups consisting of four singers who blend their voices in tight harmonies. Quartets were popular in the early days of gospel music and contributed to the development of the genre.

Influence on Popular Music: Gospel music has had a profound influence on various other genres, including soul, R&B, rock and roll, and even contemporary pop music. Many artists, such as Aretha Franklin, Sam Cooke, and Al Green, began their careers in gospel before crossing over to secular music.

Gospel music continues to be an integral part of worship services in churches and is celebrated through dedicated gospel music events and festivals. Its messages of faith, hope, and inspiration resonate with people of diverse backgrounds and have made a significant impact on the world of music.

My Top Five “Gospel” Pieces

1. Oh Happy Day (Sister Act 2)

2. Let It Be (Across The Universe)

3. The Old Landmark (The Blues Brothers)

4. Change In My Life (Leap Of Faith)

5. Happy Ending (Mika)

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