This week we’re looking at the tune Play That Funky Music and the odd bass line you may or may not be aware of

The Play That Funky Music Mystery

This week I’ve got a breakdown of a tune that many of you will have played before. Play That Funky Music by Wild Cherry.

Now, anyone that’s played in any kind of wedding or function band will have played this at some point. It’s a seemingly easy tune with only 2 riffs and a run to learn. But, why are we looking at something so mind bendingly simple. Well it’s because there’s a really weird note in there that many of you may be playing wrong.

There are two main riffs in this tune. It flirts between E and E minor tonality (E7 being the basis of the more major key aspect of it) and the main two riffs are as follows:

Riff #1:

Riff #2

Then the second riff sounds like this.

The part we really want to look at is the line that follows the vocal part: “Lay down that boogie and play that funky music ’til you die.”

The temptation is to double it by starting on the high E (as sung in the vocal part) but the line actually starts on a C:

On first hearing this can seem totally weird and wrong when you play it away from the tune.

The Reason Revealed!

So why do we have this weird C note in there? Well we’re actually outlining a minor cadence in the chord progression (bVI-V-I):

C7 – B7 – Em

If we were to just stick to an Em or E major in the harmony, the line wouldn’t really work. We need a turnaround of some kind to bring it back round to the E.

So we are actually outlining the C7 or C major in the bass line and then also playing the B before finally landing on the E. So what can seem like a strange note is actually a very straightforward root note. We’re just outlining the harmony!

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