Watch the Rhythm & Comping Approaches online guitar lesson by Fareed Haque from Soul Jazz Survival Guide
Rhythm and comping approaches: Keep in mind that rhythm guitar playing, or "comping" (accompanying) in jazz and funk music, is primarily a rhythmic role. Funk is not as simple as it might seem. The music is actually pretty darn deep. Methinks Bach would be a funk musician if he was alive today. Funk especially is a very contrapuntal music. This means that bassline, drum pattern, keyboard part, horn parts, vocal parts, and guitar parts all interlock, different lines harmonizing, "bouncing" off each other and building a dance groove.
So, what is a "part"? Typically, we're referring to a repeating figure that is rhythmic, melodic, and creates a counterpoint to the other parts. Check out James Brown to get an idea of this. The great Joe Zawinul once told me to play a guitar part, "Never change it, but never play it the same way twice!" Confusing, huh? The idea here is to find a line that creates a good counterpoint with the bassline and other parts and play simple variations on your part without ever losing the melodic and rhythmic essence of the part.
Typically, rhythm guitar goes along with the hi-hat in funk and the snare in jazz. In soul jazz, we'll find ourselves somewhere in between. Use simple chords, often just the guide tones (3 and 7 are fine, sometimes 3, 7, 9 is fine). Check out Grant and Wes and Pat and George and Kenny! Simple chords and simple repeating rhythms. One of the most common mistakes young funk and jazz guitar players make (and bassists, drummers, and keyboard players for that matter) is that they confuse funk for just randomly whacking away at repeating eighth or sixteenth notes. Funk is subtle, contrapuntal, and powerful music. Don't disrespect this music. Pay attention to the details!