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Watch the Pop Scotch online guitar lesson by Robben Ford from Rhythm Revolution

James Brown's music was very paired down in terms of use of instruments and use of chordal instruments. It was basically bass, drums, a couple of rhythm guitars and horns. It sounds like a lot of instruments but never thick in the middle which is where you'd find a piano or a b3 or guitars, but the way the Blue Flames used the guitar, the guitar was very akin to a percussion instrument. It hinted a chord, a nine chord, or a simple seventh chord. So it's sparse, a lot of space in between the instruments. So you get this rhythmic popping thing. I'm playing that nine chord which is classic James Brown, like "Cold Sweat". That little finger gets a lot of support from those other two fingers. Our little progression goes to a G seven. I'm often prone to pairing down chords, such as third seventh and fifth, or third seventh and root and so normally I might play that sparse of a seventh chord voicing. Now you get the rhythm and the basic harmony of the chord. James Brown music is very sparse so there is room for all those notes, low notes. It's nice to hear them because of all the space because no acoustics, other rhythm guitars, organs or piano. And then just a classic baseline. And you'll notice I got my hands on the strings to give it that dampened sound, I play a lot of my guitar with the butt end or rounded end of the pick and in this case I'm playing with the tip of the pick. Here I'm making a choice. I'm not just doing what I normally do. This is a particular instance that calls for a particular approach and so I'm using the pointy end of the pick because it's percussive, and kind of bright and reminds me of the sound of the James Brown guitar player. You can hear those notes even though your hand is laying on it so they're padded. This is a voicing of a nine chord but I'm taking out the ninth and dampening it because I like the sound better. Having the notes more spread out. If you looked at it on the piano, they are really far apart so you can hear the notes individually and hear the movement really clearly. If you do this instead, to me, it's kind of cloudy sounding. This is another D minor six, also partially seventh, and the sixth on top. But I'm just playing those top three notes. My finger is extended over these three strings to help dampen them. I think I played that voicing as well, D thirteen, a very funky voicing. D thirteen raised nine and just so you know - you can play that same voicing here. So, you don't want to use too many voicings, too many colors, because it's really about rhythm and percolation and sparseness. So I wouldn’t play a chord that is too harmonic, that can take away from what's really the focus - the rhythm. I would play a voicing that's pretty thick but I'd keep to that seventh or ninth chord. G seven or once in a while I might hit a chord with more harmonic information. However it's just a punch and it's gone and then you're back. You play to the song. Whatever voicings you choose have to be geared to the song and what the song is trying to communicate. With this kind of music, seventh and ninth chords are best. Beyond that a little bit off salt and pepper once in a while, but really kept to a minimum. That is the essence of this kind of music, this kind of R&B.