Funk is a genre that originated in America in the late 60s when African American musicians mixed soul, soul jazz, and rhythm and blues into a music you could dance to. The term funk commonly refers to an offensive odor, or has roots semantically to the smell of tobacco smoke, according to dictionary definitions of the word. Musicians, however, applied this term to music having a slow groove, which later evolved into a constant, hard-driving force that implied gritty or bodily qualities.
Funk uses bass instruments to create a groove that is very intense. Slap bass mixed low notes with high notes to give the instruments a drum-like quality sound which is a current staple of funk music today. It also used extended chords but abandoned chord changes for vamping, which had very little movement harmonically. Instead, it had a complex rhythmic feel that powered the music.
Chords used in most funk music have a dorian or mixolydian implication rather than a natural minor tone in most popular songs. Mixing these modes with the blues scale created the melodic content. The guitarists of funk bands use a wah-wah sound effect and mute the notes to create a percussion sound.
James Brown developed a groove that emphasized the downbeat of funk music. He placed emphasis on the first beat of every measure to create a unique, distinct sound, rather than using a backbeat that was typical of most African American music. He would cue his band by saying, “on the one,” which would change the emphasis of his percussion from a one-TWO-three-FOUR backbeat to onE-two-three-four -- an entirely different backbeat with a guitar rhythm that had a syncopated rhythm on the second and fourth quarter notes, thus giving his songs a hard-driving swing.