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"The Funk 3-7 Tritone Flip, as heard in "Uptown Funk"

Hey Everybody welcome to the spotter spots vlog. Today we’re going to take a look at Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars’ hit “Uptown Funk” and how it uses the “Funk 3&7 Tritone Flip”—what that is exactly, where it comes from, as well as some other funky tunes that have put this little tonal trick, to work for them.


Okay, so, what it is, is when you play the 3rd and 7th chord tones of a minor one-seven chord type (i7), here colored in blue, followed by the 3rd and 7th chord tones of a major four-seven chord type (IV7)  sounds like this. [DEMO]


Okay, but that’s not all you do: to make it all tight and funky, what you do is, you invert, or flip, one of these 3-7 intervals, so that the 3rd chord tone of the minor one-seven chord (i7) matches up with the 7th chord tone of the major four-seven (IV7). These two notes, which were an octave apart, are now in unison, or they’re the same note. So now it sound like this: [DEMO]


Now, when it comes to how this trick is used in pop music, it doesn’t really matter which “3-7” you flip—people do it both ways. Up here on the board, I flipped the G7’s 7th chord-tone to match up with 3rd of Dm7. But, I really only chose that way because it fits nicer on the staff here. In the song “Uptown Funk”, the guitar riff flips it the other way, so the unison is on top, and the tritone is approached from a perfect 4th (P4), rather than a perfect 5th (P5) interval. But yeah, here’s what that sounds like: [DEMO] So, you can make your own decision which way is better, or more to your liking. And, there you have it, the Funk 3-7 flip—to the tritone.


Okay, so here’s the thing though: you can play these intervals in any kind of music, right? So, but, then, what ties what we’re doing here specifically to the Funk genre?


Well, first off, songs in the Funk Genre have a very high percentage of these guys, these “major four chords”. See, in most other genres, minor keys use “minor four chords”, not major. Or, to look at it another way: in most other songs, that B natural right there is a B flat, like the key signature says it should be. I mean, show me that natural 6th minor scale degree on the staff—I’ll guess it’s going to be a funk tune every time, or something related to it, like hip hop or something else inspired by funk.


Okay, another way of looking at it, is to go a step further and say that it’s the key signature that’s wrong, that we should actually just straight up change the key signature to line up with the loop’s natural 6th, and then describe the music as being in the Dorian mode, which is still one of the minor modes, it just specifically prefers that raised six scale degree, which again makes the IV chord a major triad, instead of a minor triad.


Okay, one more thing that makes this Dorian sounding, 3-7 flip, more related to the Funk genre, is the fact that the tritone interval, specifically, is to be found in the major IV chord—as opposed to it being found in either of the other primary chords V or I.  See, in most other genres, the tritone is found in the V7, like “I, IV, I, V7, I.” I mean that’s music theory class day one, or in songs like: [DEMO] Okay so yeah, that’s V7 tritones, from some other different kinds of tunes.


Additionally though, to draw even more of a contrast in genres, this ‘devil’s interval’, as some call it, is in a ton of heavy metal and rock hits, where it’s heard in the Ib5 chord, and where that b5 is everyone’s favorite “blue note”. Like check this out, it’s like: [DEMO]. But yeah, for funk though, the tritone is found more often in the IV—not the V or the I.


And, yeah, okay smart guys, some of you may be wondering by now: “But dude, what about the Blues and Blues-rock genres? Those are genres where you hear the tritone in all the primary chords: where you hear it in the I, the IV, and the V, because, you know: they all have dominant 7s with tritones? And yeah, good question, good for you for pointing that out. But again, in “Uptown Funk”, and other funk tunes of this tonal palate, it’s that it’s heard in only, specifically, the IV. I mean, “Uptown Funk” for instance, doesn’t even have a major I or a V you could even put a tritone in, even if you wanted too. So, yeah.


Okay, one more thing that makes this riff a Funk riff, and not a blues riff—or a rock riff—is its rhythm. So yeah, let me just blow your mind for a second:


-Rock and Roll, is mostly based on rhythms with duple subdivisions, like this [DEMO]. Duplets, right?


-And blues is mostly based on rhythms with triplet subdivisions, like this: [DEMO]. Triplets, right?


-But, finally, Funk—you guessed it, funk is based on quadruplet subdivisions, like this: [DEMO]


So yeah, it’s in these quadruplet rhythms, with their funky accents and syncopations, that we have just given life, to this new child of rock and roll, rhythm and blues—baby funk.


Okay, cool, quadruplets, 16ths… but um, yeah, in case you were wondering, as of yet, there’s no music genre based on quintuplets, or ‘5s’, because, that would be pretty nuts, pretty insane. I mean, maybe like, robot musicians of the future will figure it out, how to make and sustain a genre like that, be like “1-2-3-4-5-1-2-3-4-5”, but for now, quadruplets is where we leave it.


Alright, last: other songs with the minor one (i) to major four (IV), quadruplet beats, Dorian bent, tritone-in-the-IV-not-I-or-V, funky flavors:


-“Chameleon”, by Herbie Hancock.

-“Pick up the pieces”, by Average White Band.

-“Right Place Wrong Time”, by Dr. John.

-“Get Up (I Feel Like Being a Sex Machine)” by James Brown.

-“Brick House”, by the Commodores.


Okay, well, that’s it for now. And so: until next time, make sure to like us, subscribe, and follow us on all the websites, and if you got some time, you should stick around and watch another music theory and songwriting video from the vlogs! Alright, Thanks, and have a good one!