Chanking is a guitar performance technique in funk music that involves both "choking" the guitar neck and strumming the strings percussively to create a distinctive-sounding riff commonly associated with the genre.[1] The technique was popularized by the music of James Brown, later spreading to other genres and performers.

The name "chanking" is either a portmanteau of the words "choking" and "yanking", referring to the procedure involved in the technique, or simply onomatopoeia - a word that sounds like what it describes.

Chanking was developed by James Brown band guitarist Jimmy Nolen as a part of his signature "chicken scratch" sound. The technique appeared first with a double-chank on the first backbeat of each bar in "Out of Sight" (1964),[2] and in "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag" (1965), a song that typified much of Brown's subsequent work.[3] "Chicken scratching" itself differs slightly: the fretting hand lightly squeezes the chord on the neck, then releases suddenly to produce a scratch chord.[4] In particular, Brown used chanking against syncopated bass to produce a unique blend of sounds.[1]

The technique of chanking spread from funk to reggae music.[3][5] Alan Warner, then of The Foundations, also utilized the technique, which left its sound legacy in Europop.[5]


  1. Appell, Glenn; Hemphill, David (2006). American Popular Music: A Multicultural History. Thomson Wadsworth. p. 320. ISBN 0-15-506229-8. Retrieved 2012-01-17.
  2. Williams, Richard (2010). The Blue Moment, p.210. W. W. Norton. ISBN 9780393076639.
  3. The Wire. 173–178. C. Parker. 1998. p. 28. Retrieved 2012-01-17.
  4. Woods, Tricia; Green, Raleigh (2008). The Versatile Guitarist National Guitar Workshop. Alfred Music Publishing. ISBN 0-7390-4805-8. Retrieved 2012-01-17.
  5. Shapiro, Peter (2006). Turn the Beat Around: The Secret History of Disco. Macmillan. pp. 53, 94. ISBN 0-86547-952-6. Retrieved 2012-01-17.

Further reading

  • Gress, Jesse (2009). "How 2 Play Like Prince". Guitar Player Magazine]. Retrieved January 10, 2012.
  • Scofield, John (May 1998). A Go Go. Jazz Times. p. 101.