Funk and Dance Music With Horns

DJs use horn sound effects to add impactful transitions between songs and increase excitement during their sets, or to focus attention on specific beats or drops in the music.

Air horn sounds are an integral component of dance music, having first made their debut in Jamaica’s dancehall scene. They quickly spread through Jamaican selectors who select prerecorded tracks for DJs to mix and play live, spreading riddim style hip hop.

1. Earth Wind & Fire

Earth Wind & Fire was one of the pioneering bands when it comes to funk and dance music with horns, making an indelible mark on American musical culture in general and black American society in particular. Maurice White created an innovative style which helped bridge black and white America musical tastes together through his high-caliber musicianship, genre eclecticism, multicultural spirituality and 70s cultural spirituality to craft an appealing sound which appealed to diverse audiences.

Funk was made by using brass instruments as the backbone of his arrangements, including the brass section as its cornerstone. Music industry expert Thomas Harrison notes in his book, The Songwriter’s Secrets to Success, that not only did these horns provide melodic hooks, they “synthesized the sounds of dance hall” and offered rhythmic guides for dancers. Their distinctive sound provided structure for rest of musical arrangement allowing dancers to synchronize their moves to it.

This track features an arrangement that makes the trumpets and saxophones sound very closely in pitch – an essential trick when writing for small horn sections; any differences can cause dissonances that sound muggy and thin, making it hard to achieve an ensemble sound with only three or four players. Experienced studio arrangers know exactly how to extract maximum results out of limited resources.

2. Tower of Power

Tower of Power’s multiracial lineup made a lasting impactful statement about American music in the 1970s. Along with Chicago and Blood, Sweat & Tears, Tower of Power made an indelible mark with its mixture of R&B, soul, jazz and funk music that helped to influence rock bands to incorporate brass instruments. Their drummer David Garibaldi became one of the major influences behind what later came to be known as funk drumming; his percussive concepts continue to shape how people approach drumming to this day.

Garibaldi and co-founding member Stephen Kupka on baritone saxophone formed the iconic Tower of Power horn section, featured on recordings by Santana, Elton John, Huey Lewis & the News and Bonnie Raitt among many other artists. Additionally, the band has played an instrumental role in jam band scenes around the country alongside Jefferson Starship and Grateful Dead.

Tower of Power makes their triumphant return with this tribute to classic 1970s funk and soul music. Starting off groovy enough with the horns playing over an energetic bass line from Garibaldi’s rhythm section, then strings and horns take off on an explosive journey sure to get your feet tapping along with every beat!

3. James Brown

Brown was revered as “The Godfather of Soul,” due to his immense influence on funk and soul music, earning him this moniker. His distinct vocal style, dance moves and musical arrangements had an incredible effect on numerous artists both domestically and abroad. Additionally, he was well-known social activist who often addressed political or racial themes through songwriting.

Self-taught musician James Brown began his professional music career with Bobby Byrd’s Gospel Starlighters (later changing to Famous Flames). Brown made an immediate impact with his first recording, Please, Please, Please; which was an instantaneous hit across America and helped establish him as one of the top selling artists globally. By his second release The Greatest Show on Earth he had become one of the greatest selling acts ever seen before!

Two of Brown’s biggest hits, Give It Up or Turn It Loose and Cold Sweat, demonstrated his mastery of New Orleans funk music and distinguished him from other artists of his era. These recordings would go on to have an immense influence on modern dance music styles such as house and drum ‘n bass.

Brown was released from prison in the late ’80s and began touring and recording several successful albums under Polydor’s Star Time label. Today his work remains an integral part of modern music – in 2015 the city of Augusta, Georgia even commissioned 19 local artists to decorate 23 traffic signal control cabinets as a tribute to James Brown.

4. Stax

Stax Records was formed by country music fiddle player Jim Stewart and Estelle Axton after an unsuccessful start with Satellite Records, creating an informal yet family environment in its early years. Black and white musicians and singers created albums together in relaxed conditions without worrying about union session rates, creating new sounds out of ideas jotted down on paper, memories from gospel songs or rhythm licks that might make children dance on American Bandstand.

Jerry Wexler was among the earliest industry figures to recognize the promise of Memphis Sound music. He brought in Al Bell as manager, promoted Sam & Dave, Wilson Pickett, Johnnie Taylor, Otis Redding and Isaac Hayes and established them nationally before they eventually disbanded as tensions rose among members. Unfortunately, this harmony eventually collapsed under pressure of increasing racial tensions within Stax records and caused its decline.

The young instrumental sextet known as the Bar-Kays was among the first groups to join Stax Records. Their 1961 record, Last Night, captured all of the sensual textures, jabbing horns and seductive rhythm emphasis that would become the signature sound of Stax/Volt recordings for decades to come. Steve Cropper brought an element of rock & roll to Stax; at the same time he helped define Memphis soul as part of America’s soul scene.

5. The Temptations

The Temptations were the quintessential Motown vocal group, famous for their energetic stage moves and sophisticated harmonies. From early soul classics to forays into funk and psychedelic music, their songs have proven immensely popular; perhaps their most iconic tune being this timeless ballad that featured all original members – an orchestral composition featuring beautiful falsetto vocals encapsulating manly passion in this timeless ballad that spoke volumes about love for men everywhere.

After David Ruffin left in 1968, The Temptations struggled to maintain their high level of output. Producer-writer Norman Whitfield restructured them in such a way as to emphasize shifts in dynamics, syncopated horn stabs, and intricate harmony arrangements which highlighted each member’s voice – this style served as an early precursor of more socially-conscious psychedelic soul releases by the band in later years.

Kanye West gave Just Blaze of Roc-A-Fella, one of his mainstays at the time, the sample from “Encore,” creating an unforgettable track on Late Registration that showcased Just Blaze’s unique sound — perfect for his inspirational verses and unforgettable chorus. A powerful horn section transformed this song into something truly royal-sounding; just listen below if you need some dancing inspiration!

6. The Four Tops

The Four Tops remain one of only ten groups ever to feature every original member – and so their influence on dance music with horns remains undiminished to this day. Established as Four Aims back in 1952, and though other groups (such as Simon & Garfunkel ) may have outlasted them (such as Simon & Garfunkel ), few male vocal groups can match The Four Tops in terms of longevity or hits produced.

Motown music drew on themes of love, heartbreak and longing that resonated throughout their songs, yet these tracks stood out because their lead singer Levi Stubbs sang baritone vocals instead of the more typical tenor voices that typically fronted male and mixed vocal groups at that time. Together with Holland-Dozier-Holland songwriting team they were an unstoppable force in the music world.

This version is one of their best-known hits and an exemplary example of Motown beat’s power to make music truly irresistible. From its pounding snare drum beat to background singers shouting out “Bernadette,” it makes people rise from their seats.

This song serves as an excellent demonstration of how horn sections can add life and rhythm to an upbeat dance track. Beginning with an intoxicating fanfare that will instantly recall classic news broadcast music, then transitioning into more standard orchestral rhythm section chords before finally the chorus’s familiar riffing and harmony will bring this track alive for anyone familiar with this period of music.