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Cory Wong can’t be confined to a single genre, let alone a single instrument. While he’s known for his distinctive style on guitar, Cory Wong also plays bass and piano. Wong has dipped a toe in nearly every genre, including jazz, funk, rock -- and a fusion of all three -- as well as new age. A prolific musician, Cory Wong has released numerous solo albums, as well as collaborated with funk band Vulfpeck and jazz saxophonist Dave Koz. On top of his musical endeavors, as of 2021, Cory Wong has hosted his own variety show, “Cory and the Wongtones” on YouTube, packed with music, interviews, and skits.

What makes Cory Wong’s guitar style unique is his precision of timing while managing to keep an extremely loose wrist. His style is something that both rhythm and lead guitarists can emulate. If you’re a beginner guitar player just learning chords, take a few cues from Cory Wong’s rubbery wrist style and keep it really relaxed while playing -- paying close attention to the beat and timing with every strum.

Check out this episode of Fender Play Live where special guest Cory Wong joins us to teach you some of the secrets of rhythm guitar. Known for his standout rhythm playing in bands like Vulfpeck and The Fearless Flyers as well as his energetic & acclaimed solo work, Cory Wong is a master of lead rhythm playing.

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In this article, we’ll show you how to play four of Cory Wong’s songs -- two from his solo outings and two from his collaborations with funk rock group Vulfpeck. Fender Play makes it easy and fun to learn the chords, riffs and tabs needed to play some of Cory Wong’s most recognizable riffs on bass and guitar:

• “Dean Town” by Vulfpeck • “Cory Wong” by Vulfpeck • “Cosmic Sans” by Cory Wong • “Smooth Move” by Cory Wong

Ready? Warm up your wrist and let’s get started!

How to Get Cory Wong’s Guitar Sound

While Cory Wong’s playing is just as easy going and energetic as he is, his crisp, clean tone is also part of his distinctive style. A Fender devotee, Wong plays a Fender Highway One Stratocaster paired with a Fender ‘65 Super Reverb® amp.

While it may be hard to get your hands on an old school Fender Highway One strat, you can crib some of Wong’s sound with the new Fender Cory Wong Stratocaster®, which packs tons of sweet features, similar to his own guitar configuration. The Cory Wong guitar is outfitted with a set of Seymour Duncan® Cory Wong Clean Machine™ pickups to give you that classic Strat quack and a (yes, we mean it) Cory Wong hair tie to mute the tremolo springs -- another staple of Wong’s sound. To get a shortcut to Cory Wong’s clean tone, check out the Cory Wong Fender Tone preset that you can use with select Fender amps.

While knowing some of Cory Wong’s tricks of the trade can point you in the right direction, it’s no substitute for practice -- and listening to and learning some of his techniques while playing them yourself. Let’s dive in and learn the chords and riffs to some of Cory Wong and Vulfpeck’s best-loved songs.

Vulfpeck’s “Dean Town” Tab on Bass or Guitar

“Dean Town,” by Vulfpeck was an instrumental track from the band’s 2016 album, The Beautiful Game. Vulfpeck had been kicking around the funk rock music scene since 2011 and building a reputation for themselves. However, it wasn’t until 2016 when Cory Wong joined the group, recording and touring with them to add an extra dimension to their already dynamic live performances.

Vulfpeck’s “Dean Town” was inspired by the band Weather Report’s instrumental “Teen Town,” featuring the legendary Jaco Pastorius on bass. While there are definite differences between “Dean Town” and “Teen Town,” both songs are built around the rhythm section -- with drums driving the beat and bass taking center stage.

“Dean Town” by Vulfpeck starts with a pulsating bassline, laid down with rapid-fire finger plucking to keep the low-end driving throughout, which contrasts alongside the steady percussion beat. The track has an almost indie-rock feel until the bass shifts to a slower, more improvisational jazz feel and Cory Wong’s guitar kicks in with some sparse chords, letting the bass shine.

Some of the chords you’ll use to play “Dean Town” in this guitar lesson include the F#m (F Sharp Minor) chord and a jazz-style variation on the F#m with an F#m6 chord. To play the guitar parts to “Dean Town,” you’ll also need to learn the B7 chord and the D7sus4 chord.

Difficulty: Intermediate

Check out the full “Dean Town” tutorial on Fender Play, complete with guitar tab and bass tab to get cookin’!

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Vulfpeck’s “Cory Wong” Tab & Tutorial

You know you’ve made it when a band names a song after you. “Cory Wong” by Vulfpeck features (who else but) Cory Wong joining Vulfpeck on their 2016 album, The Beautiful Game. While the album version provides more of a stripped down take on this original funk instrumental, live versions of the song amp up the energy and feed off of the crowd’s energy to deliver a jaw-dropping track that melds the best of jazz and funk.

To play Vulfpeck’s “Cory Wong,” you’ll want to brush up on some of your flattened 7th chords: Ab7, Bb7, and Db7. Most chords consist of a triad of notes, but 7th chords add a fourth note to that triad -- 7 notes down from the root note of a chord. This addition gives 7th chords a fuller sound with more color and depth.

Much of “Cory Wong” relies on jazz-style bass riffs and single notes on the guitar, working in some hammer-on and pull offs, as well as a generous helping of palm muting to give this jam its choppy, rhythmic feel. Check out the “Cory Wong” by Vulpeck bass tab and guitar tab to break this song down into smaller sections, learning to play a few bars of these notes at a time. A challenge for beginner and intermediate guitarists and bassists, “Cory Wong” gives players room to stretch their improvisational abilities by hearing how the bass and guitar work together to create a jazz funk groove.

Difficulty: Advanced

Learn how to play “Cory Wong” by Vulpeck on Fender Play.

Cory Wong’s “Cosmic Sans” Tab on Bass or Guitar

True to its name, “Cosmic Sans” by Cory Wong offers an out-of-this-world take on funk with Cory Wong teaming up with fellow funkmeister, guitarist Tom Misch. “Cosmic Sans” has an ‘70s feel with subtle wah effects that give the song its unique feel.

Cory Wong’s super loose strumming style incorporates rhythmic, intuitive alternate strumming of the D, C, Em, and Am7 chords on “Cosmic Sans.” Meanwhile, the riff pounds out single notes with a variety of techniques that give this song so much color and flavor. From hammer-ons and pull-offs to string bends, palm muting, and bass slaps, “Cosmic Sans” serves up a master class in using a variety of guitar and bass techniques and using them well!

Beginner guitarists can try tackling the rhythm portion of the song, strumming the chords to Cory Wong’s “Cosmic Sans.” Intermediate and advanced guitarists can test their might by practicing several bars at a time and honing the techniques used to make this song pop.

Difficulty: Intermediate

Check out the guitar and bass tutorial for “Cosmic Sans” by Cory Wong on Fender Play.

Cory Wong’s “Smooth Move” Tab & Lesson

Another collaboration with Tom Misch, Cory Wong’s “Smooth Move” incorporates elements of new school blues and soul alongside funk.

In “Smooth Move,” Cory Wong plays the chords Db9 and an Ab/Bb chord. “Smooth Move” showcases Cory Wong’s more melodic side. Sure, the undeniable beat and head-bobbing rhythm is still there, but “Smooth Move” features less of the uptempo chop-and-squawk sound of his strat and more blending bending of notes at a slower, smoother pace -- heavy on the blues.

To play “Smooth Move,” you’ll need to learn the chords mentioned here, as well as practice your string bending technique. This helps change the pitch of the note either up or down, adding more dimension and feeling to your playing.

Difficulty: Intermediate

A free trial of Fender Play gives you a lesson in how to play Cory Wong’s “Smooth Move.”

Learn to Play Funk Tunes on Fender Play: Guitar & Bass Lessons

Learning to play guitar and bass puts you on the path to developing not just your musical ear, but a deeper appreciation for music itself. When learning to play funk, you’ll hear some of the different genres that collide to give it its distinct sound.

Fender Play makes learning to play guitar and bass easy and fun. Learn to play some of your favorite funk tunes by artists like Cory Wong -- and many others. A free trial unlocks hundreds of songs and lessons designed to help you increase your skills as a musician, learn chords, riffs, and techniques.