Zig’s Signature Beats
Here are some of Zigaboo Modeliste’s funkiest grooves and fills with the Meters, most of which fall in the cracks between straight and swung feels.
by Mike Adamo
This is Zigaboo’s most popular groove. The pattern is linear, except for the bass drum/hi-hat combo on the “e” of beat 3 and the snare/hi-hat combo in beat 4. Notice the two-handed sticking on the hi-hat. This enables Zig to get in the cracks between straight and swung time and gives the part its unique feel.“Here Comes the Meter Man,” The Meters (1969)
Notice the interesting texture created by the cymbal pattern on this classic instrumental track. Also check out the yin/yang effect between the bass drum and snare in the first and second beats of the measure. (0:17)The drum break at 2:29 has been sampled countless times. Notice Modeliste’s skillful expansion of the basic framework groove, including the turnaround in beats 3 and 4 of the second measure and the across-the-barline polyrhythmic phrasing that spans the third and fourth measures.“Look-Ka Py Py,” Look-Ka Py Py (1969)
This is a great example of Modeliste’s “chordal” approach, where two or three components of the drumset are played at the same time. Zig uses a bass drum/snare/open hi-hat combo on the “&” of beat 3 of each measure to provide a syncopated yet consistent rhythmic anchor for the rest of the band. He improvises from this framework throughout the song. (0:05)
This isn’t a technically complex groove, but it’s the perfect foundation for the song. The quarter-note hi-hat pattern propels the band, and the rock-solid backbeat keeps everything in check. The bass drum notes on beat 3 set up a snare/open hi-hat “answer” on beat 4. This is a great example of Zig holding down a static yet extremely funky groove for an entire song. (0:00)“Funky Miracle,” Look-Ka Py Py (1969)
This track starts out with a tight rhythm-section groove. Notice how the accented snare notes lock in with George Porter Jr.’s bass pattern.
“I Need More Time” (released as a single in 1970)
This epic Meters tune includes a reflective organ/vocal/floor tom/cymbal intro that leads into dramatic full-band hits with drum fills, tight verse grooves, a huge chorus, and a grandiose outro. The verse part is based on a four-bar phrase that follows a basic AABA format. In the A sections, Modeliste uses a bass drum/open hi-hat combo to hit the “&” of beat 2 along with the rest of the band. In the B section, he uses a bass drum/crash combo to match the hits on beat 1, the “a” of beat 1, and the “&” of beat 2. (0:55)
“A Message From the Meters” (released as a single in 1970)
This classic track features some great lyrics, and the drum groove is ultra-funky. The open hi-hat notes on the “&” of beats 2 and 4 create a nice pull in the pattern. The bass drum part switches from on the beat on 1 and 3 to off the beat on 2 and 4.
“Stay Away,” Cabbage Alley (1972)
This is one of the Meters’ more experimental songs. Modeliste’s treatment of the verse is appealingly unorthodox and inventive. The verses are based on a two-bar phrase. Zig uses a light quarter-note crash/ride with a basic backbeat in the first measure and matches the riff note for note in the second. He improvises from this foundation during each verse. Be sure to check out the drum break at 2:07 for even more syncopated funk mastery. (0:41)
“Just Kissed My Baby,” Rejuvenation (1974)
The main drum groove here is a lightheartedly nasty two-bar phrase. Zig doesn’t play the bass drum on beat 1 in the second measure, which adds a bit of suspense. The ghost notes and random snare accents add a lot of texture and funk.
“Fire on the Bayou,” Fire on the Bayou (1975)
Like most of Zigaboo’s patterns, this one is played between the cracks of straight and swung time. The bass drum locks with Porter’s bass line, and the accented snare note on the “&” of beat 4 provides forward momentum.
“Out in the Country,” Fire on the Bayou (1975)
There’s no flash here—just pure groove. The bass drum pattern matches the bass guitar/keyboard, while the hi-hat and snare hold it all together. The relaxed backbeat gives the song a timeless feel and helps transmit its message.
“Love Slip Upon Ya,” Fire on the Bayou (1975)
The bass drum pattern in this song is reminiscent of a classic New Orleans second-line groove. Notice how the ghost notes fill in and blend with the hi-hat. The bass drum/hi-hat combos in beats 2 and 4 add a nice texture, and the open hi-hat notes on the “&” of 1 and 3 create a trancelike feel to the beat.
“Can You Do Without?” Fire on the Bayou (1975)
This is another great example of Modeliste’s use of ghost notes to fill in the cracks of the groove. The extra hi-hat notes on the “e” of beats 2 and 4 blend with the ghosted snare notes to create a steady stream of 16ths.
“He Bite Me,” Good Old Funky Music (compilation released in 1990)
Modeliste begins this song with a very interesting four-bar phrase. Notice how he plays the kick drum on the “a” of beat 4 in the first and third measures but not in the second or fourth. Also check out the broken hi-hat pattern. The fill at the end of the phrase sets up the lyrics perfectly.
“The Same Old Thing,” Funkify Your Life (compilation released in 1995)
This track starts out with a tight drum break and vocals. Notice the accented snare notes on the “a” of beat 2 and the “e” of beat 3 in each measure. Zig doesn’t play these once the main drum groove hits.
The fill at 0:29 is the very definition of tasteful. It’s not what Zig plays, but how he plays it. It has to be heard to be understood.