If James Brown wrote the book on funk with his tight, staccato grooves, the Meters added a chapter on the slinky, sultry, swampy, sexy New Orleans side of funk. Cissy Strut is one of the best-known funk tunes ever written, covered by countless other artists and called at countless jam sessions. Every musician should know it. It’s an easy song to play, but a hard song to play well, if that makes any sense. 

Feeling it in your picking hand: The real gist of playing funk is to develop a sense of feel in the picking hand. Your hand basically acts as a metronome as you play, never stopping, feeling every beat (even the “silent” beats).

16th note-based syncopation: Most funk rhythms have a strong beat that is subdivided by four (this is basically the definition of 16th notes). Many of the notes played end up falling on off beats, played with upward pick strokes.

The video for this lesson covers both of these ideas in detail.

Step 1: Learn the lick with a half-time feel, feeling the 8th notes

Note that your downward pick stroke ALWAYS falls on the beat. This will basically always be true, whether you are playing rhythm or lead. It’s rare that you will EVER find an exception to this rule. But also take note of the fact that most of the notes in this particular pattern are on off-beats, played with upstrokes. When you are playing these upstrokes, you still want to feel the downstrokes on the beats around them (this is demonstrated in the video, and you can also hear it in the midi tracks below the diagram).

A Section:

      CissyStrutA(8ths)-120bpm

B Section:

      CissyStrutB(8ths)-120bpm

Step 2: Gradually increase tempo, continuing to feel 8th notes

      CissyStrutA(8ths)-140bpm
      CissyStrutA(8ths)-160bpm
      CissyStrutB(8ths)-140bpm

Step 3: Once you hit 160-180 bpm, cut the tempo in half.

Now you’re playing the same thing as before, but you’re feeling it as 16th notes (each beat subdivided into four). This changes NOTHING about the way you actually play it, or the speed, but it does feel a bit different.

      CissyStrutA(16ths)-80bpm
      CissyStrutB(16ths)-80bpm

Step 4: Practice feeling it until you can’t get it wrong

Once you’re feeling it, you should be able to play it almost flawlessly for as long as you want to, without even devoting much conscious thought to it.