'Moby Dick' Cowbell Intro Groove

Learn about using a rhythmic cowbell pattern combined with a left foot ostinato to create a complex groove.

In this lesson I will be talking about the intro groove from the song Moby Dick by Led Zeppelin. The pattern can first be heard around 3 seconds into the song, when it all kicks in.

There is a lot going on in this groove. The right hand is on the cowbell playing a quaver/semi quaver rhythm whilst the left foot keeps time on the hi hat. Whilst that is happening the kick and snare is playing a pattern based around the guitar rhythm that has a lot of ghosted 16ths. The intention of this lesson is to demonstrate how combining different rhythms with voices you wouldn't always go for can create a groove that really stands out.

As this part is quite complex I will build up to the full grove in a step by step manner. If you'd just like to jump into the deep end scroll down towards the bottom of the page. There are going to be quite a few steps in this lesson!

Step 1

We'll start with a level 2 style simplification of the full groove. Hopefully there isn't anything here you haven't seen before but for reference, the triangular note head is a cowbell. If you don't have a cowbell on your kit the bell of the ride works just as well.

Building up to the moby dick cowbell groove

Step 2

The left foot hi hat is an important part of this groove but is also something that really pushes the difficulty level up. Let's get it in early so it doesn't throw everything else off later on. When the right hand rhythm starts getting more complicated this will give you something to latch onto rhythmically. Whilst the notation looks complicated, it is just quavers on the hi hat.

Building up to the moby dick cowbell groove

Step 3

Another less common aspect of this groove is that on the last 16th note snare there is actually a kick played at the same time. Again, I'm getting this in early so it doesn't throw things out later on.

Building up to the moby dick cowbell groove

Step 4

In this step let's get all remaning snares in. What makes these slightly more difficult is that on beats 2 and 4 you get a double stroke and on beat 2 the second of these notes in a ghost note. You may need to spend some time focusing on that movement.

Building up to the moby dick cowbell groove

Step 5

All that is missing now is the extra 16th notes on the right hand. In the next three steps you will start to add these in. None of them are particularly comfortable to play so you may need to put a bit of work in at lower tempos. Let's start with the 'a' after beat 1.

Building up to the moby dick cowbell groove

Step 6

Then the 'a' after beat 2.

Building up to the moby dick cowbell groove

Step 7

Finally the 'a' after beat 3 which gives you the full groove.

Building up to the moby dick cowbell groove

There you have it, the full moby dick groove. As you can see, there are a variety of different rhythms combined to make up this part. Don't be surprised if it takes you a considerable amount of time to get this part sound smooth. There are a lot of awkward movements and note placements involved, but hopefully the breakdown of this part will help with that. Use this groove to give you some ideas for use of the cowbell as well as ghost note placement.


  1. Learn all steps upto a tempo of at least 95bpm, which is the tempo of the original song.
  2. Experiment with orchestration and construct your own grooves and fills using this idea.
  3. Construct phrase type patterns using the ideas.