Dirigible Posted July 4, 2008 Share Posted July 4, 2008 Bonham employed a number of techniques when he concocted the stellar drum parts for Zep tunes. I’ve been playing LZ covers since 1978 and here are some conclusions I’ve drawn in three decades of trying to authentically copy Bonzo’s drumming. Not that you were unaware of any of this, just my take on the subject. First and foremost, his patented bass drum triplets. Although I practiced them daily it took me four or five years to be able to call those up on command. I finally got a handle on playing them by deconstructing Don Brewer’s drum intro to We’re An American Band. Brewer played doubles on his bass followed by a snare beat to complete the triplet. I wanted to master the doubles with my foot, I didn’t give a damn about that downbeat, but found in order for me to keep the rhythm of a succession of double notes flowing with my right foot I had to finish the triplet by hitting the snare with my left hand. Let's attribute it to shabby muscle memory or operator error. So what I started practicing was stopping my stick in mid-air and not striking the snarehead, faking the hit. That kept the rhythm and groove where I wanted it. By subtracting the snare note I had the bass drum flurries I craved. I’m sure I looked stupid hitting imaginary toms in mid-air but after a week I could play doubles on the bass drum pedal without any weird hand movements. That enabled me to add the hi-hat and snare where required until all three elements were in sync and up to speed. Another technique I really wanted to comment on was Bonzo’s penchant for playing on the ‘and’ of beats to create funk. When The Levee Breaks springs immediately to mind where he drops a bomb on 2&. Everyone’s heard it so I know you know how unexpectedly sweet that is. My favorite though is the way he phrases No Quarter’s signature riff. In the first bar the downbeats are on two and 3& and 4& before straightening out in the second measure and landing on two and four. In Nobody’s Fault But Mine Bonzo makes a religion out of playing on the ‘and’ of beats. On a related note this is an example of what Tony Williams called 'some hip drum shit' and what professors at Berklee call beat displacement. Prince's song Sexy MF is slicker than even James Brown's best funk beats. Sexy MF is in 4/4 but the downbeats are on one and 2& with a more solid variation at the chorus to reinforce the time. I can't tell you how much money I've won in bars betting people they couldn't clap their hands to that song when it came on. Prince's drummer isn't doing anything Bonham isn't doing except choosing different accents. Another point of John Henry's style was playing so far behind the beat as to actually DRAG the time. Jones was his deliberate co-conspirator in this. In comparison AC/DC were adept playing behind the beat too even though I deplore mentioning them in the same breath as Zeppelin. Anyway, I wonder if Page and Jones had to count out any odd time signatures to Bonham or if he instinctively understood where one was. C'mon, you drummers, talk to me. You other chaps too. Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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