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Dirigible

Bonham: Points of Style

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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.

Edited by Dirigible

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Okay, first let me say, I'm a guitarist, not a drummer. ;)

But I did play drums for many years as a re-teen and in high school, and had formal lessons, so I might speak to this.

I hear fantastic doubles from Bonzo's Speed King, but I don't actually hear triplets. I know the use of the cowbell in the latter part of Good Times Bad Times can give the illusion of bass drum triplets, and Out on the Tiles gets that effect as well, and songs like Immigrant Song and Achilles' Last Stand also have that effect, but again they're fast doublets.

Please, and I ask this with a smile and a wink to a fellow Bonham lover, point me to the triplets.

Oh, and my personal fave Bonham foot moments are the end of Sick Again, with that beat circulating, and the end of Achilles'. Getting that gallup with the hi-hat going open and closed. Fucking monster shit there!

Regarding Bonzo and Zep songs, he said it was him (with the exception of songs like Levee) following Jimmy's riffs, and finding an appropriate beat. I know he fretted (haha) over the chorus of Black Dog, and Stairway gave him fits. But he owned it in the end!

Bonham: So many try. I know they're out there. But no one has got there.

Well, at least no one with a major label record contract! :lol:

I've seen moments, even with my own drummer! But nothing like Bonzo could do on a click of 4 every single time!

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Fronzo from Led Astray does an awesome Bonham medley here:

Always loved Fronzo! :D

Nice ghost stokes mate! But what's with that tiny crash on your right? :lol:

Great Purdie shuffle too!

Yeah, Led Astray. One of the best British Zep tribute bands out there!

Cheers Fronzo! :beer:

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Thanks for commenting, Evster, I always enjoy your enlighened overview (especially a long eloquent post about Jimmy's symbol you might think about expanding and selling as an article to a magazine like Revolver or Blender) so your mention of the misnomer of Bonham's bass drum triplets is of special interest. Glad you brought it up because I was hoping someone would.

I call them that because simply the rest of the world calls them that, be it Modern Drummer or the informed chaps at House of Drumming.com or various other learned musicians I've conversed with over the course of time. Like you, I know they're NOT really three beats in a row from his foot; Bonham played that lick by sliding his foot up and down the bass pedal footplate to create a bounce between the beater and bass drumhead that results in a double beat and then manipulating said bounce. My hybrid version of Bonham's fancy footwork ARE doubles with the resolving note of the triplet played on the snare or a tom. This can start with the foot OR be played backward with the foot resolving it instead of the hand. Since a triplet figure is indeed executed my hypothesis is that's why the 'world' calls them that. Otherwise I don't know, I didn't invent the term any more than I invented the triplet. People do seem to know what you're referring to when you use the term, so what can you do? The human animal is fond of pigeonholing everything under the sun from styles of music to the modern Russian novel to different schools of discipline in the martial arts. Maybe more accurately we should call them "Bonham's famous triplets." When I perfect the Bonham single bass drum Swiss triplet (not in this lifetime) I'll post a sample here. LOL.

Near the halfway point of In My Time of Dying is the most complex display of fleet footedness I ever heard Bonham record, if he ever truly played a triplet on his bass drum it might be here (although like you, I have my doubts.) A favorite of mine is Hots On For Nowhere, particularly the last minute, also Good Times Bad Times.

I agree many drummers try and few succeed beyond gasping in the occasional breath of rarified Bonham air. I suspect the secret lies in Bonham's dragging the time with Jones. That's a total 'feel' thing that can't be taught unlike rudiments or musical scales. But I think it's fair to say that that effect is not created by one musician alone. Bonham had a henchman, a partner-in-crime if you will, in Jones. Any insights or opinions you have about that, Ev, would be appreciated.

Let me further that line of thinking a little. On an MTV interview Jones made a passing comment about how he and Bonham laid back on the beat. I was chagrinned he didn't elaborate but you can't expect extended intelligent talk about music on MTV. Elaboration came in another form but even then it wasn't 'gospel' but nonetheless thought-provoking. Some drummer in MD was in a band that Jones either produced or played some bass on the band's record---I forget the exact scenario but this guy had become affiliated with Jones. But I'll never forget he picked Jones' brain about Bonzo and talked so much about Bonham the interviewer had to remind him Bonham was not the subject of the article. What this drummer said Jones inferred was Bonham and Jones started laying back on the beat as a game to fuck up Jimmy Page. They'd be routining a new song in the studio and Bonham and Jones would start easing back until Page was off the beat; Page would whirl around and glare and ask them what the hell they were doing. Not gospel, it was something I read in a music rag, but maybe a grain of truth.

Ev, since we both perform Zeppelin covers I'm interested in what your thoughts are on recreating trademark signature licks of name musicians. A drummer duplicating Bonzo's triplets is like a guitarist duplicating Van Halen's finger tapping in that no one does it exactly the same (or better) as the original, like the Purdie shuffle. (I met Bernard's charming wife one time and told her I had practiced the Purdie shuffle to the exclusion of everything else for six months. She was ecstatic I even knew who Purdie was and immediatley called him at the studio and handed me the phone. What a great lady; and Purdie is a true gentleman!)

One last thing if you don't mind, what kind of guitar are you playing in your avatar picture? The body looks Strat-like but I don't recognize the headstock.

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Okay, first let me say, I'm a guitarist, not a drummer. ;)

But I did play drums for many years as a re-teen and in high school, and had formal lessons, so I might speak to this.

I hear fantastic doubles from Bonzo's Speed King, but I don't actually hear triplets. I know the use of the cowbell in the latter part of Good Times Bad Times can give the illusion of bass drum triplets, and Out on the Tiles gets that effect as well, and songs like Immigrant Song and Achilles' Last Stand also have that effect, but again they're fast doublets.

Please, and I ask this with a smile and a wink to a fellow Bonham lover, point me to the triplets.

You're right, there are none.

The thing with doubles, I can play them perfectly. But I am only able to play them with my foot flat. So I'm switching between the heel up position and having my foot flat. Bonham's sound very light though, which is how I think he's able to get them so fast. I would need a better pedal to get to that level I think, the one I have now is rather shitty so...

I think the best way would be to practice playing heel up all of the time however, I can not yet play doubles on the bass drum heel up.

From a few listens through of "Good Times Bad Times" I'm 99% sure he's playing 3 doubles in rapid succession.

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I always thought they were triplets, too.

This is the coolest thread to read.

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You've got me analyzing his drumming now! =P

That single stroke roll he does on Misty Mountain Hop is killer....heck that song has a whole bunch of great fills.

It's at about 3:56 in the song...of course there are drummers who are able to go faster and maintain it for longer, but it's still pretty cool.

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I think the best way would be to practice playing heel up all of the time however, I can not yet play doubles on the bass drum heel up.

From a few listens through of "Good Times Bad Times" I'm 99% sure he's playing 3 doubles in rapid succession.

Thumbs up to heel up, mate.

Scrutinize what Bonham plays and especially the notes Page wrenches (the only verb) from his Tele while little Robert Anthony sings:

"I know what it means to be alone,

I sure do wish I was at home,

I don't care what the neighbors say

I'm gonna love you, each and ev'ry day,

you can feel the beat within my heart,

realize, sweet baby, we're never gonna part

I feel so good when I'm with you . . ."

It was and still is the shit.

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Thumbs up to heel up, mate.

Scrutinize what Bonham plays and especially the notes Page wrenches (the only verb) from his Tele while little Robert Anthony sings:

"I know what it means to be alone,

I sure do wish I was at home,

I don't care what the neighbors say

I'm gonna love you, each and ev'ry day,

you can feel the beat within my heart,

realize, sweet baby, we're never gonna part

I feel so good when I'm with you . . ."

It was and still is the shit.

Ah, How Many More Times. Yes, that song has some of his best drumming. Very jazzy.

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Ah, How Many More Times. Yes, that song has some of his best drumming. Very jazzy.

YESH!!!!! The intro to HMMT is some of Bonzo's smokingest drumming EVER, I wanted to laud it but there's not many bass drum triplets, whoops, I mean Bonzo's 'famous' triplets, so I gave it a miss. Thanks for bringing it up, duders, it rocks.

Jarlaxle is reminiscent to a faux chess move called the Jarl's Axe Gambit in a book about faux Vikings on the fantasy fiction world of Gor. Related? Coincidence?

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YESH!!!!! The intro to HMMT is some of Bonzo's smokingest drumming EVER, I wanted to laud it but there's not many bass drum triplets, whoops, I mean Bonzo's 'famous' triplets, so I gave it a miss. Thanks for bringing it up, duders, it rocks.

Jarlaxle is reminiscent to a faux chess move called the Jarl's Axe Gambit in a book about faux Vikings on the fantasy fiction world of Gor. Related? Coincidence?

Close, it is fantasy related though. =D

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jarlaxle

And yeah, I love lots of groove in my drumming and you don't hear much Jazz influence in Rock these days, which is sad. However the metal and progressive genres still incorporate plenty of Jazz. And of course, there's many types of Jazz Fusion being made.

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Close, it is fantasy related though. =D

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jarlaxle

And yeah, I love lots of groove in my drumming and you don't hear much Jazz influence in Rock these days, which is sad. However the metal and progressive genres still incorporate plenty of Jazz. And of course, there's many types of Jazz Fusion being made.

Weckl's band is blowing some hotshit nowadays, Smitty's group too. Wish Mahavishnu were still together, the nerve of the ruddy tossers breaking up, they're all still alive!!!!!

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Weckl's band is blowing some hotshit nowadays, Smitty's group too. Wish Mahavishnu were still together, the nerve of the ruddy tossers breaking up, they're all still alive!!!!!

I know, I would kill to see McLaughlin + Cobham era Mahavishnu reunite, those two alone are mind blowing musicians.

And me being born in 1990, well, I've missed out on some fantastic stuff. =P

Edit: I've also noticed a lot of Zep fans tend to enjoy Tool's stuff, you really oughta check them out if you haven't yet.

Edited by Jarlaxle 56

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I know, I would kill to see McLaughlin + Cobham era Mahavishnu reunite, those two alone are mind blowing musicians.

And me being born in 1990, well, I've missed out on some fantastic stuff. =P

Edit: I've also noticed a lot of Zep fans tend to enjoy Tool's stuff, you really oughta check them out if you haven't yet.

Get back, JoJo, I have ALL of Tool's CDs! Just because I'm an old fart don't count me out.

I saw Mahavishnu in April 1973 in a fuggin' movie theater and regret I only have 14 bootlegs of them, mostly in 1972. The Cobham era ('71-'73) is the only MO I listen to. As a matter of fact I think I'm going to listen to the 20-minute version of Noonward Race from Munich (August '72) RIGHT now. Thanks for reminding me of that one, Jarl, it was locked away in the archives. Peace out.

Edited by Dirigible

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Hmmm...just want to say they are triplets. There is no rule in drumming that says a pattern has to occur entirely on one drum to be considered a flam, triplet, quadruplet, etc.

Triplets were in use by Ginger Baker, Keith Moon, and Mitch Mitchell prior to LZ's first record, but all three drummers achieved them with the single bass stroke then R,L on the tom.

Enter John Henry, who taught all three of the drummers above, and the rest of us that triplets sounded far heavier if comprised of one single stroke by hand just about anywhere on the kit, and the other two strokes on the bass drum. This took the triplet from being a "fill" only kind of pattern to being able to be part of the main groove of the song... thus achieved with his right hand was still keeping quarters notes going in business as usual fashion inside of the triplet. This is of course what drives the groove on GTBT, and makes appearances in John's drumming vocabulary for the rest of his career.

LZ II comes along and John treats us to quadruplets Bonham style (RLBB) during the "squeeze me babe" section of The Lemon song...showing is that JPJ is not the only bad ass on that song. :D

Of course he throws a few more of these quads in on the studio Moby Dick, something he didn't often repeat live, opting for the more ferocious triplets done at lightning speed to bring live Moby to a crescendo.

The only all bass triplet figure I can think of is in All of My Love, but there's a lot of grooves that the man gave us, and I may be overlooking some.

Cheers!

Edited by Hickory Man

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Hmmm...just want to say they are triplets. There is no rule in drumming that says a pattern has to occur entirely on one drum to be considered a flam, triplet, quadruplet, etc.

Triplets were in use by Ginger Baker, Keith Moon, and Mitch Mitchell prior to LZ's first record, but all three drummers achieved them with the single bass stroke then R,L on the tom.

Enter John Henry, who taught all three of the drummers above, and the rest of us that triplets sounded far heavier if comprised of one single stroke by hand just about anywhere on the kit, and the other two strokes on the bass drum. This took the triplet from being a "fill" only kind of pattern to being able to be part of the main groove of the song... thus achieved with his right hand was still keeping quarters notes going in business as usual fashion inside of the triplet. This is of course what drives the groove on GTBT, and makes appearances in John's drumming vocabulary for the rest of his career.

LZ II comes along and John treats us to quadruplets Bonham style (RLBB) during the "squeeze me babe" section of The Lemon song...showing is that JPJ is not the only bad ass on that song. :D

Of course he throws a few more of these quads in on the studio Moby Dick, something he didn't often repeat live, opting for the more ferocious triplets done at lightning speed to bring live Moby to a crescendo.

The only all bass triplet figure I can think of is in All of My Love, but there's a lot of grooves that the man gave us, and I may be overlooking some.

Cheers!

Orchestrating the rudiments across the kit instead of a pedestrian execution of them on the snare has been happening among happening drummers for a while. Enter Bonzo, one of the usual suspects. You're absolutely right, Hickory Man, triplets are heavier by incorporating a couple of bass beats.

Methinks there is a snare downbeat in the chorus of All My Love, that's an awful long phrase not to state the time thusly. The snare and bass playing the same note simultaneously isn't outside the realm of possibility. <Also not outside the realm of possibility in Good Times Bad Times the 20-year-old Bonham could be keeping time on the hi-hat with his foot as opposed to his right hand.> When I tried my hand at All My Love on drums I played the chorus part with two bass beats followed by a snare pop; I was probably playing it wrong but it worked.

As usual, Bonham, the drum stylist, came up with another cool pattern for a song. I find it odd the last couple of years of his life he lamented that EVERYBODY played drums better than him. Session heavies and Zappa drummers like Simon Phillips, Terry Bozzio, Vinnie Colaiuta, and a few others in'78-'80 played technically better, but that doesn't constitute everybody. Neil Peart never played as great as Bonzo.

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Neil Peart never played as great as Bonzo.

Oh shit - this thread was going so well... ;)

Can we stick on Bonzo & his cool drumming style & not get started on the "X is better that Y", "Z sucks". When that happens the thread always goes downhill really fast. :(

(Dirigible - I'm not trying to have a pop at you: you've been posting some tasty stuff in this thread, I'm just really wary about what happens when we get onto "names".)

Anyway - to get back on track - one of my favourites for listening to Bonzo is Candy Store Rock. The way he switches the beat back & forwards each verse/chorus whilst keeping it all bouncing along is just wonderful :)

Edited by huw

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Anyway - to get back on track - one of my favourites for listening to Bonzo is Candy Store Rock. The way he switches the beat back & forwards each verse/chorus whilst keeping it all bouncing along is just wonderful :)

I need to listen to Presence again, it's rife with great drumming. I love For Your Life where it alternates between the downbeat and the upbeat.

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Yeah - that's one of those signature Zeppelin moments B)

Out of interest, how do you "hear" the beat going into that bit? Do you hear it as the whole band droping a beat, so that Bonzo is still playing a regular backbeat, just starting in an unexpected place, or as the band playing stright through with Bonzo switching to a "front-beat" so that it sounds more complicated than it is?

Of all the tricksy time shifting shenanigans they play, this is the one that has always had me changing my mind as to which it is. Mostly I come out in favour of it being the whole band dropping a silent beat as they go into that section.

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Yeah - that's one of those signature Zeppelin moments B)

Out of interest, how do you "hear" the beat going into that bit? Do you hear it as the whole band droping a beat, so that Bonzo is still playing a regular backbeat, just starting in an unexpected place, or as the band playing stright through with Bonzo switching to a "front-beat" so that it sounds more complicated than it is?

Of all the tricksy time shifting shenanigans they play, this is the one that has always had me changing my mind as to which it is. Mostly I come out in favour of it being the whole band dropping a silent beat as they go into that section.

I learned the drum part of For Your Life in the early 80s, and have long forgotten how to play the nuances. It was never a Zep song the band I was in played. If memory serves the band plays straight through with Bonzo switching the downbeats from two and four to one and three. The Cars's drummer played a turnaround like that in the last verse of the song Just What I Needed.

Keep in mind Bonham's fondness of playing variations of his beats as each song progressed.

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Methinks there is a snare downbeat in the chorus of All My Love, that's an awful long phrase not to state the time thusly. The snare and bass playing the same note simultaneously isn't outside the realm of possibility. <Also not outside the realm of possibility in Good Times Bad Times the 20-year-old Bonham could be keeping time on the hi-hat with his foot as opposed to his right hand.> When I tried my hand at All My Love on drums I played the chorus part with two bass beats followed by a snare pop; I was probably playing it wrong but it worked.

Sounds like you have the right idea on All my Love, when I referred to the all bass triplet, I meant that it does occur as the beginning of the pattern. BBB BBL.

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Yeah - that's one of those signature Zeppelin moments B)

Out of interest, how do you "hear" the beat going into that bit? Do you hear it as the whole band droping a beat, so that Bonzo is still playing a regular backbeat, just starting in an unexpected place, or as the band playing stright through with Bonzo switching to a "front-beat" so that it sounds more complicated than it is?

Of all the tricksy time shifting shenanigans they play, this is the one that has always had me changing my mind as to which it is. Mostly I come out in favour of it being the whole band dropping a silent beat as they go into that section.

If you're talking about the part I think you are, the band stays unified but begins that section on the and of 4 in that measure instead of waiting for the 1.

I love it when that happens. B)

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What's your opinion on playing the songs the exact way they were recorded? ie, Do you think it's necessary only to learn the main groove and improvise some of the fills and ornamental notes? Or are you guys purists when it comes to this? Personally, I find it far easier to improvise some stuff instead of trying to memorize every exact note, as it were. So my position on this comes from one of a bad memory and laziness =D

Just some thoughts...

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What's your opinion on playing the songs the exact way they were recorded? ie, Do you think it's necessary only to learn the main groove and improvise some of the fills and ornamental notes? Or are you guys purists when it comes to this? Personally, I find it far easier to improvise some stuff instead of trying to memorize every exact note, as it were. So my position on this comes from one of a bad memory and laziness =D

Just some thoughts...

Depends on the respect level I have for the drummer whose parts I am covering. The ones I respect tend to have such a signature style that I will stay about 90 % true to their part. If it's someone with a generic style, then I will improvise all night long.

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