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Today’s installment of my “From The Archives” series is a list of exercises based on the legendary 3-limb pattern made famous by John Bonham. In short, “Bonham Triplets” are a constant circle between single strokes on the hands and a kick drum added as a sort of third hand. The order of the strokes can vary, as well as the rhythm application (i.e., actual “triplets” aren’t the only place to use this idea).

While you’re at it you should rewatch this Jojo Mayer solo if you haven’t seen it already. His rhythmic and accenting prowess within a BT context is incredible.

Lastly, I want to take a sec and unpack this statement from my original BT post: “These patterns sound pretty cool, but aren’t necessarily very useful outside of a soloing context (in my opinion). I’ve found them more helpful as an exercise/rudiment than as a staple ingredient in my playing.” 

My point is that I have gained a TON of helpful and useful feet-to-hands coordination through BT exercises, but I end up utilizing that coordination mostly in non-soloing contexts. I suppose this is partially because I rarely do drum solos of any kind at all, but what I want to communicate is that the Bonham Triplet integration of hands and feet is a profoundly useful thing in general. It was maybe misleading for me to say that I only use BT patterns as exercises. In actuality I use small moments of BT patterns almost constantly in my day-to-day freelance sideman playing. Linear grooves, fills, ghost note ideas… all of these benefit tremendously from a good grasp of the BT idea.

Jojo’s playing above is in a solo setting, but don’t let that make you think that a solo is the only place for Bonham Triplets.


Above: A rad pre-show pic from the glory days.

Below: A recent Twitter quote from Aaron Sterling.

Bonham is like Miles. So beyond revered that sometimes you even wonder if he’s overrated. Then you listen again and say, “Nope. Incredible.”

I sat on a plane today for a few hours. Lately that’s more common for me than it used to be, whereas opportunities to sit behind a drumset and spend time simply practicing are less common. So today on the flight I tapped out a rudiment pattern for probably 45 minutes just using my finger tips on my lap and my feet on the floor. The noise of the flight covered up any sound so I didn’t bother anyone around me… at least I don’t think I did.

It’s a variation on a Bonham triplet pattern that inverts the RL and LR strokes, but using a 4-stroke pattern instead of a 3-stroke one. The variation is that I’ve got all 4 limbs involved, instead of only 3.

Pattern A: R-L-Rf-Lf (that is… right hand, left hand, right foot, left foot)
Pattern B: L-R-Lf-Rf

It’s just simple single strokes between the hands and the feet, though what I’ve really been working on is switching between them. In other words, play the above patterns once each back to back…


I work up to it by doing each “half” 4 times (a full bar if you’re feeling the strokes as 16ths) then switching to the other. After a minute or so of that I switch to alternating each time (two full rotations per bar, still in 16ths).

It’s way more difficult than I want it to be. I’m not a dbl kick player, so I’m not sure what this is even helping, other than mind stuff and limb control. But that’s the more important part of the game anyway.

PS. The link above to my post about Bonham triplets contains a few more super helpful limb control exercises. So I guess we can file this post under the “From The Archive” series.

Check out this great BBC audio documentary on the legendary Zeppelin drummer John Bonham, narrated by Dave Grohl.  Seriously… do it.

The John Bonham Story

HT: Dollar Bill Radintz

jbblurJohn Bonham’s fill at the top of the second track on Zeppelin IV has long been a point of confusion for many drummers, including myself. A few years ago I figured out what’s going on in the fill, and then it came up in discussion at last night’s rehearsal, so I thought I’d mention it here.

The trick is understanding that Bonham doesn’t start on a downbeat.  The very first accented snare and sloshy hats hit… it’s on the “& of 3” count, not “1.”  There’s no count off or anything to warn the listener that this is so, therefore many people hear the first accent as a downbeat followed by another accent on the “& of 2.”  In actuality, the fill starts with a pick-up notes and then a downbeat – so the SECOND snare/hats accent is on the “1.”

To try and play it, just count yourself in and remember to make the first few hits pick-up notes.  The fill is four bars long, but the four bars don’t start until the SECOND snare/hats accent.  So it will sound/feel like this:

1, 2, 3 PA-pa-pa-PA…”

The first “Pa” is accented (all caps) and lands on “& of 3,” the next two hits fill the gap on “4” and “& of 4,” and then the 2nd big accent is on the downbeat.  It just repeats from there a couple times and then he syncopates it a little.  The whole thing is really obvious and feels very cool once your orientation on the downbeat is correct, and the counts leading up to the hits will help with that.

Now check out Bonham doing it for real (and he’s even using the amber acrylic kit).

This dude was John Bonham’s drum tech during the major stage of Zeppelin’s career.  He’s *maybe* a little bit of a dork, but the video is cool.  I came across it earlier this week while geeking-out about my recently-expanded Bill Mike kit.  The amber Vistalites sitting in the background on this vid is the kit that inspired the one I have now.  I believe Bonham used those drums during Zep’s 1977 tour following the release of The Song Remains The Same.

Quick story about Ochletree’s dork factor and Bonham’s original amber Vistalites:  Joel Hanson, a singer/songwriter that I play with, was in a Grammy-winning band in the 90’s called PFR.  For one of their records, producer Jimmie Lee Sloas called Ochletree and had him fly out to Minneapolis with Bonham’s actual amber Vistas so the band could use the drums on the album.  Ochletree set the kit up, which apparently included two hours of sitting on the ground cross-legged, methodically shredding a stack of newspapers into small strips, and filling the kick drum with them.  This, according to Ochletree, was how Bonham got his famous kick sound.

So… John Bonham… drummer for Zeppelin… everybody knows and loves him. He’s the father of rock drumming as we know it, and his drum tone is one of the most sought-after sounds in studio work of every genre (his intro on “When The Levy Breaks” from Led Zeppelin 4 is one of the most heavily sampled grooves of all time).

Bonham was known for his lengthy solos, which often included 3-limb triplet patterns that have since come to be known by many as “Bonham triplets.” These patterns sound pretty cool, but aren’t necessarily very useful outside of a soloing context (in my opinion). I’ve found them more helpful as an exercise/rudiment than as a staple ingredient in my playing.

I was talking about these patterns with a student today so I thought I would post them and encourage everybody to spend some time getting comfortable with these. They’re very good exercises on many levels.

Main pattern: R-L-B, R-L-B, R-L-B, R-L-B

(note: These patterns are all triplet-based, and should be counted as “1-lah-lee, 2-lah-lee, 3-lah-lee, 4-lah-lee.” I’m inserting commas between each full triplet… aka every three notes. The “R” is right hand and should be played on the floor tom, the “L” is left hand and should be played on the rack tom, and the “B” is bass/kick. The patterns should be played smoothly with no pauses or accents).

Alternate pattern #1: L-R-B, L-R-B, L-R-B, L-R-B

Alternate pattern #2: B-R-L, B-R-L, B-R-L, B-R-L (you can also switch L and R on this)

Alternate pattern #3: L-B-R, L-B-R, L-B-R, L-B-R (you can switch L and R on this one too)

Alternate pattern #4: R-L-B, L-R-B, R-L-B, L-R-B (this one alternates as you go)

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