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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).

And now, a BRILLIANT april fool’s joke from Bjork…

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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