What Makes John Bonham Such a Good Drummer?

Led Zeppelin stormed onto the music scene in 1968 their raucous take on rock and roll redefined the genre and made them the biggest band on earth for the better part of a decade though every member of the band was musically gifted there was one who laid down a rock-solid foundation for the group to grow on ask anyone in the band where their powerful sound came from and they’d all give you the same answer drummer John Bonham let’s take a look at what made Bonzo such a force behind a drum kit what you just heard is the intro to good times bad times the opening track to Led Zeppelin’s debut album for most of the world this song was their introduction to John Bonham and from the first listen his style was evident listen to the bass drum throughout the song instead of playing the bass clean on every beat Bonham accents the beat with triplets which spices up the rhythm a triplet is a grouping of three notes played within the length usually assigned to one let’s give it a listen [Music] see how he adds flair to the drumbeat by breaking up the rhythm with these triplets this kind of groove isn’t new mind you Bonham was heavily influenced by jazz musicians like Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich it’s just that not many drummers had applied this to a rock context until Bonham came along let’s give a listen to satisfaction by the Rolling Stones this track was released in 1964 four years before Zeppelin hit the scene here how this drum beat is tight and on top of the beat giving the song a kind of steady urgency now let’s compare that to a John Bonham beat check out heartbreaker [Music] notice how Bonham plays around with his bass drum throwing in little accents and just changing the flow of the bar it’s this kind of laid-back rhythm that really helps the band jell with each other and get into a particular kind of groove Bonham got the idea for these syncopated grooves by listening to a lot of functions especially James Brown this kind of drumming is impressive enough on its own but to truly appreciate John Bonham’s greatness we need to look at the way that he worked with his band Ron Nevison was an engineer who worked on several Zeppelin albums he said that part of what made the band work so well was the way that Bonzo played along with guitarist Jimmy Page the essence to me of the whole Zeppelin thing was John Bonham following the guitars he would take the riffs and he would make that his drum part instead of just doing it for four and getting with the bass player he got in with the guitar player getting in with the guitar riff helps tighten up and energize Led Zeppelin sound listen for it here in the immigrant song [Music] and here it is again in the wanton song this time a little more complicated and we’ll give you one more example with wind the levee breaks listen to how bottom stays tight with page even when the song changes its phrasing [Music] you can hear it this kind of chemistry between the band becomes especially important when they move towards more complex pieces of music let’s look at Kashmir for example one of the band’s most iconic songs so the drumbeat of the song is in 4/4 time meaning that there are four beats to a bar and a quarter note is worth one beat 4/4 time is a pretty standard time signature used in a lot of music especially rock however on top of Bonham steady 4/4 time the string and guitar are playing in a 3/4 feel meaning that there’s only 3 beats to each phrase as a result the drum and string phrases only sync up on the strong beat once every 12 beats let’s give it a listen by mixing the tiny signatures Zeppelin add a kind of tension to the song and it really meshes well with the intense feeling of the escalating strings in order to do these kind of time signature tricks the band needs to be rock solid with the rhythm which comes from Bonham this relationship is pushed to its limits in black dog the song is an acrobatic exercise in time signatures and phrasing but it keeps a steady rock feel throughout thanks to Bonham one of the most interesting parts of the song is the pre-chorus in this section the guitar and bass riffs actually moved by half a beat with each repetition the band is effectively playing in nine eighth time over Bonhams 4/4 drums but you wouldn’t know it without a close inspection listen to the way that the guitar hook moves around the drum beat never matching up in the same part of the bar [Music] did you hear the way does a guitar and bass became out of sync with the drums it can almost sound sloppy if you don’t realize that every member of the band is working meticulously as a tight unit to create this John Paul Jones called the kind of feeling that it creates a stomp groove and this kind of groove can’t exist without bottom locking down the beat with a less steady drummer this breakdown could have easily fallen into chaos so let’s look at one more drum piece fooling the rain is hands-down my favorite Bonham beat and it’s absolutely incredible there’s a lot going on in this beat so let’s see if we can’t break it down so first of all the beat is polyrhythmic meaning that there are two different rhythms happening simultaneously one of the rhythms comes from the hi-hat where Bonham lays down steady triplets opening and closing the hats for emphasis on certain notes he complements this with ghost notes on the snare notes that are barely audible and more meant to provide a feel to the song than anything else beneath this comes the second rhythm where Bonzo plays a swung halftime shuffle on his bass and snare as if the beat wasn’t enough the piano and guitar lines are playing in twelve eight time over the 4/4 beat this gives a syncopated triplet feel to the song that’s impossible not to get with let’s give it a listen [Music] John Bonham is a truly one-of-a-kind drummer and his steady foundation helped Led Zeppelin do incredible things musically even in this video I’ve only begun to scratch the surface of what made him such a great drummer so next time you’re spinning Zeppelin listen a little closer to the drum [Music]

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100 thoughts on “What Makes John Bonham Such a Good Drummer?

  1. For a non-musical inclined person (myself) thanks for breaking it down and making it understandable allowing for a greater appreciation.

  2. Sorry, But I hear a lots of bullshit here. John Bonham was a good drummer for "It's Time". Since the sixties and seventies drums have made a huge improvement since. People who talking here like Bonham is still the best…Sorry but they don't have any idea about drums at all. If you put the Skills of John Bonham next to present drummers like: Dennis Chambers, Vinnie Colaiuta, Virgil Donati, Thomas Lang, Marco minneman and so many others…..John Bonham will be absolutely totally WIPED OUT. Sorry to say this that way!!!….But it's the Truth!!….Do I say John Bonham was Bad…NO!!!…John WAS an excellent drummer "FOR ITS TIME". But drums have made huge flight in development since then. We should not forget…"todays DRUMS is not that OLD. like the piano, violin, contrabas, trumpet etc is. These instruments have a way longer story and tradition. Present drumming was at the time of John Bonham full into development. John Bonham was actually a "founding father of drums". Thats the best way to describe him.

  3. Apparently they dumped on Phil Collins at Live Aid and now I know why – no other drummer could do what Bonham did.

  4. "What Makes John Bonham Such a Good Drummer?" Excuse me, but WTF is this "good" crap? Lets get that out of the way first. John Henry Bonham was given to us buy God to disrupt and challenge our ears as humans. John was a God in itself. One of a kind. Never copied. Never reproduced. John was unique. We are very lucky in our time to have had him and Led Zeppelin to listen to. Life is good, John Bonham is the Best.

  5. Good times, Bad times, still one of the great pieces of all rock music. So much in 4 minutes of sound. Mitch was like that with Jimi too.

  6. One of the only times i did not like getting my money back was when Bonzo died and we got back our money on the concert tickets we had reserved ahead of time at a ticket agency in Los Angeles for a show at the Forum , it was just months away , the only bad ass that played double bass on one bass John Henry Bonham RIP

  7. @1:42…Live at the Royal Albert Hall 1970 John Bonham begins his Moby Dick solo by playing The Drum Also Waltzes by Max Roach. Bonzo didn't play the physically entertaining and comparatively dull drumming of Krupa or the dull irritated speedster Rich. Both were fine drummers of technique deserving credit as great pioneers; but their solo structures were weak. Bonham instead chose the melodic Max Roach. Bonzo also pulled inspiration from the greatest, and little known, jazz drummer of the 1960's era in Joe Morello; as evidenced by his bare hands technique. Both Roach and Morello came from a different school of thought; and, consequently exhibited more structure, new techniques, and dynamics in their solos; more melody. Krupa and Rich? Not so much.

  8. Jimmy Page’s exceptional composition skill simply could not have reached an audience without John Bonham at the drums. In all my years I’ve never heard anything to quite match what they did routinely to make the music absolutely unforgettable. It was almost a magic trick. It’s no wonder the band just stopped when John died. He was literally one of a kind.

  9. Easily the most overrated drummer of all time. Skill level of an above average drummer who complimented his bad well. This is facts.

  10. Eric Clapton dismissed Bonham and Moon when asked to compare their drum skills to that of Ginger Baker. You can see this in the documentary Beware of Mr. Baker.

  11. Zeppelin's musical and spiritual leader was Bonham. His phrasing, timing, all of it, was otherworldly. The jazz influences are there certainly, but he took them in original directions. I saw a video one time of someone trying to teach how to play Rock and Roll on drums–it remains vexing for drummers because that intro is essentially a jazz jump, yet few can hit it the right way.

  12. Ummm…. these explanations aren't entirely accurate. Like fool in the rain, the drum part is also in 12/8.

  13. Amazing laymen breakdown of the time signature manipulation, variations, between Jimmy and Bonzo. Bringing crazy deep jazz into blues rooted rock and roll. Kind of helps me understand what makes Zep next level evolved rock. Had to subscribe in hope the is more to see to go deeper still…..

  14. They probably just got into a room and jammed out until something sounded good. You're trying to make it rocket science.

  15. Nice video. Although I'm not sure if its fair to attribute "Fool In the Rain" to Bonham, at least entirely. Jones and Plant were mostly responsible for the songs on "In Through The Out Door" and they were the ones that came up with the idea for the 12/8 meter and the samba breakdown in "Fool". I'm not sure if they wrote the main shuffle too. Obviously, even if they did, Bonham was still the one that played it on the album. But its likely that we should be crediting Jones and Plant with the idea to juxtaopose the beat to the rest of the band. (Also they never performed this song live.)

    Not trying to really take anything away from Bonham as a drummer in general here. He was awesome. But I do think credit should go where its due. And on that song at least, it probably needs to go to Jones and Plant as well.

  16. Excellent video. But one thing that made Bonzo special was that he just has to play straight 4/4 and you imemdiately know it's him. How does he do that?

  17. They just DON'T make them like anymore – awesome. Always considered him to be one of THE best drummers around. RIP dude xxxxxx SUCH a great loss to music

  18. PEople keep sucking LZ´s balls but i still cant understand why i dont like them, im not trying to be offensive against LZ´s fans, i understand this video i actually play the drums, i just dont find it so amazing, the drummer , the band, the music… nothing
    thats why i keep watching these videos, maybe somebodys vision of LZ will change my mind… great video, please people change my mind, help me see what i cant, thank you and rock on!!!

  19. "Stomp groove" reminds me of the "loose but tight" feel of Gn'R: it's fake sloppiness that's actually based on torturous time discipline.

  20. basically all that you are stating as great about Bonzo is stuff thats already been done by jazz drummers: syncopic fills and beats, playing along with the melody and not just with the driving beat of a song…
    I'm not dissing Bonham – he obviously did quite some stuff for rock music – but really its not that impressive when all that it would have taken was a Rock Drummer that was taught proper Jazz Drumming before… so he kind of was a seeing dude surrounded by blind people.

  21. Yes he was an absolutely skilled drummer. Listening to him is my favorite part of Zep. What I really like most about Bonzo is the fact that he was a "powerful" drummer. He would literally beat the hell out of the drums. it seems as though every beat was an explosion of sound.

  22. I think the magic of someone like Bonham is a god given ability to surrender their soul to the music and let it flow through them. There have been a handful of players with that gift, we all know of them, Jimi, Jimmy, Stevie,Moon on and on. But not a great many, but of all stripes, drums, guitar, bass, keys, horns. As a guitar player for over fifty years I know the rare times when I felt like a real player with talent was when I was able to let go, stop thinking, just letting the feeling take me and seemed effortless. And then it would be gone and I felt like selling my guitars and never playing again. It just felt like an empty waste of time without the spirit flowing. That's the difference between them and us mere mortals. Some of us might be able to experience a flash here and there but those chosen ones couldn't do it any other way. I used to be envious but know I know I am blessed just to have the ability to appreciate their talent. Okay, I'm still envious but I've learned to live with it.

  23. Bonzo had inferior equipment compared to the guys now days and they will never ever catch him, not in a million years

  24. I honestly don't know how Page & Bonzo did this. A great example is the Guitar solo on Thank You BBC version. There is 1 small part where page switches to the major pentatonic and Bonzo catches that immediately, changing his fill…….incredible

  25. He should still be a live. His passing away keep us from a lot of great music. I wish he was more careful but accidents happen.

  26. Bill Ward Bitch!!! Bonham was an asshole!! He deserves to be dead! He didn’t respect himself or anyone around him. A smelly , repeating himself, sloppy , puke- stained slob! I met him! No way to go through life, Fat- Drunk and stupid! He was good but not the best. Mick Tucker from the Sweet eats Bonham for lunch! Don Brewer! Tommy Aldridge! The professor! Bonham and Zep as a whole- Over rated ! Brian Downey!! You know it!!

  27. LOVE ZEP!!!! I'm a drummer and of course worship Bonham. But John Paul Jones was a much too often "hidden" genius. Of course Led Zepplin is not the same with out Page or Plant. But would DEFINATELY not be the band we Know with out Jones

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