John Bonham Wasn't Playing That Hard, According to Simon Phillips

Whitten

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I've heard about drummers playing big and not hard-hitting. The visual of playing big makes it seem like you are hitting harder. I bet Dave Grohl would be in the same category.
Dave Grohl is one of the new breed who absolutely smack their drums. It definitely looks good.
 

Whitten

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While it may be/is likely true that you get a better sound out of the drums and cymbals when you’re not beating the snot out of them, people who hit hard aren't generally thinking about that. So for me it’s a mistake to put those things together.
Music is primarily a medium of sound. So it's a negative if any drummer is not concerned about the sound they are producing.
 

Markkuliini

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In my experience, the drummers getting the best tones out of recordings are the light to medium hitters. There's a point past wich the drums themselves, the mics and or the preamps crap out and hitting harder becomes counter productive. Same goes for compressors and other processing gear.


Just like pretty much everybody, I've spent years thinking Bonzo was on top of the Heavy hitters pyramid. Until I started recording on a lot of vintage gear and began understanding how most of these tones were achieved and how those old machines behave and interract. Then one day I saw an interview with Jason where he set the record straight and that pretty much confirmed that Bonzo wasn't in fact an all out steamroller.


It makes a whole lot of sense, not only on tape, but on stage as well. Who could withstand night after night of gigging 2 and a half hours high-energy sets with 30 mins solos, hungover, jetlagged and with just a few hours of sleep, playing at full throttle all the time? No amount of booze and booger sugar can get you there, not for a full decade anyway...
Exactly. If you hit your drum super light all you get is tone and barely no attack. And then when you start raising the velocity, the attack start to get more dominant, and after a certain velocity, the drum cannot generate any more tone, but just more attack. So, the tone vs. attack mix is all in your hands so to speak.
This is the reason why the sound starts to get thinner and more narrow if you play super hard. It will actually sound smaller.
And this is especially true nowadays when recording digitally, because you have to set your recording gain according your hardest hits, and you cannot overdrive the sound in that stage like with tape. If you do, the sound will just clip digitally which sounds like crap.
 

halldorl

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This is the reason why the sound starts to get thinner and more narrow if you play super hard. It will actually sound smaller.
So very true. This I learned “the hard way” when I first started recording. I was slamming so hard thinking it would sound really powerful but then I heard the opposite when listening back in the control room.
 

langmick

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I've seen a few LZ tributes, and to a band the drummers go absolutely ape-s on the drums and cymbals, all the time.
 

Deafmoon

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"When you play (an instrument), you have to play (that instrument) to express the feeling of your very first French Kiss." Carlos Santana

Carlos actually said this about his solos, but I always believed it applies to PLAYING any instrument.
 

Matched Gripper

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Watch any video of Bonzo and you can see he wasn’t a "hard hitter." He knew how to hit his drums to get maximum tone and a big, full, sound without bashing them. Same with his cymbals. I think his ability to hit his drums properly is often overlooked because he was such a powerful sounding bada**. Jason told me a long time ago his dad wasn't a "hard hitter" and I would agree with that.

This is Rock And Roll in 1973...

Rock And Roll in 1979...

God he was amazing!
Huge tempo difference in those two vids.
 

jaymandude

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Music is primarily a medium of sound. So it's a negative if any drummer is not concerned about the sound they are producing.
Well, that’s true. It’s an instrument and should be treated as such, with a full range of dynamics and expression that can be coaxed or achieved with it.

my thinking is more along the lines of a player like the actor in the movie “The Sound of Metal”. Someone with very limited training, if any. Who uses the drums and the music as a means of expression, (also one of its primary purposes, wouldn’t you say ?)

i’m not talking about whether it’s good or bad, whether I like it or I don’t like it. If a guy wants to beat the snot out of the drums and cymbals and get a diminutive sound because that’s the way he’s expressing himself through frustration or rage or whatever he’s feeling. That’s fine for him. Ultimately I don’t like it of course, it’s not music to me, but it’s not my decision how someone else chooses to play the drums
 

ranch

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I know he switched to lighter sticks in later years, but you can see in earlier live videos when he's using the 2B's (didn't he affectionately call them his tree trunks?). Didn't need big motions with those. It probably would've killed any kit of the day if he'd tried to bash them. The thing I always noticed when he was using those big sticks is how far up he was holding them. The higher fulcrum would really help the stick get off the heads even faster I'd think.

It's easy to understand how bigger sticks can get more tone from drums to a point (vs. playing with pencils as an extreme example), the trade-off being on the cymbal side. Bonham's big drums with tighter batter sides helped too. Like probably many folks though my only experience using big sticks was on the marching/drum corps side. I don't recall even experimenting much trying them on a kit.
 

Deafmoon

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Saw them 3 shows back to back in 73. 2 shows in 75 and 2 shows in 77.
I caught them in '77 at MSG and saw tons of concert footage over the years. Not sure what you thought about them on stage? To us of course all their studio albums were magic, but alot of their live performances were 'hit or miss' to me. I know this is Zeppelin and all the mystic and I was into them from 1971, but I really didn't think they were consistently a very tight band on stage. All in all, I totally agree that John could swing the drums with enormous power and volume. Was he a basher though? Nah, he had swagger!
 

jptrickster

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Oh yeah totally hit or miss but always amazing to me , Plant's vocals were blown out a lot of the time. They did a ton of drugs and booze and so did we, all good lol. Bonham, def not a basher , an ever present and powerful driving force.
 

Tornado

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Judicious Use of dynamics was probably what Simon meant....not full force all the time not super soft all the time..... a flexibility
I'm sure that's what he'd say if you pressed him about it, but his statement seems to imply that he didn't thump them tubs, which we all know he did regularly.
 


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