How to sound like John Bonham…

John Bonham of Led Zeppelin is undoubtedly my favourite drummer of all time.

If you want to create a recording that sounds just like John Bonham is playing on it, without getting into any ethical or legal copyright hassles, how would you go about it?

Here’s a few suggestions based on products I have found out about, purchased and actually used in order to get a “John Bonham” sounding drum track on my recordings.

Please note that prices shown below (which were correct at time of writing) change often – so please check with the provider directly prior to ordering. Thank you.

Note, none of these feature the great man himself directly, but are recreated by other drummers, such as Rod Morgenstein, who played the LZ Grooves by Sonic Reality.

1) Get a soundtrack to play along with, done “in the style of” John Bonham.

Here’s a couple of products that may be of interest to Bonham fans:

a) LZ Grooves Drummer Tracks by Sonic Reality

(esoundz.com/IK Multimedia) $29.00 USD

lzgrooves
LZ Grooves features 18 individual wav (audio) files of 16 “complete” Led Zeppelin songs (Note: these are drum tracks only).

The download folder weighs in at 429mb unzipped.

They are pretty convincing and fun to play along to. Do they sound exactly like John Bonham? Not exactly, No.

If you compare and contrast the products I am discussing here with the original “When the Levee Breaks” from Led Zeppelin IV you will see what I mean!

In my opinion, Rod Morgenstein’s drumming technique is closer than the actual drum kit sound itself.

Tracklist & Song tempo

Cant Quit U Beat_140 BPM.wav
Celebration Beat_129 BPM.wav
Custard Beat_93 BPM.wav
Gonna Leave Beat_137 BPM.wav
Immigrant Beat_110 BPM.wav
Kashmirian Beat_82 BPM.wav
Levee Beat_70 BPM.wav
MobyBeat-A_120 BPM.wav
MobyBeat-B_90 BPM.wav
Ocean Beat_90 BPM.wav
Ramble Groove_100 BPM.wav
RocknRollBeat_170 BPM.wav
Since Ive Been Loving Groove_120 BPM.wav
Song Remains The Groove_145 BPM.wav
Stairway Beat-A_85 BPM.wav
Stairway Beat-B_100 BPM.wav
Whole Lotta Groove_90 BPM.wav
Your Time Beat_75 BPM.wav

Here’s what the “Levee Beat” looks like in Reason. A single stereo track.

Levee Beat

Rod Morgenstein plays the drums and Ken Scott is the producer. I have used one of these tracks for the intro of my track Mister Mystery Man on Soundcloud. See if you can work out which one it is.

You can get a Free sample drummer track download called Stairway BEAT (I wonder which one that is…) when you sign up for an esoundz Account
http://www.esoundz.com/freesoundz.php
Look for “FREE DRUMMER TRACK: StairwayBeat” to download the FREE file.

b) “Beats Like Bonham” by The Loop Loft  $ Check for latest Sales Price USD

Beats like Bonham Bundle - Save 25%

These are audio files too. The two download folders Volumes 5 & 6 weigh in at a collective 1.6gb unzipped. The drums are in fact split up over different audio tracks, and you get a couple of overhead mike channels L and R and a room channel too. Here’s what the “Levee” track looks like from “The Loop Loft” when imported into Reason.

That’s 5 separate mono tracks (in this case, Kick, Snare,Overhead Left, Overhead Right and Room) which you can pan, mix and tweak with effects to your heart’s content.

looploftlevee

You get 25% off if you buy them both together…and an additional 25% off of what’s left if you buy within 30 minutes of visiting the site.

Or you can grab them separately…but it’ll cost you considerably more, even with the 30 minute discount!
Volume 5 consists of: [AllMyWuv_90bpm + ImmigrantTune_112bpm + WhenTheLeveeCracks_72bpm]
http://www.thelooploft.com/products/beats-like-bonham-complete-takes-vol-5

Volume 6 consists of: [Drummer_Maker_82bpm + InTheLateAfternoon_103bpm + Kazmir_80bpm]

http://www.thelooploft.com/products/beats-like-bonham-complete-takes-vol-6

My early impressions: You will have much more control over these tracks than the LZ Groove tracks. You can tweak each drum individually, whereas with the LZ Grooves it’s all on one track and it’s all pretty much been done for you already. You only get 6 songs instead of 18. What do they sound like? Here’s one from Volume 5.

“Beats like Bonham” cost me $43.87 USD for 6 songs. So it’s obviously a more pricey proposition than LZ Grooves with more individual control over the drum sound.
I got it with a special offer of Classic Beats Midi Loops thrown in for Free to sweeten the deal. Incidentally, that includes Midi Grooves of 100 tracks, Including “The Immigrant Song” and “When The Levee Breaks” By Led Zeppelin. There’s also the Simon Phillips Session Tracks which features Good Times Bad Times.

3) Find a set of drum samples and/or a drum machine that sounds like John Bonham:

sl-sample-sets

a) A sample set – Smartloops have a kit called the SL Tight Kit Sample Set for $29.00USD

“Featuring 24-bit samples and two kits. One dry and tight, and one with a BIG “Bonham” room sound. Both are fully EQed, compressed and ready to go with a tight studio sound” $29.00 USD in SFZ, Soundfont or WAV format. I believe you only get one of the three formats, not all of them, for your $29.00 USD.

These sample sets will also work with Cakewalk’s excellent synths – “Dimension Pro, Rapture, and the SFZ Player included with SONAR can make use of these additional samples”.

[Note: The SFZ format will work with the Free Alchemy Player by Camel Audio. Soundfonts will work with Reason’s NN-XT sample player and Cakewalk’s sfz and sfz+ soundfont players, the WAV format (drum loops) can be dragged onto any spare audio track – no player required – in a DAW like Reason, Reaper or Mixcraft. Individual drum samples in wav or aiff  format (single hit samples) can be loaded into Reason’s Redrum and Kong)].

b) A drum machine – The Smartloops sample set also ships with Cakewalk’s Session Drummer 2, available for $49.00 USD from the Cakewalk online Store.

session drummer 2Editor’s Note: Incidentally, although this has been superceded by Session Drummer 3, you can add your own samples as long as you can get you head around Cakewalk’s .sfz scripts. They are text files containing special mapping and instructions for the drum samples used and where they can be found on your hard drive . Once I figured out what was required I set up a spreadsheet and got a list of the sample names together. Building your own kits for Session Drummer 2 is achievable and you can get great results. Note it has slots for Percussion samples as well (although not quite all the voices you might expect for full General Midi compatibility – but usually, plenty!) If you set them up right, you can then go ahead and use the same kits on Cakewalk’s Rapture and Dimension, and Camel Audio’s FREE Alchemy Player too.

Session Drummer 2 is now my preferred VST plugin that I use with Reaper for my custom kits. I also still use Drumcore Free, which has a Ludwig sparkle kit featured not unlike ones that John used to use.

3) Use your software with a midi drum controller

You can use all sorts of pads and contraptions like this DTXPLORER to trigger your samples. I cover that in detail here. You will need some one-shot (i.e. individual hits) samples that sound like John’s kit, a method of triggering the sounds via midi and to play the drums yourself. You do not have to have a full electronic kit. If you are short on space and/or cash, a new mini keyboard/midi controller with drum pads (such as an Akai MPK49) or an old midi equipped drum machine (such as a Yamaha RX-17, Yamaha DD-5 or Boss Dr Rhythm DR-660) from eBay will do the trick. I cover a lot of that ground in my Best Drum Machines Ever post. And maybe, rather than fiddling about with all that electronic stuff, why not grab hold of a decent 60s or 70s drum kit and bash that instead?

Yamaha DTXplorer

4) Get yourself an acoustic drum kit like John Bonhams

John Bonham played Ludwig with a single rack tom and two floor toms – This kit photographed underneath this graphic is a Fibes – the drum sizes are similar to JBs as shown in this configuration from johnbonham.co.uk. John Bonham Drum Kit

My Fibes Kit

This is an American Fibes kit made by the C F Martin company in the 1970s  – Sporting a single mounted rack tom and 2 floor toms – The Classic Buddy Rich and John Bonham configuration!

DSCF0273
If you want to know how to capture that unique Bass Drum sound of Johns, click here:

But what if you can’t play like John? Well, there’s always:

5) Get a great online drum teacher to show you how to play like John Bonham step by step…for £19.79 GBP

Rob Litten from DrumsTheWord.com is selling a comprehensive video drum pack here:

“BONHAM” LED ZEPPELIN Video Drum Pack (33 VIDEOS!)

Led Zeppelin "Bonham" Video Drum Lesson Pack (33 Videos!)

Learn how to play drums to NINE songs by Led Zeppelin, featuring John Bonham and including FREE Bonuses…

It’s also included in the massive 6 DVD DrumMasters DVD song pack! Australian customers can order this directly from us. howcanimakemusic.com

Here’s a taster of what to expect:

Further Reading from around the web:

10 Ways To Sound Like John Bonham

How to sound like Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham

How Do I Sound Like John Bonham?

Note: Images are shown for the purposes of identification and review only and copyright remains the property of its respective owners.

Disclosure: This page contains affiliate links – That means if you make a purchase by visiting The Loop Loft – after clicking on the ads and links in these pages – I will receive a commission payment at no extra cost to you. I hope that’s cool with you! Furthermore, I purchased Beats Like Bonham from The Loop Loft myself and can confidently recommend it to you. Have a listen and judge for yourself.

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