Bonhams drum kit tuning....interesting info!

Wick

Senior Member
I didn't read everything in this thread so sorry if I'm missing something...

Anyways, Bonhams drum influences were big band drummers like Buddy Rich, and Gene Krupa. And he always tried to get that sound out of his drums. So just aim for a big band sound is my advise I guess...
 

cdrums21

Gold Member
I know you did--just giving you a little grief, that's all.




So I'm really curious about your emotional experience with this, though I suppose it might be difficult to put into words. But wow, the drums LOOK like JBs, SOUND like JBs--seems like it might be a more than a bit surreal.

best,

spleen
You can give me grief anytime you want my friend! ;o)
Really, it's not an obsession or a life long dream or anything like that.....I just found a kit for sale that had a 26" bass drum and an 18" floor tom and I thought if I could get a few more pieces, I would have the same sized kit Bonham had. Once I did get it, I thought it may be a good investment to restore the kit to look like Bonham's kit since it was the same year and shell type. I was also curious as to how much the drums contributed to that sound. I'm a gear freak, so it's been fun to mess with it and try to get it to sound like the Zeppelin recordings. I'm not a Bonham wanna be or anything like that, I just like having the kit to rehearse on and be able to hear some flickers of sound that remind me of some of those great recordings.
 

spleeeeen

Platinum Member
I liked my Yammies too, they were great drums.
I know you did--just giving you a little grief, that's all.

When I play "Four sticks" on the kit, I swear it sounds just like it!

So I'm really curious about your emotional experience with this, though I suppose it might be difficult to put into words. But wow, the drums LOOK like JBs, SOUND like JBs--seems like it might be a more than a bit surreal.

best,

spleen
 

cdrums21

Gold Member
I like your approach, and find that tuning to notes at the proper intervals gives a great sound, especially during fills. I found it in the drum tuning thread, and my set is still tuned that way. Thanks for sharing it.
Hey man, thanks for mentioning it and I hope the info helped. I think sometimes, people get confused about this method and how to do it and all that. It's really pretty simple. Basically, all I am doing is documenting the tension of each head via the use of a pitch. It's kind of like a drum dial as far as documenting a tension, only way more accurate. Even if you just tension a head up randomly and tune it by ear, it will still end up being a certain pitch. I'm just finding what pitch that is on a pitch pipe. Then, I can tune the drums in complimentary musical intervals and have relative tensions (the difference in tension between the top head and bottom head on a drum) tuned in a relationship so that it minimizes weird overtones and increases or decreases sustain as needed. Also, each note that the drum is tuned to on the batter head falls squarely in the sweet spot of the drum. Usually, the difference in diameter between toms will determine what pitch relationship will sound best so that each drum is speaking clearly in its own sweet spot.

The advantages are....
- I can tune my drums quickly and accurately within a few minutes.
- I can tune them in intervals (thirds, fourths, etc.) to sound more musical and better as a whole.
- I can tune out unwanted overtones easier.
- I can dial up the exact same tuning every time.

Here's a scenario...say you were in a room and your toms sounded awesome. After a few gigs, you change heads and tune them up randomly by ear. They sound fine to you. You go back to the same room and your toms don't sound as good. You fool around and re-tune the kit for a while and get frustrated because they are ringing or the drums aren't happening like they were before. With my method, I can change the heads and tune them exactly the same way as they were before, so that my toms sound great, just like the first time. If my toms don't sound as good the next time I play the same room, it's likely another issue other than tuning. That can be a huge help and prevent alot of wasted time and hassle...see what I mean?

I don't know, maybe I'm too analytical about it, but like I said, it works for me and alot of other guys, I think it's pretty cool.
 

Strangelove

Gold Member
I like your approach, and find that tuning to notes at the proper intervals gives a great sound, especially during fills. I found it in the drum tuning thread, and my set is still tuned that way. Thanks for sharing it.
 

cdrums21

Gold Member
-Don't over analyze tuning - if tuning is the right word. I much prefer Buddy Rich's concept of tensioning over tuning.
One more note concerning tuning.....Early on in my career I was a subscriber, more or less, to the Buddy Rich method of just twisting lugs and tensioning the drum head until it felt good and sounded good to my ear. It was OK and my drums sounded decent. The problem I had is that I sometimes had some issues with overtones I couldn't control or dissonant frequencies when two drums were struck simultaneously. I didn't know how to get rid of them and it caused alot of problems in the recording studio. Like most drummers who aren't good tuners, I resorted to duct tape and muffling to solve my problem.

As I grew as a drummer and musician, I became more in touch with my sound and hence became more interested in tuning drums. After much research and "brain picking" of pro drummers and drum techs, I developed my own method of tuning drums via a pitch pipe and tuning to specific notes, intervals and relative tension. I can say now that my drums sound much more musical...sounding better as a whole, plus I don't require any muffling as I've learned how to eliminate the problems I mentioned earlier through proper tuning.

I realize that tuning to specific notes and such is not for everyone and some people get great sounds the old fashioned way by not really having any rhyme or reason to their method, just tuning ( or should I say tensioning) them up to sound and feel right to them. That's cool, I just find several important advantages to the way I do it and since it is simple and has worked so well for me, there's really no reason to change.
 

cdrums21

Gold Member
-Don't over analyze tuning - if tuning is the right word. I much prefer Buddy Rich's concept of tensioning over tuning.
If you really want to understand Bonham you don't listen to HIS kit, you listen to the kits HE was listening to.
Thanks for the reply/insight ...and much respect to you. Concerning tuning, I don't feel I over analyze at all. I have been tuning drums for a long time for pro drummers, as a tech, and myself, with a method I explain in detail in the drum tuning section here on the forum. It works for me. I understand Buddy Rich's comments and logic, I just feel there's more to it than that, especially for recording purposes, and I have had much success with my method.

Concerning Bonham and his sound, I just always dug his playing and drum sound and I know he was influenced by the big band drummers and the way those kits sounded. I'm not trying to sound like him per se or get inside of his head, just trying to see what my vintage Ludwigs were capable of and thought it was intersting how his drums were tuned in intervals....that's about as far as it goes.

I know alot of people don't agree with tuning drums to notes and all that. It's cool, that's why I prefaced the post with "For anyone interested".

Spleen said:
I'm not sure if I'm remembering correctly, but aren't those the same intervals (though not the same pitches) you were using before?
Hey brother, great to hear from you too, always a pleasure. The intervals on my DW kit are thirds, that's where the sweet spot seems to fall on each drum. I liked my Yammies too, they were great drums.

Strangelove, thanks for the tip on the cymbals!
 
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Dunnett

Classic Drumsmith
A few notes...

-Jeff Ocheltree once told me that the only kit Bonham ever used to record was the green sparkle kit. That proved to be substantially inaccurate. Bonham used a Slingerland kit on LZ1 and a stainless steel kit on In through the Outdoor.

-Don't over analyze tuning - if tuning is the right word. I much prefer Buddy Rich's concept of tensioning over tuning.

-No one can dissect Bonham like Stanton Moore. He has a phenomenal understanding of what Bonham was thinking. If you really want to understand Bonham you don't listen to HIS kit, you listen to the kits HE was listening to. If you get to see a Stanton clinic you'll understand.
 

moontheloon

Silver Member
Yep, and the bottom heads on these drums tuned to those notes are pretty tight. The tops are at a moderate tension. As far as the rack tom on a snare stand, he didn't do that on his recording kit...he had the rail consolette like I do, so I went for authenticity instead. It works out fine and I kind of like the vintage look of it.
I love the vintage look....you are blessed with a beautiful drum kit.....Im envious and suddenly miss my 67s
 

spleeeeen

Platinum Member
Hey Clint,

Good to see you man and always great to see your kit (though I still miss seeing the Yamahas ;-).

I'm not sure if I'm remembering correctly, but aren't those the same intervals (though not the same pitches) you were using before?
 
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Strangelove

Gold Member
Yep, and the bottom heads on these drums tuned to those notes are pretty tight. The tops are at a moderate tension. As far as the rack tom on a snare stand, he didn't do that on his recording kit...he had the rail consolette like I do, so I went for authenticity instead. It works out fine and I kind of like the vintage look of it.
Very nice vintage set!. If you ever want to add a set of vintage Paiste white label Giant Beats, keep your eye on the buy/sell section at cymbalholics.com. I see more vintage GBs over there than I do on Ebay.
 
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cdrums21

Gold Member
Bonham cranked his heads super tight similar to the jazz players of the day.....bottom heads tighter than the top

with a kick drum that size....to push that much air....you need to crank that thing to get that punch sound he had and not just have a muddy thud


sweet sweet sweet kit by the way........I had a similar '67 a while back but had to sell it when I was broke......broke my heart is what it did.....

congrats on the kit ....its gorgeous

I would throw that rack tom on a snare stand....but thats just me
Yep, and the bottom heads on these drums tuned to those notes are pretty tight. The tops are at a moderate tension. As far as the rack tom on a snare stand, he didn't do that on his recording kit...he had the rail consolette like I do, so I went for authenticity instead. It works out fine and I kind of like the vintage look of it.
 

cdrums21

Gold Member
I was lead to believe that 60's-70's era Ludwig keystone drums of Bonham's size were extremely rare because you had to custom order the 26" bass drum, and they would cost an insane amount for that time. How did you happen to get yours?
Yes, as said above, mine are the blue/olive badge. I got the bass drum and 18" floor tom from a local guy selling an old kit. The bass drum and tom were in pristine condition in a different wrap. I got the 14x10 six lug tom on ebay, as well as the 16" tom, both pristine shells as well. I refinished them and added the vintage hardware to replicate Bonham's legendary recording kit. I couldn't be happier with them, they sound so sweet.
 

Strangelove

Gold Member
Ok on closer look, his green sparkle kit had a B/O badge, but I've seen his older drums with the keystone badge. My favorite of his was the wooden natural kit of the same sizes.
Yes, the maple kit he had on the Danmark Video had the keystone badge if you can find it on Youtube. Checkout page 39 of this article:

http://www.drummagazine.com/images/bonham/bonham-traps07.pdf

That's a pretty good chronology of his drums. His cymbals are another matter altogether. And as to 26" Bass Drums, you will not find a single Ludwig kit from that era in any Ludwig Catalog that features a 26x14 or a 10x14. They were both custom orders.
 

Ethan01

Senior Member
Ok on closer look, his green sparkle kit had a B/O badge, but I've seen his older drums with the keystone badge. My favorite of his was the wooden natural kit of the same sizes.
 

Ethan01

Senior Member
I was lead to believe that 60's-70's era Ludwig keystone drums of Bonham's size were extremely rare because you had to custom order the 26" bass drum, and they would cost an insane amount for that time. How did you happen to get yours?
 

moontheloon

Silver Member
Bonham cranked his heads super tight similar to the jazz players of the day.....bottom heads tighter than the top

with a kick drum that size....to push that much air....you need to crank that thing to get that punch sound he had and not just have a muddy thud


sweet sweet sweet kit by the way........I had a similar '67 a while back but had to sell it when I was broke......broke my heart is what it did.....

congrats on the kit ....its gorgeous

I would throw that rack tom on a snare stand....but thats just me
 

cdrums21

Gold Member
For anyone interested.....
As someone who is an experienced tuner and tunes drums to notes, I was curious as to what general notes each drum in Bonham's kit was tuned to. I have a 1970 Bonham kit identical to his (see below), so I wanted to try to tune it as close as I could to his actual tuning. My only resource, other than trying to cop the notes off of records (very difficult and probably not accurate), was the Jeff Ocheltree video on the Bonham kit here on Drummerworld and Youtube. If you go to the Jeff Ocheltree video on the tuning of Bonham's drums, at one point he goes around each drum and strikes the top and bottom heads with a mallet. If you listen closely you can hear very clearly what note the heads are tuned to. Also, when his friend Mark Romans plays the kit, you can get a good idea of what notes the toms are tuned to as well. As he says in the video, the heads are tuned alot higher than you would think. After hearing the notes on his kit, I tried that same tuning on my kit and found that this type of tuning is dead on in the high mid sweet spot of the drums and they sound phenomenal, big and powerful, the perfect amount of sustain and resonance, and with an eerie similarity to Bonham's sound. When I play "Four sticks" on the kit, I swear it sounds just like it! I am assuming that because my drums are the same as far as age and construction (clear maple interior, 3 ply with re-rings) the fundamental tone of the drums is similar and allowed me to tune the drums to those notes. I'm not sure if you could tune another kit with a different shell thickness and construction and get the same results.

Anyway, here are the notes that I came up with from the video. It is interesting to note that the drums are tuned in fourths, with the bottom head being about a third higher in pitch than the top head. 14" tom, top head A#, bottom head C#, 16" tom, top head F, bottom head A, 18" tom, top head C, bottom head E. The bass drum seems to be tuned to an F# on the batter and an A on the front head. The snare drum seems to be an A on top and a G on the bottom, with the bottom head being very tight.

(I also posted this in the Bonham section under "drummers")
 

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