It's All in the Wrists, Bonham Fans!

C.M. Jones

Well-known member
Here's an excerpt from an article I recently read that examines Bonham's sound and style:

“To start with, Bonham was known to use very little arm when he played, keeping them at a rather low position. As a result, he was able to conserve a lot of energy that other players waste flailing their arms about. Instead, he achieved his powerful stroke with the use of his wrists. Never lifting the stick very high off the head, and keeping his hand level with the rims, he would snap his wrist, quickly whacking the drum with incredible force. By coming off the head as quickly as he laid into it, he allowed the drum to resonate to its fullest.”

This passage moves me in that it mirrors the way I was taught to play. When I took my first drum lesson back in 1984 (I was just a kid), I knew nothing of form and technique. As I stood before a Remo practice pad, my arms were tucked into my body, and my thumbs were on the tops of my sticks (French Grip). My instructor grimaced, pulled my arms away from my body, and ensured that my palms were down and that my thumbs were on the sides of my sticks (German Grip). He explained that German Grip offered the best combination of power, speed, and control in that it allowed the wrists to move naturally and thus perform most of the work. To this day, German is the only grip I use. I doubt I could play any other way.

At times, Bonham appears to be thumbs up (French Grip) on his ride cymbal but keeps his palms down (German Grip) for most other strokes. I'm not faulting drummers who play thumbs up. I know some great ones who do, but the hammer motion of that grip has always seemed to impede my wrists rather than facilitate them. In any case, I thought Bonham disciples might enjoy this piece. He's one of my all-time favorites.
 

MntnMan62

Junior Member
This is interesting. Being a big fan of Bonham I had always thought how great it would be if Led Zeppelin could do a reunion with Jason Bonham on drums. I've listened to a fair amount of his playing and was always left a bit unimpressed. He's not a bad drummer, and I'm sure there is some amount of my comparing him to his father, which is unavoidable. But I've found Jason's playing to lack the nuance and subltlety of John's playing. And I think part of the reason may be that Jason is much more of an "arm" player than John was. You know what. I had never thought of this until just now as I type this but I think I just realized who would be the best person to fill the drummer chair in a Led Zeppelin reunion. And clearly this is just my opinion, but this person has crossed genres many times, playing pop, fusion, rock, metal and god knows what else. I hesitate because he's played with pretty much everyone. But the guy I'm thinking of is Vinnie Colaiuta. Bonham was slick. He was a groove oriented player. He had some roots in jazz. Unlike many other hard rock and metal players, he successfully incorporated ghost notes into his playing, quite heavily. Vinnie just seems like the right choice. Not that this would ever come to pass. But one can always dream.
 

newoldie

Silver Member
I believe this article is where the quote came from (specifically, Point # 10 in this article from 10/20/19, Drum Magazine):
 

C.M. Jones

Well-known member
I believe this article is where the quote came from (specifically, Point # 10 in this article from 10/20/19, Drum Magazine):
Thanks for adding the link. I forgot to do so in my original post.
 

C.M. Jones

Well-known member
This is interesting. Being a big fan of Bonham I had always thought how great it would be if Led Zeppelin could do a reunion with Jason Bonham on drums. I've listened to a fair amount of his playing and was always left a bit unimpressed. He's not a bad drummer, and I'm sure there is some amount of my comparing him to his father, which is unavoidable. But I've found Jason's playing to lack the nuance and subltlety of John's playing. And I think part of the reason may be that Jason is much more of an "arm" player than John was. You know what. I had never thought of this until just now as I type this but I think I just realized who would be the best person to fill the drummer chair in a Led Zeppelin reunion. And clearly this is just my opinion, but this person has crossed genres many times, playing pop, fusion, rock, metal and god knows what else. I hesitate because he's played with pretty much everyone. But the guy I'm thinking of is Vinnie Colaiuta. Bonham was slick. He was a groove oriented player. He had some roots in jazz. Unlike many other hard rock and metal players, he successfully incorporated ghost notes into his playing, quite heavily. Vinnie just seems like the right choice. Not that this would ever come to pass. But one can always dream.
I agree completely that Jason's playing isn't as spectacular as his dad's. In Jason's defense, however, no one can approximate the standalone nature of John Bonham's execution. John added rare ingredients to his grooves, and the recipes have all but been lost. I think Jason is a good drummer. He just isn't his legendary father.

Anyone who sits behind a kit for a Zeppelin reunion is highly courageous, as the standard of comparison would be quite daunting. Vinnie is an interesting option, owing to his vast versatility. I think Dave Weckl could pull it off as well.
 

MntnMan62

Junior Member
I agree completely that Jason's playing isn't as spectacular as his dad's. In Jason's defense, however, no one can approximate the standalone nature of John Bonham's execution. John added rare ingredients to his grooves, and the recipes have all but been lost. I think Jason is a good drummer. He just isn't his legendary father.

Anyone who sits behind a kit for a Zeppelin reunion is highly courageous, as the standard of comparison would be quite daunting. Vinnie is an interesting option, owing to his vast versatility. I think Dave Weckl could pull it off as well.
I agree with you that it is impossible and unfair to compare John and Jason. Living up to and attempting to fill the shoes of a famous parent is nearly impossible. I agree Jason is a good drummer. I never meant to disparage him by my comments. But the original post got me thinking about the differences between them. Jason is in good company. Felix Pastorius. Dweezil Zappa. However, there is one son who I think has surpassed his famous father. Zack Starkey. I’m sure there may be others but I admittedly have not given the father son thing a whole lot of thought.
 
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C.M. Jones

Well-known member
Whoever said Weckl could pull off Bonham is off their rocker. No.
I understand your immediate repulsion. I'm not arguing that Bonham and Weckl are identical drummers. My point is this: If you need a guy who can sit behind a kit and play just about anything, free from limitation and in complete control of his limbs, Weckl is a fairly safe bet. Weckl also tours with the Buddy Rich Band (Bonham's chief influence), and Weckl claims that he sometimes tunes his bass drum between Rich's and Bonham's.

There is no substitute for Bonham. That truth is indisputable. I don't think Weckl would embarrass Zeppelin, however.
 

C.M. Jones

Well-known member
I agree with you that it is impossible and unfair to compare John and Jason. Living up to and attempting to fill the shoes of a famous parent is nearly impossible. I agree Jason is a good drummer. I never meant to disparage him by my comments. But the original post got me thinking about the differences between them. Jason is in good company. Felix Pastorius. Dweezil Zappa. However, there is one son who I think has surpassed his famous father. Zack Starkey. I’m sure there may be others but I admittedly have not given the father son thing a whole lot of thought.
The father/son drumming paradigm is a curious one. My six-year-old son drums as well. I've never sought to lure him toward drumming. It's just something he wants to do. I guess that can be said of many activities. Children often model their parents' interests, but the correlation between fathers and sons who drum seems unusually high.
 
However, there is one son who I think has surpassed his famous father. Zack Starkey. I’m sure there may be others but I admittedly have not given the father son thing a whole lot of thought.
Zack is obviously miles above Richard when it comes to technique. But—and I'm not sure I've heard any studio recordings of Zack's, although I've seen/heard lots of his live performances and think he's stellar—until he comes up with a part as groundbreaking, imaginative and tasteful as "Come Together," or "In My Life," for that matter, I think his dad's still got him beat.

...which isn't to say I wouldn't choose Zack over Richie if I were putting together a band these days, 'cuz I certainly would. :)

(Of course, putting together a band these exact specific days is a terrible idea and should be avoided for the good of everyone.)
 

Dr_Watso

Platinum Member
I understand your immediate repulsion. I'm not arguing that Bonham and Weckl are identical drummers. My point is this: If you need a guy who can sit behind a kit and play just about anything, free from limitation and in complete control of his limbs, Weckl is a fairly safe bet. Weckl also tours with the Buddy Rich Band (Bonham's chief influence), and Weckl claims that he sometimes tunes his bass drum between Rich's and Bonham's.

There is no substitute for Bonham. That truth is indisputable. I don't think Weckl would embarrass Zeppelin, however.
I don't get it at all.

I like both guys a lot, but I think both would be very ill suited to playing in the style of the other with any authenticity.

Putting the right notes in the right places and playing all the parts, sure, Dave could do it. Would he sound like John, though? Not a chance. John's sound was clearly long-developed and pretty unique even to this day. It was in the way he played the notes, not the notes he played.

I saw Jason Bonham play live with his band and they did an awesome job, there were times he really did sound like bonzo. But also plenty of John's signature things just didn't sound 100%, which I think anyone should/would expect. I actually really dislike hearing zeppelin covers out in the wild because they never sound quite right, the whole band had such a vibe that it's really hard to replicate. I've heard it done but literally only maybe once or twice in my long-ass life.

Honestly I think Dave is in a similar boat. It would be extremely hard for someone else to sound like him and pull off his signature licks and style the same way. In Dave's case you also have just tremendous hard-earned chops and honed skills that I'd wager most players don't even bother with.
 

GetAgrippa

Platinum Member
To capture Bonham you have to drink a lot. Much the same as Jim Morrison. Actually there's a whole bunch of heavy drinking rockers. I use to be-maybe that's why I don't like rock as much now? hmmm. No that ain't right.
 

C.M. Jones

Well-known member
I don't get it at all.

I like both guys a lot, but I think both would be very ill suited to playing in the style of the other with any authenticity.

Putting the right notes in the right places and playing all the parts, sure, Dave could do it. Would he sound like John, though? Not a chance. John's sound was clearly long-developed and pretty unique even to this day. It was in the way he played the notes, not the notes he played.

I saw Jason Bonham play live with his band and they did an awesome job, there were times he really did sound like bonzo. But also plenty of John's signature things just didn't sound 100%, which I think anyone should/would expect. I actually really dislike hearing zeppelin covers out in the wild because they never sound quite right, the whole band had such a vibe that it's really hard to replicate. I've heard it done but literally only maybe once or twice in my long-ass life.

Honestly I think Dave is in a similar boat. It would be extremely hard for someone else to sound like him and pull off his signature licks and style the same way. In Dave's case you also have just tremendous hard-earned chops and honed skills that I'd wager most players don't even bother with.
I'm with you on Zeppelin covers. I've gigged for over thirty years and have never attempted one, though I've practiced to Zeppelin tracks a lot. In terms of live performances, though, some things are too sacred to be replicated.
 

C.M. Jones

Well-known member
To capture Bonham you have to drink a lot. Much the same as Jim Morrison. Actually there's a whole bunch of heavy drinking rockers. I use to be-maybe that's why I don't like rock as much now? hmmm. No that ain't right.
Bonham collapsed during a 1980 show, forcing Zeppelin to cut the set extremely short. Alcohol may have been the catalyst, though I've not seen confirmation of that speculation. This indignity occurred not long before his death, which was, of course, induced by an appalling intake of spirits.
 

Seafroggys

Silver Member
Vinny Appice would be workable. He's a too-overlooked drummer.
Meh, I've never really been a fan of him, he just seems really stiff, even on studio recordings. Like I listen to "Holy Diver" and the drumming just seems so rigid and lacks groove.

If he wasn't dead, Cozy Powell would be along the same lines but much better all around.
 

C.M. Jones

Well-known member
Meh, I've never really been a fan of him, he just seems really stiff, even on studio recordings. Like I listen to "Holy Diver" and the drumming just seems so rigid and lacks groove.

If he wasn't dead, Cozy Powell would be along the same lines but much better all around.
I think I know what you mean on the point of Vinny's rigidity. I'd describe it more as precision. His grooves have a military character, full of unbending urgency. His sound can seem stiff at times, but I'd wager that's intentional. To me, he's better than his brother, Carmine, but that debate could get emotional for some (especially for Carmine).
 
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newoldie

Silver Member
I think Billy Cobham could do a good job sitting in for Bonham.
Cobham is a fusion MONSTER! But he started out professionally playing in jazz bands, including Horace Silver and Miles Davis. I've never heard him rock out though.
 
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