Happy Birthday Theobald Ludwig

Theobald Ludwig, co-founder of Ludwig drum company, was born on this day in 1888.

Theobald LudwigBorn December 18th 1888, Theobald Ludwig was a co-founder of what would become one of the biggest drum manufacturers in the world. Ludwig & Ludwig Drum Company was founded by Theobald and his broth William F. Ludwig in Chicago in 1909. Twelve years earlier, the Ludwig family had emigrated from Germany to the United States, moving to Chicago to start a new life.

Theobald Ludwig sadly died from influenza at the age of 29, after meeting with a sick government official. Theobald had traveled to Philadelphia to meet this official, who was in charge of government musical instrument purchases. The Ludwig family were trying to secure a deal to supply instruments to the government, but unfortunately the Gretsch drum company had beaten Ludwig to the deal. Theobald was in Philadelphia to find out why. You can read the actual letters describing the situation, written from Theobald to his brother William (head to VintageDrumGuide.com).

Ringo Starr Ludwig DrumsTheobald wasn’t around to see it, but Ludwig would eventually become one of the biggest names in drumming across the 20th century. While the company was relatively successful across the mid 1900s, things really took off after Ringo Starr used a Ludwig drum kit on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964. Ringo was so proud to have a drum kit from the USA, he had asked for the Ludwig logo to be painted on the front of the bass drum head. With the success of The Beatles, the world took notice of the Ludwig brand and sales skyrocketed. Since then, Ludwig has been used by some of the biggest names in drumming, including John Bonham, Ginger Baker, Vinnie Colaiuta, Mick Fleetwood, Nick Mason, Mitch Mitchell, Keith Moon, Joe Morello, Ian Paice, Charlie Watts, and too many others to list here. Ludwig is still one of the most recognizable brands in the industry, and has come a very long way since Theobald and William F. Ludwig began their small drum store back in 1909.

Huge New Article – Drum Dampening: The Ultimate Guide

We’ve just released a huge new article on drum dampening. It covers the when, how, where, and why to use dampening, including drumheads with built-in dampening, add-on and DIY drum dampening options, and plenty of tips and tricks.

If you’ve ever wanted to know how you can use different dampening methods to get a great drum sound, this article is for you. Check out the ultimate drum dampening guide now, and master your drum sound.

Yamaha Young Performing Artists Competition: Apply Now!

Yamaha Young Performing Artists Competition

Between the ages of 18-22?
Have great drum or percussion skills?
Apply for Yamaha’s Young Performing Artists Competition:

This program recognizes top young achievers in contemporary, jazz, and classical music. The prize is an all-expenses-paid trip to Indiana, USA in June 2018, to take part in Yamaha’s Young Performing Artist Celebration at the Music For All Summer Symposium. You’ll have the opportunity to perform in front of thousands of people, attend workshops and clinics designed to launch a professional career, and get some great media exposure. This is an amazing opportunity that can put you on the path to a serious life in music.

To apply, you need to:

  • Be a full-time student in the USA
  • Have reached a “high-level” of musical achievement for your age
  • Get a music teacher/conductor/professional performer/music dealer or community music leader to nominate you (ask your music teacher!)
  • Submit a video recording of a great solo performance

Unfortunately this opportunity is only open to people in the USA. If you think you have what it takes, check out the details and apply here. The competition closes January 8th 2018, so you have a good amount of time to get your application together. As well as a drums category, there is also an opening for mallet or concert percussionists. If you apply, good luck!

Clyde Stubblefield: The Original Funky Drummer

To celebrate this funky day, we’re focusing on Clyde Stubblefield: the original Funky Drummer.

One of the most sampled drum beats in history was recorded on this day, November 20, back in 1969 at King Studios in Cincinnati USA. The song was James Brown’s Funky Drummer, and the beat was laid down by the legendary Clyde Stubblefield, a self-taught drummer who worked with Brown from 1965 to 1971.

Stubblefield is a pioneer of modern funk drumming, and has had a huge influence on the funk scene. So much so, that Prince counted Stubblefield as a drumming idol, and Chad Smith once said that he is the funkiest human being walking this planet. Questlove is quoted as saying Stubblefield is “The Funky Funkiest Drummer Of All Time”.

Stubblefield has influenced some amazing drummers, including Dennis Chambers, Steve Gadd, Steve Jordan, and David Garibaldi to name just a few.  EZDrummer’s Funkmasters expansion has Stubblefield himself playing the samples, along with long-time collaborator John “Jabo” Starks. Stubblefield was joined by Starks on stage with James Brown across the second half of the 1960s, as a two-drummer groove team. Stubblefield had an amazing sense of accuracy, timing and, importantly for James Brown, he knew how to lock into a tight funk beat and keep it running flawlessly.

Sitting in the studio, Clyde recalls playing a pattern on his kit. The bass and guitar joined, and this groove ended up being the foundation of Funky Drummer.

Even though his beat has been sampled across countless hit tracks, by some of the biggest names in music, Clyde received almost no royalties for his work. He wasn’t listed as a songwriter, instead paid a session musician’s fee at the time of the recording:

“People use my drum patterns on a lot of these songs. They never gave me credit, never paid me. It didn’t bug me or disturb me, but I think it’s disrespectful not to pay people for what they use.”

Notably, Clyde is featured on the Funky Drummer Edition of Copyright Criminals, a documentary exploring grey areas of how music is copyrighted and used by others. While he never sought royalties from those who sampled his original Funky Drummer groove, Stubblefield did release a series of ready-to-sample beats with this edition of Copyright Criminals. With a simple licencing form, music makers can use use his samples in exchange for a 15% royalty of commercial sales.

As well as Funky Drummer, Stubblefield gave some seriously funky beats to a bunch of other classic James Brown tracks and albums. His super tight groove and flawlessly delicate snare work is the driving force behind Sex Machine, Cold Sweat, Mother Popcorn, I Got The Feelin’, and Say It Loud (I’m Black and I’m Proud).

Clyde Stubblefield passed away on February 18, 2017, to an outpouring of respect from the music world. His work on Funky Drummer has been sampled in at least 1,400 songs since the 1980s. Here is a list of just some of the huge names that have sampled his Funky Drummer beat:

Clyde Stubblefield’s snare drum of choice across his career was a 14″ x 5″ Ludwig Supraphonic 400. He endorsed Remo drumheads.

Happy Birthday When The Levee Breaks

It’s one of the most recognizable drum tracks of all time, played by one of the most recognizable drummers of all time. To top it off, there’s a really cool story behind the drum sound!

I’m talking about John Bonham and When The Levee Breaks, by Led Zeppelin, and this week is its birthday. This classic tack was released by Led Zeppelin on November 8th 1971. To celebrate, we’ve got an overview of how it was made… The recording technique, the (likely) drum gear, and a ton of other interesting facts.

John Bonham

Before we begin, put on some good headphones and take a listen:

The background.

When The Levee Breaks is based on the 1927 Mississippi floods. It was originally written by Kansas Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie, and released in 1929. The Led Zeppelin version was recorded in December 1970 and January 1971, with the drums tracked at Headley Grange in Hampshire, England. This was a somewhat run-down and damp house that Led Zeppelin had rented, working on what would become the best-selling and most well-known album of their careers (and one of the highest selling albums of all time). The relaxed atmosphere of Headley Grange was a perfect environment for creativity and relaxation, and a world away from stale recording studios. The band had tried recording When The Levee Breaks a couple of times before the final version, but weren’t thrilled with the results. One of these tracks, recorded at Headley Grange, ended up on the 2015 reissue of Coda as “If It Keeps On Raining“.

The recording gear.

The band used The Rolling Stones’ mobile recording studio for tracking at Headley Grange, which was built inside a truck. However, this wasn’t just a simple “mic the drums like usual” setup, and recording engineer Andy Johns played a big part in the drum sound on When The Levee Breaks. Johns had the idea to record Bonham’s kit in the main hallway, which had a three-storey staircase extending above it. This stairwell gave a huge sound to the drums, contributing to the unique vibe of the track. On top of this, the only microphones used were a stereo pair of Beyerdynamic M160s, placed up on the stairwell and pointed down at the kit. Johns’ recording method was extremely innovative for the time… There were no other drum mics used: the drum sound comes entirely from the two microphones, combined with the stairwell’s natural acoustics and some processing. For the time (and even today), this was a very innovative recording technique.

Binson Echorec

The stereo microphone signal was then heavily compressed, and passed through Jimmy Page’s Binson Echorec to add echo. The Echorec also plays a huge part in the end result; combined with the stairwell’s acoustics, the drums have a mountainous sound with a distinct slapback. Listening to the track, you can hear the sound bouncing around. It’s important to mention that the entire track was later slowed down, which gives a slightly lower overall pitch than what would have been originally recorded.

Here’s Jimmy Page showing the actual stairwell at Headley Grange where the drums were recorded.

And here’s a clip with engineer Andy Johns talking about how he created the sound. The “too expensive” house he talks about was actually owned by Mick Jagger.

The drums.

While Bonham is famous for using a see-through Vistalite kit when playing live, all of Bonham’s studio recording kits were maple. It’s worth mentioning that back in 1970, he was still using maple kits for live shows as well; Bonham didn’t start using a Vistalite until 1973. There’s no information on the exact drum kit specs for tracking When The Levee Breaks, but you can be certain it’s a maple kit, and probably a Ludwig Green Sparkle.

John Bonham Green Sparkle Drum Kit

A brand new Ludwig drum kit was used for When The Levee Breaks, and this kit most likely consisted of:

  • 14″ x 6.5″ LM402 Supraphonic snare drum,
  • 26″ x 14″ maple bass drum,
  • 14″ x 12″ maple mounted tom,
  • 16″ x 16″ and 18″ x 16″ maple floor toms.

The cymbals were almost certainly all Paiste Giant Beat, which were Bonham’s cymbals of choice:

  • 15″ hi hats,
  • 24″ ride,
  • 16″ and 18″ medium crashes.

Bonham also used Paiste 2002 cymbals, but these were not made until 1971 (after When The Levee Breaks was recorded).

Remo Emperor Coated DrumheadBonham mainly used Remo drumheads across his career. He used Coated Remo Emperor drumheads for batter toms and bass drum, and Coated Remo Ambassador resonant heads on his toms. His snare also used a Coated Emperor, and a snare-side Ambassador (although sometimes a Diplomat snare-side). On his bass drum, Bonham used the stock Ludwig resonant head, with felt strips (usually on both the batter and resonant side) to control the sound. He also avoided cutting a port hole in the bass drum, preferring to leave the resonant bass drum head intact. It’s very likely that these were the combination of drumheads used for recording When The Levee Breaks.

For tuning, Bonham loved having the resonant drumheads tuned higher than the batter heads. The bass drum was tuned quite high as well, due to the large size of the drum. Bonham also liked the sound of played-in heads: he’d only change them when he absolutely needed to. It’s unclear whether this was the case for recording When The Levee Breaks, since a brand new kit was used.

Finally, it’s highly likely that a squeaky-clean Ludwig Speed King pedal came with the new kit that was set up at the bottom of the stairwell. This, however, is unconfirmed.

John Bonham.

So far we’ve got an amazing sounding room, an innovative engineer, and great equipment, but it’s impossible to talk about the drum sound of When The Levee Breaks without covering John Bonham himself. His groove, feel, and sense of timing are what helped make this track – and Led Zeppelin – everything that it is.

The drum sound came from the man, and Andy Johns says it himself in one of the above videos…  “Good luck getting that sound again, because you really do need Bonzo”.

John Bonham

Bonham’s powerful hitting helped produce the huge drum sound that echoed around the stairwell. His perfect balance of power and control created the most reliable foundation for the rest of the band to build upon. Drum fills are sparse until after the 5 minute mark, with nothing but a rock solid beat to drive this lengthy track, even through the many instrumental sections. There’s not a second of overplaying. What there is, though, is perfect steadiness, immaculate feel, and an extremely tight performance running across the entire drum track. Bonham’s style is energetic and aggressive, but with the finesse to sit perfectly in the pocket, just behind the beat.

The Finished Product.

When The Levee Breaks was finished at Island Records, and ended up as the final track on one of the best-selling albums of all time. It’s thought that this is the only album track mixed at Sunset Sound in Los Angeles; the rest of the album was mixed again in London, as the band were not happy with the Sunset Sound mixes.

John Bonham

When The Levee Breaks was very rarely played live by the band, though there’s at least one bootleg recording out there. It’s assumed that the track was too difficult to recreate on stage.

The drum track from When The Levee Breaks is one of the most instantly recognizable openings to a rock song. The iconic drum sound has been heavily sampled by some huge names since its release, especially in hip hop. Here are just some of the artists who have used this track:

Bonus Links.

Take a listen to some raw John Bonham drum tracks.

(Try to) sound like Bonham with DRUM! Magazine’s great article.

JohnBonham.co.uk and JohnBonhamDrums.com are both top websites for the details of Bonham’s gear and other info.

Want more? Check out our other free drum articles, use our free drumhead selector to find the best drumhead for you, or check out the coolest drum accessories and gifts.

Check out our drum articles here!

Sonor SQ2 Drum Configurator: Build Your Dream Drum Kit

This is really cool… Sonor have just released their SQ2 Drum Configurator, where you can live out your wildest dreams and build your own drum kit online, in full 3D. This is a seriously advanced kit building engine, with enough options and modifications available to keep you busy for hours.

Sonor Drum Configurator Front View

Sonor give you a 360 degree view of your fully customised dream drum kit, and allow you to place each drum exactly where you want it. Choose your base material (Beech, Birch, Maple, or X-Ray Acrylic), shell thickness, and hardware fittings. There are a huge range of shell finishes for both inside and outside the shell, and for each hoop. The deeper you dig, the more detail you can get… Choose your drumheads, mounts, lugs, tension rods, hoops, brackets, and more, for each individual drum! Want seven toms, two snares, and two gong drums? You got it! Need an extra bass drum? No problem. Want completely over-the-top gold hardware? Sure!

Sonor Drum Configurator Back View

Depending on your bank balance, you can make your kit a reality – the price is shown in the top right corner, and it updates as you change your configuration. Add pedals, cymbal stands, thrones, and other extra hardware. Sonor will build your dream kit to your exact specifications in Germany, and then ship out it to you.

If your wallet doesn’t allow it, you can share your creations on social media or by email instead. That’s almost as good as the real thing, right?

To build your dream drum kit, head to Sonor’s SQ2 Drum Configurator website now.

John Bonham To be Honoured With Home Town Statue

John Bonham Statue in Redditch

Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham will be immortalized in bronze in his home town of Redditch, England. The Redditch and Alcester Advertiser reports that local councillors  have given the go-ahead for a large bronze memorial in the Redditch town centre. Most of the funds have come from a large private donation, and the bronze memorial is planned to be 1.8 metres high and 4.9 metres wide (that’s 5.9 x 16 feet).

Weighing over 2,500kg (over 5,500lbs), the statue will show Bonham in action sitting behind his iconic drum kit, and is designed to be viewed from all angles. The memorial is planned to be unveiled before May 31st 2018, when Bonham would have celebrated his 70th birthday.

Huge New Article – Fat Snare Drum Tuning

DrumheadAuthority has just released a huge new article on fat snare drum tuning methods.

Fat Snare Tuning All Lugs Low Tension

There’s an overview of some of the traditional and not-so-traditional ways to get a deep, punchy, fat snare sound.  Listen to samples of some of the different tuning methods, and check out some of the best products out there.

Quick Fat Snare Drum Tuning

We’ve also covered some of the best cheap (and even free) ways to get this sound, and some bonus tips to make sure your snare drum sounds as good as it possibly can.

Check out our fat snare drum tuning article here!

Happy 100th Birthday Buddy Rich!

Buddy Rich: Born on this day 100 years ago, September 30th 1917, in Brooklyn New York.

Buddy Rich - Traps The Drum Wonder

Buddy Rich: One of the greatest drummers of all time, would have celebrated his 100th birthday today. To commemorate the great man, we’ve put together a little overview of his life, including some interesting lesser-known facts. A drummer with breathtaking skill, timing, and dynamic range, Rich knew how to play with immense intensity but also the lightest touch. His drum solos are world-renowned, and he was a first-class all-round performer (also having a short career in singing and acting). Rich’s legacy lives on, having directly inspired countless other drumming greats including Dennis Chambers, John Bonham, Ian Paice, Steve Gadd, Simon Phillips, Bill Ward, and Cal Palmer, to name just a few.

Dave Weckl says he used to slow Buddy Rich’s records down to half-speed to learn the patterns.

Jim Chapin considered Rich to have had the most accurate timing of any drummer he’d ever heard.

Gene Krupa famously said that Buddy Rich is  “the greatest drummer ever to have drawn breath”.

Buddy Rich first stepped into the spotlight as a vaudeville child star, starting at just 18 months old. His parents were both performing musicians. Rich became known as “Traps, The Drum Wonder” at a very young age, and at his peak as a child star, he was the second highest paid child entertainer in the world. Rich was performing as band leader by the age of 12. Interestingly, he claims that he never had any formal drum training, and that he could not read music.

Buddy Rich - BR Crest Slingerland

Buddy Rich’s jazz carrer started in 1937 in New York. Not long after, at the age of 21, he got into a fist fight with Frank Sinatra – Rich says he was standing up for a saxophone player, with things getting physical after Sinatra threw a large glass pitcher across the room at Buddy. Over the years Rich played with legends including Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, Gene Krupa, Charlie Ventura, and many more.

Rich was famous for his volatile outbursts, and his extremely high standards for both himself and his fellow musicians. He expected his musicians to perform no matter how sick they were, telling them that if they can stand, they can play. One story has Rich breaking  an arm after tripping while playing handball, and continuing to play shows with one arm for the next three months.

Buddy Rich

Across his career, Buddy Rich drew huge crowds. He performed jazz, swing, big band, and over the years was featured on numerous television shows. Even today, 30 years after his passing, he is arguably still the greatest drummer of all time. Rich suffered heart attacks in 1959 and 1983, with his doctor telling him to stop drumming or risk having another. In typical Buddy Rich style, he continued playing up until his death in 1987, dying of heart failure while having treatment for a brain tumor. Rich used Ludwig, Slingerland, and Rogers drums, Zildjian cymbals, and Remo drumheads across his drumming career. His drumhead of choice was the Remo Coated Diplomat.

While Buddy exclusively played Remo drumheads, Aquarian (!) have recently released a limited edition Buddy Rich snare drum head to commemorate his 100th birthday. This head is released in partnership with Cathy Rich (Buddy’s daughter), and is made with a single 10mil ply and special warm “white vintage” coating. This is a little thicker than the 7.5mil Coated Diplomat, which Buddy preferred.

There are rumors that Buddy Rich was actually born on June 30, 1917. This is unconfirmed though, so we’ll stick with September 30th.

Take a look at the master in action below:

Yamaha’s 50th Anniversary Celebrations: September 30th in L.A.

Dave Weckl

If you can get yourself to Los Angeles on Saturday September 30th, Yamaha is celebrating their 50th anniversary with a bang.

There will be some huge names performing: Larnell Lewis (Snarky Puppy), Tommy Aldridge (Whitesnake, Thin Lizzy), and Dave Weckl (who needs no introduction)! Along with this, you can test out Yamaha drum gear, get behind-the-scenes knowledge from Yamaha drum designers, and see Yamaha legacy kits from the past 50 years. A food truck will be on site, and there will be raffles and other action happening throughout the day.

If you’re interested, get in quick and register. Space is limited, and you need to RSVP to attend. Doors open at 11 a.m., with performances from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Register and see more information at Yamaha’s website.