Video: How to Make Your Kit Sound Like John Bonham's

Photo by David Redfern / Getty Images

Today, we're talking about the late, great John Bonham. The legendary drummer’s time with Led Zeppelin ended all too soon with his premature death in 1980, but his legacy lives on through forever having changed how rock 'n' roll drums are played. Bonham pioneered an iconically huge rock sound from behind his even larger drum kit.

Players on a quest to mimic his signature sound often end up scouring the internet for ultra–rare, Bonham–sized kits from the ‘70s. If and when those Bonham disciples do find what they’re looking for, they end up paying a premium for it.

So in celebration of Bonzo’s greatness, we here at Reverb wanted to provide those lustful enthusiasts with more affordable alternatives. By following the suggestions in this little guide we’ve laid out and the video above, you can snatch up the tools needed and tune your drums perfectly to emulate the thunderous drummer's signature sound without breaking the bank.

Bass Drum

Remo 24" Powerstroke 3

For nailing Bonham’s sound, the bigger your bass drum the better. Keep the depth relatively shallow — either 14” or 16” with a ideal diameter of either 24” or 26” — and use a double–ply coated batter head. To clean up undertones, stretch a felt strip across the shell of the drum, under the head and near the pedal attachment point.

Also use a single–ply resonant head with an inner plastic muffling ring. The Remo powerstroke is a good choice. If you opt for a regular single–ply head instead, cut up an old bass drum head (just as Bonham would do) and make your own muffling ring.

Tune the batter head to a medium pitch and the resonant head up to a medium–high pitch. The beater should hit just below center for maximum attack without killing the body of the tone. Do not add any additional muffling to the inside of the drum.


When it comes to toms, Bonham used two and three–tom configurations, usually with a 14” rack and a 16” and/or 18” floor toms.

Do not muffle these drums, and use double–ply coated batter heads and single–ply resonant heads. As with the bass drums, tune the reso heads up to a medium–high pitch and the batters to medium.

Tune the drums so they’re roughly a third apart, but don’t be too focused on pitch. Let the size of the drum — not the tuning — determine its pitch.



When it comes to the snare, a 6.5x14” aluminum shell is the best, but steel or brass can still get you close. Use a double–ply coated batter head and a standard snare–side reso head. Use 30 or 40 strand snare wires for increased sensitivity, but make sure they’re not too tight so they don’t choke the drum.

As with the toms and the bass drum, tune the resonant head up to a medium–high pitch and the batter to medium.


Look for 15” hi–hats, two 18–20” crashes, and a 22–24” ride cymbal. B8 alloy is the way to go. I recommend Paiste 2002 if your budget allows. I also recommend Paiste PST7, Meinl Classics, or Sabian APX if you’re looking for a budget buy.

Paiste 20" 2002 Crash/Ride

Paiste 18" PST 7 Crash

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