Video: How to Make Your Kit Sound Like Ringo's

Even if he was just another mediocre pop drummer blending into the background, Ringo would have still made history as a member of the Beatles. However, his innate sense of feel, metronomic precision, and ability to serve the brilliant songwriting of his bandmates has firmly cemented him among the upper echelon of drumming royalty.

Ludwig Black Oyster Pearl Kit

For decades, admirers have been practicing swampy left–handed lead fills and windshield wiper hi–hat sweeps to nail Ringo's unique feel on their vintage Ludwig kits in Oyster Black Pearl — his color of choice.

Today, in celebration of the beloved drummer's birthday, we’re mainly going to focus on the sound of Ringo’s kit as we walk you through some very basic tips you can use to emulate the signature tones found on early and later Beatles recordings.

Early Ringo

Ringo preferred smaller kits, like the jazz–oriented Ludwig Downbeat rather than the larger Super Classic favored by other rock 'n' roll players.

The singing, melodic voice of his toms, compact thud of the small kick drum, and dry crack of his 5.5x14” Ludwig Jazz Fest would drive dozens of tunes to number one hit status and become iconic in their own right.

Bass Drum

A small, 20x14” bass drum is your best option for sounding like Ringo. Use medium–weight coated heads with a felt strip or muffling ring on the batter head. Tune the drum to medium–low for a short, punchy attack.

Toms

When looking for toms, go for 12x8” and 14x14” drums. Use medium–weight coated heads with both batters and resos at roughly the same pitch. Tune the toms fairly high and about a fourth apart.

Snare

An early ‘60s 5.5x14” mahogany–shelled Ludwig Jazz Fest is best. These are pretty rare, so a ‘70s 5x14” Ludwig Standard wood snare is a great alternative.

Use an imitation calf–style batter head tuned medium over a clear snare–side head tuned medium–low, and make sure the snares aren’t too tight. A wallet, deck of cards, or cigarette pack on the batter head will be just the right amount of muffling

Cymbals

Look to outfit your kit with thin ‘60s Zildjians A series or Avedis Zildjian reissues. Lightweight 14” hi–hats are best, with an 18” crash/ride, and 20” lightweight ride with rivets or a cymbal sizzler.

Zildjian A Series 14" Hi-Hats

Zildjian A Series 20" Ride

Later Ringo

Some of Ringo’s most revolutionary material can be heard on later Beatles records, as they shied away from life on the road and began experimenting with new recording techniques. Close–micing, a practice unheard of only a few years before, would become the new standard, along with instances of extreme muffling and detuning.

Ringo also began to favor slightly larger drums by the late 1960s, opting for 12", 13", and 16" toms with a 22" kick. If you don't have a second kit, though, smaller sized drums tuned slightly lower will still do the trick.

Bass

Remove the resonant head and detune the batter slightly. Insert a small pillow, sweater, or towel up against the batter head to deaden overtones.

Toms

Add a second mounted tom, ideally 13x9”. Detune the batter heads to just above wrinkle tuning, and bring the resonant heads down as well, but to a slightly higher pitch. Have a set of tea towels or dishrags handy for muffling.

Snare

Bring the batter head down to a medium–low pitch, and add a tea towel to deaden overtones and bring out the snare response.

Specs of kit used in video:

  • 1960s Ludwig Downbeat outfit in Oyster Blue Pearl
  • 8x12”, 14x14” toms
  • 14x20” bass drum
  • w/ added 9x13” Super Classic tom in Sky Blue Pearl
  • 1970s Ludwig Standard 5x14” Snare in Gold Mist
  • Cymbals:
  • Early ‘60s A. Zildjian 14” New Beat hi-hats>
  • Zildjian A. Avedis reissue series 18”, 20” crash/ride cymbals
  • ProMark Cymbal Sizzler

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