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Boomy and Roomy
Getting the Led Zeppelin drum sound...
By Brian McRae

We had an interesting request while recording the Newcomers Home record in March of 2005. The basic tracks were recorded in Lyons, Colorado while the rest was to be recorded in Nashville.

The most interesting process was to cover Led Zeppelin’s “When the Levee Breaks.”

The test was to help the artist make this tune their own, while retaining some of the signature production characteristics of the original recording. Obviously, John Bonham was one of the greatest rock drummers on the planet. His style and sound revolutionized rock and roll to this day.

In keeping with the current trend toward large roomy drum sounds over the last few years, recent releases by the Secret Machines and Robert Plant’s latest album, The Mighty Rearranger, are great examples of achieving this large powerful drum sound.

When we heard the arrangement that Newcomers Home had in mind, we knew large drums was the way to go.

The rhythm section purposely did not listen to the track before arranging the groove. This allowed us to keep some of the character of John Bonham with our own twist on the song.

The next challenge was how to record this sound and pass it on to the Producer (Gary Paczoza) in Nashville, giving him as many miking options as possible to use for the mix.

We decided to use some drum tuning techniques from John Bonham’s drum tech. Jeff Ocheltree’s DVD Trust Your Ears has some great insight on Bonham’s signature sound.

So, where does one find the large roomy kick drum sound?

Find an old Ludwig marching kick drum from the ‘70s. A 28" diameter is the way to go. Use a couple of felt strips for damping and then proceed to tune, tune, tune. This drum gives that papery kick drum attack that is reminiscent of the John Bonham Sound.

For snare, we used a ‘40s Slingerland Radio King 1 ply maple 14" x 7" drum. This is not the drum that Bonham used, but it has a warm sound with lots of character.

For toms we used 1967 Rogers 13" and 16" toms. These are not Bonham sizes…but were definitely up to the job.

We used a dark selection of Sabian cymbals to add to the dirty character that we were going for. Sabian Duo Hats, Manhattan Ride 20, Encore Ride 21, Duo Ride w/rivets, Alien Disc.

The next key ingredient was the room. We chose a 35' x 20' x 12' vaulted-ceiling room in our home studio in Lyons. This room has a wonderful warm sound, especially for recording drums.

Mics, front end, and placement:

Kick Batter side: AKG D112, Chandler TG 2, dbx 160X

Kick Out: beyerdynamic M88

Kick: Yamaha Subkick (8" Bose speaker mounted in a 12" tom shell)

Snare Top: beyerdynamic M201, Chandler TG2, Empirical Labs Distressor

Snare Bottom: Shure SM 57

Rack 1: Sennheiser MD421, Grace Lunatec

Floor: ADK A51 Condenser Grace Lunatec

Overheads: Matched Pair of Oktava MC012, Manley Dual Mono

Kick distance mic: ADK A51 Tube Condenser, 3' off kick drum out front, Grace 101

Stereo Rooms: Matched Pair of ADK Vienna, A Designs MP2 Tube Pre, Empirical Labs Fatso, aggressively squeezed.

We were nicely surprised about the power and length of the kick drum sound. The snare had a nice crack but warm woody tone. Check out the sound clip on this page.

The playing had to be a simple open feel. This creates an open powerful sound that does not distract from Katie’s vocals. The end result was an interesting take on a great song!

Artist: Newcomers Home

Katie Herzig, Andrew Jedd, Lori Momary Thorton, Tim Thorton

Rhythm Section: Scott Bugher, Brian McRae

Studio: Wreckingroom, Lyons, CO

Engineer: Greg McRae (recording Drums and Bass tracks)

Producer: Gary Paczoza (record, produce, mix)

Trust Your Ears. The Drum Tech Explorations of Jeff Ocheltree. DVD. (HL.00320447) Hal Leonard Publishing, 2004. $19.95.

Brian McRae is the founder of, an online site for clients in need of professional drum tracks for their songs. His studio is located in Lyons, Colorado; for more information visit


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