Bonham Triplets and Beyond

Bonham Triplets and Beyond

Whether you’re into Led Zeppelin and John Bonham’s playing or not, you’ll probably heard of Bonham triplets. Let’s face it, Bonham is synonymous with Rock drumming; he was a sonic and creative powerhouse. Some of his most legendary licks and grooves are triplet-based. So, in this drum lesson, we’ll explore phrasing ideas so you can master triplets like Bonham himself!

What makes a Bonham triplets?

Simply put, Bonham triplets refers to the way that he chose orchestrate that simple three note rhythm. Be it the “Crossover” fills or the great shuffle groove on Fool In The Rain, they just ooze with personality!

Crossover fill

Classic Bonham triplet fill right here!

Bonham triplet Crossover fill

Fool In The Rain

Beautiful groove… One of Jeff Porcaro’s influences in coming up with his Rosanna shuffle.

Bonham triplet Fool In The Rain


By the way, if you’re interested in other stylistic articles, check out my exploration of David Garibaldi’s Soul Vaccination grooves: Snare Accents vs Ghost Note Workshop and Beyond Soul Vaccination Grooves. Anyhow, back to the article:

Developing triplet-based ideas?

The purpose of this three part lesson is to help you develop learn some triplet-based ideas. As such, the view is to develop your own ideas and vocabulary! And he best part about it is that you’ll work on some core skills whilst you’re at it… These skills include:

Time and motion

You should aim to explore the accuracy of your strokes. Remember that both the physical and timing space between each note is as important as the note itself. Consequently, ensure that your playing is clear and clean, and your movements  motions are smooth.

drum book

Drum books such as Concepts can help you create new grooves based on really simple ideas… Check it out!

Check out my book Concepts for lots of ideas you can use to come up with new grooves based on stuff you already know!

Fluidity and creativity

By exploring different ways of applying these triplets, you’ll be able to incorporate them into your fills and grooves. Remember that each example in these articles is just that, an example. Exercise your creative muscle further by coming up with your own versions. The same applies with the orchestration of each example; orchestrate as you like!

Bonham triplets

John Bonham of the rock band ‘Led Zeppelin’ performs onstage at the Forum on June 3, 1973 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Practice tips

One thing is for sure, and that’s the fact that John Bonham was born playing his Bonham triplets. He practiced and explored ideas in order to develop his ideas. So, with that in mind, when you practice the exercises, I recommend you do the following:

Use a metronome and go slow

Practice each example slowly first and increase tempo only once comfortable. Try increments of 5BPM at a time.

Simple orchestrations first

Start orchestrating each example on snare drum until you’re comfortable with the pattern. Then orchestrate the pattern starting nice and simple.

Beyond grooves and fills

Don’t think of just fills and grooves, but rather explore each example melodically. Listen out for any melody that comes to mind as you play each exercise. You can turn each idea into a 4-bar phrase, or practice it by playing 4 bars of a groove, and 4 bars of the ideas.

Make it your own

Right, so maybe you want to learn specific Bonham triplets… Put it this way, by learning and exploring this stuff, it will  make it easier for you to learn his stuff. And, by exploring more general exercises, you’ll come up with your own style! Here’s an example of some ideas I came up with using concepts from this lesson:



You can download the PDFs to the grooves on this video here.



Download the PDFs and explore them in detail as suggested above.


Part I: Bass drums and dynamics

Explores using bass drums and dynamics to create more interesting phrasing ideas based on simple variations of the Bonham triplet.



Part II: Using rests

Builds on Part I by introducing the idea of rests within the pattern in order to create more variations.



Part III: Changing subdivisions

Here we take the triplet ideas we’ve been developing and change the subdivisions to create 16th note phrasing variations.



I hope you’ve enjoyed this drum lesson. If you’re interested, learn drums with me! Also, make sure to check out my book Concepts, which is full of cool ideas to take your playing to the next level.




If you’re struggling with how to read sheet music, don’t be intimidated! We can use really simple tricks to help us figure these things out, particularly when it comes to reading rhythm.


Below is a quick guide to help you with how to read sheet music from a rhythm perspective! This lesson will be perfect if you’re a drummer looking to improve your basic reading skills!


I strongly believe in the connection between language and music, and thus rhythm. How? Simply put, languages use rhythmic patterns of stressed and unstressed syllables that we use without really noticing. So, when we pay attention to these rhythms, we can use them to our advantage!



Let’s start by using a steady pulse, as this will give context to all the notes we’ll read and play. I’d suggest you download a metronome app if you don’t have one already. Personally, I really like Tempo by frozen ape which you can get on iOS or Android.


how to read sheet music

A metronome helps us accurately determine the value of each note



The goal of the game is to start each insect below at the same time as every click from the metronome. We’ll start slowly, setting our tempo to 60 BPM (Beats Per Minute).

how to read sheet music

Learning to read music is a game!


In order to get it right, ensure that each syllable we say (out loud) is evenly subdivided. We’ll be associating each word, in this case an insect, to a symbol. Be sure say it out loud, clap it, and play it in time!



As I mentioned above, we can practice these rhythms by clapping, saying them out loud, playing them using your practice pad, cushion or even pillowcase practice pad.



Let’s start with the following three basic rhythms and assign them an insect.


how to read sheet music

Using insects to help us remember rhythms is a great learning aid!


Quarter notes, or crochets

If we split a bar of music into 4 quarters, we can fit 4 quarter notes in it. We’ll start with this premise, and say we can fit 4 single syllable insects inside it. So our quarter note insect is the Ant!

how to read sheet music


Eighth notes, or quavers

With these we can fit two syllables inside one word (beat). So we’ll call these Spider.

how to read sheet music


Sixteenth notes, or semiquavers

As sixteenth notes are 4 notes inside one beat, let’s fit 4 syllables inside one word and call them Caterpillar.

How to read sheet music


Once we have the basic rhythms above, how to read sheet music starts seeming less daunting! Again, we’re focusing primarily on rhythm, but this is half the battle!


The following PDF contains some exercises for you to try out. Note that sometimes you’ll see the following symbol.


how to read music


This simply means a quarter (crotchet) rest which is the same duration as a quarter note, but we don’t play a sound.


Have a go at it, and see if you can get through all of them! It’s tons of fun, and you’ll definitely get better at how to read sheet music by going through all of ‘em.


Download it here



The next step is to actually start mixing these basic rhythms around in order to start creating new, more complex rhythms. Here are three fun, common ones we hear in music all the time, orchestrated (i.e. how they’re played) in obvious, or subtle ways.

how to read sheet music

Handy diagram to help better understand things


Grasshopper: one word, one long syllable followed by two short ones

how to read sheet music


Centipede: one word, three short syllables

how to read sheet music


Dragonfly: one word, one short syllable followed by a long one, then a short one

how to read sheet music

So, for this I’ve written a few exercises for you to have a go at to help you how to read sheet music. I’ve opted to keep them fairly simple as the idea is to develop your reading little by little rather than throw you into the deep end from the get-go!


Download the second part here



There are, of course, more variations as well as rests to learn about! However I think these are great ones to get to grips with if you’re a beginner, or are looking for tips to get better at how to read sheet music. So, yeah, make it your own and fly with it!


Don’t forget to check out my drum lessons!


Also, check out my drum book for tons of creative ideas to help you freshen up your playing too!