Drum Transcription: “How Many More Times” — John Bonham with Led Zeppelin
Posted on December 27, 2020
Happy Holidays everyone! This week, I decided to share something I started a while back and have spent some time polishing up: fills and solos from “How Many More Times” off of Led Zeppelin’s debut album, with John Bonham on drums.
I think it’s appropriate to close out my first year on the site with this tune. The project was actually the first “big time” transcription of a song I ever attempted, starting way back in the summer of 2014. I really got into Zeppelin when I was a sophomore in high school, but this tune escaped me until the end of my junior year (which can happen when you listen to an artist’s entire catalog all at once).
I tried drumming along to it but the solo sections tripped me up; it was difficult to just play right through Bonham’s fills. So at the start of my senior year, I took my first shot at some serious transcribing with this tune. I can’t say for sure when I started it; my earliest MuseScore project relating to this song is dated September 2014. On top of that, I dug up some old manuscript paper from my drum lesson days, and it sure looks like my teacher and I tried to figure out some of Bonham’s swing grooves about a month earlier:
In any case, I called it done around the end of December. Yep… about four months of work for this one.
The project ended up devolving into a full–length, note-for-note transcription of the tune, from start to finish. Then it turned into a bit of a mess, with lots of endless groove variations (especially for the swing sections), mixed with poor attention to detail. I eventually called it a day without much care for accuracy.
I prioritized the solos and fills for this updated version. Maybe one of these days I’ll update the sheets for the full track, but at this point in my career, I’ve lost interest in doing full songs from beginning to end (particularly for an eight–minute tune). Right now, I wouldn’t get anything out of that.
The song has most of the typical moves for Bonzo at this point in his career: Bonham triplets, quad fills, bucket fills, paradiddles, all that good stuff. An interesting thing that’s always grabbed my attention is how the swing feel is pretty much eliminated by the fourth measure of the guitar solo; most of the fills are sixteenth notes and straight eighths. This has never felt jagged or awkward to me, probably because nobody else in the band is swinging (the backing rhythm part is just breve chords as Jimmy wails). My suspicion has always been that Page and Bonham improvised their parts from all the experimenting they did on their ’69 Scandinavian tour.
I included the big fill at the end of “The Hunter” section because it’s an awesome lick. And then there’s the grand finale, which marked my first exposure to nonuplets (that I was at least aware of). They are a deceptively easy rhythm — in the case of 16th note nonuplets, just subdivide each hit of a quarter note triplet into three equal notes. Voilà!
Trying to rework my original project file was kind of a headache. I made some bizarre formatting decisions that I’m sure made sense when I was in high school, but not so much today.
I also remember having to search around for covers to figure out some of Bonham’s playing, something I don’t even bother with anymore. But this was back when I wasn’t so skeptical about the average internet drummer’s abilities. This is the one I used, and it is pretty good if I’m being fair, although sadly you can’t watch it in the US anymore.
For some reason, I actually wrote out all the swung rhythms in my original project. This is also the only song where I’ve put in these stylistic descriptions (Spooky, Psychedelic). I mean, just take a look:
The default MuseScore template takes me back and made me realize how far I’ve come, not just in my engraving abilities but in the songs I’ve tackled since this one. Looking back, this tune is sort of what transcribing for me has been all about; I’ve stolen a lot of licks from this one. Who cares about every little subtlety from the swing section?
Alright, as a Christmas gift, here’s my original PDF. Don’t get mad because it looks awful. I made it with MuseScore 1 after all… it’s practically prehistoric!
“How Many More Times” on Songwhip.
Tags: 2020 • John Bonham • Led Zeppelin • Transcription