Transcriptions
Drummer Cafe

EDUCATION • ENTERTAINMENT • EXCELLENCE

Serving drummers and percussionists since 1996.

John Bonham

"Communication Breakdown" was recorded and mixed in October 1968 at Olympic Studios, London. It was originally released on January 12, 1969 on the band's debut album, Led Zeppelin; later released as a single on March 10, 1969. Being one of the first songs that Robert Plant and Jimmy Page ever worked on together, "Communication Breakdown" is the only song that Led Zeppelin played during every tour — either as a show opener or encore number. It also appears on the CD and DVD discs of the 2007 Led Zeppelin compilation, Mothership.

"Communication Breakdown" was recorded and mixed in October 1968 at Olympic Studios, London. It was originally released on January 12, 1969 on the band's debut album, Led Zeppelin; later released as a single on March 10, 1969. Being one of the first songs that Robert Plant and Jimmy Page ever worked on together, "Communication Breakdown" is the only song that Led Zeppelin played during every tour; either as a show opener or encore number. It also appears on the CD and DVD discs of the 2007 Led Zeppelin compilation, Mothership.

My drum transcription shows a tempo of 173-177bpm because the tempo varies slightly throughout. The "house top" accents, with a staccato mark, in the introduction sections of the tune designates a choked Crash cymbal. On the choruses it sounds like John Bonham is riding quarter-notes on a Crash cymbal, but if you've seen him live you know that he's actually on the Ride cymbal. Whatever instrument you choose to use, if you want to duplicate Bonham's sound, you need to try and get a "washy" sound from the cymbal during these sections. Even some of the "crash" sounds you hear throughout the tune were actually played on the Ride, but I've notated the "crash" sounds as Crashes.

Bonham plays a lot of Flams on the Snare drum throughout this tune, although it's hard to hear at times because of the narrow spacing between his grace-note and main stroke. You'll have to trust me on this one.

Lastly, the sixteenth-note, syncopated fill (ala Motown) which appears at the end of 4-bar phrases in the chorus of the song. The fill, which occurs between the High Tom and the Snare drum, is basically a Six Stroke Roll starting on beat 3 of the measure. The first tap of the Six Stroke Roll is played on the High Tom-Tom, the diddles on the Snare, and the final tap on the Snare drum. The fill ends with one final stroke (beat 4) on the Snare drum, although the second time Bonham plays this fill he actuallys plays this last stroke on the High Tom. The diddle strokes on the Snare drum are very hard to hear because of how Bonham performs them; soft and almost buzzed. You can feel them more than hear them actually, so if you have difficulty playing them ... just leave them out. You can either play only the accented notes of the fill, or play the skeleton figure of the Six Stroke Roll, leaving out the diddles.

Bonham's approach to playing this song live on stage is a bit different, which is to be expected.



Bart Elliott

Bart Elliott is a degreed professional musician with a Bachelor of Music in Percussion Performance, and Master of Music post-graduate work. His 40+ years in the music and entertainment industry, over 100 album recordings to his credit, as well as an exhaustive understanding of contemporary and classical music makes him a complete and skilled master musician.

Bart continues to work as an active drummer, percussionist, composer, producer, music arranger, director, comedian, MC, educator, writer and visual artist. He is the owner and creator of DrummerCafe.com, which he founded in December of 1996.