Watch the Evolution of Ringo Starr, Dave Grohl, Tré Cool & 19 Other Drummers in Short 5‑Minute Videos

I’ve always been more than hap­py to admit that I think Ringo Starr is a fan­tas­tic drum­mer and don’t find it much worth argu­ing over. Then again, more and more peo­ple seem to have come around to that point of view. Or at least that’s been my expe­ri­ence. Maybe it has some­thing to do with the length of expo­sure. Once you’ve lived with the Bea­t­les’ music for, say, twen­ty to fifty years, you’d had a lot of time to reflect on your favorite songs, or favorite moments (like the break­downs in “Hel­lo, Good­bye” and “Straw­ber­ry Fields,” for exam­ple). A lot of time to appre­ci­ate just how well so many of those songs, and Ringo’s drum­ming, have aged.

But not all of them. I haven’t always found the very ear­ly Bea­t­les albums to hold up well for me. There’s some­thing about… well… okay, maybe Ringo wasn’t always a great drum­mer. But he became one. The thing about a ret­ro­spec­tive appre­ci­a­tion is that it’s high­ly selec­tive.

How­ev­er, if we were to select ele­ments of Ringo’s tech­nique from songs span­ning the whole of his Bea­t­les career, we would be able to see how his play­ing refined from 1962 to 1995, when he made his last record­ings with George, Paul, and John—who left sev­er­al home demo tapes over which his band­mates lay­ered har­monies and rhythms. (Hear “Free as a Bird” from those ses­sions here.)

You could take the time to edit togeth­er sev­er­al sec­onds, chrono­log­i­cal­ly, of famous Bea­t­les songs through­out the six­ties and sev­en­ties. Or you could do that and play all those parts your­self, and shoot and edit a thor­ough­ly engag­ing, high-qual­i­ty video of your­self play­ing them. That’s what Kye Smith does in the videos here, part of a long series of 22 exer­cis­es he calls “5 Minute Drum Chronol­o­gy.” As you’ll see in his Bea­t­les video at the top, Smith has made some very thought­ful selec­tions from the canon, show­ing how thor­ough­ly ver­sa­tile Ringo’s play­ing became; how well he came to under­stand nuanced dynam­ics: when to attack and when not to play at all.

In his Nir­vana “5 Minute Drum Chronol­o­gy,” above, Smith not only dupli­cates the huge, boom­ing sound of Dave Grohl’s drumk­it, but he also per­fect­ly cap­tures Grohl’s tremen­dous ener­gy. With the focus square­ly on the drums, Grohl (through Smith) seems even more the hard­core punk drum­mer that he was for years before he joined Nir­vana. But by the time we get to “You Know You’re Right,” the last song the band record­ed in 1994, we see how he had dis­cov­ered a much lighter touch as well, one he devel­oped even fur­ther as a drum­mer for indie stars like Cat Pow­er.

Smith’s oth­er twen­ty 5 Minute Drum Chronolo­gies track bands who made it in the nineties, like The Off­spring, NOFX, Blink-182, and Foo Fight­ers. In many cas­es, none but ardent fans will know the drum­mers of these bands or have a sense of their full discog­ra­phy. But at least by the time we get to their break­out 1994 album Dook­ie, many of us will be famil­iar with a song or two from all of Green Day’s releas­es. And we’re like­ly to know the name and face of drum­mer Tré Cool. (The band’s first drum­mer, Al Sobrante, takes up the first 20 sec­onds of the video above.)

Is Tré Cool a drum­mer who has evolved over the years, devel­oped bet­ter feel and more finesse? At least the way Kye Smith plays him. Smith is such a tal­ent­ed drum­ming impres­sion­ist that one can look away and for­get that it’s him on the drums and not Cool. Which rais­es oth­er crit­i­cal issues with the impres­sive arti­fice of these chronolo­gies. These are, of course, inter­pre­ta­tions. And in any case, musi­cians have good nights and bad nights, great takes and not so great takes, and their style might vary more across a sin­gle album than between songs on dif­fer­ent records.

And in the case of a band like the Red Hot Chili Pep­pers, we’ve seen three dif­fer­ent drum­mers by the time the band released their fourth album, Mother’s Milk and took on high­ly skilled Will Fer­rell looka­like Chad Smith. Nonethe­less, Kye Smith gives us a lot to chew on as we watch, by proxy, these drum­mers adapt to the evo­lu­tion of their bands’ song­writ­ing. Some of those jour­neys are nat­u­ral­ly more inter­est­ing than oth­ers. See the com­plete col­lec­tion of 22 5 Minute Drum Chronolo­gies here, or down below.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Neu­ro­science of Drum­ming: Researchers Dis­cov­er the Secrets of Drum­ming & The Human Brain

Iso­lat­ed Drum Tracks From Six of Rock’s Great­est: Bon­ham, Moon, Peart, Copeland, Grohl & Starr

The Fun­da­men­tals of Jazz & Rock Drum­ming Explained in Five Cre­ative Min­utes

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

by | Permalink | Comments (1) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.