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How To Play “When The Levee Breaks”

Randy Cooke  /  UPDATED Mar 5, 2023

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“When The Levee Breaks” by Led Zeppelin is an iconic rock tune that has arguably one of the most well-known drum beats in history by the legendary John Bonham.

Let’s start by establishing the meat of this groove – the kick and snare drum.

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Once you’re comfortable with that pattern, add in a straight 8th note pattern on the hi hats. Dig into them a little!

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Up to this point this just looks like your average rock ‘n roll drum beat. What makes it so special? How do you obtain that signature sound that makes this the iconic groove that everyone’s come to love?

Ghost notes give the groove the giant, echoey sound that makes it seem like you’re playing in a concert hall. We’re going to start by placing one soft kick drum right after the very first hit, then add two snare drum ghost notes – each after the snare hits on counts 2 and 4.

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Before we put it all together, let’s try isolating the two hands. Make the ghost notes as quiet as you can! We want there to be a big contrast between the back beat and soft hits.

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All good with that? Alright – let’s put it all together!

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Don’t worry if you don’t sound exactly like John Bonham when playing this groove. Every drummer sounds different, so add your own flair to it! Make it sound good to you.

More lessons from Randy:
Rock Drumming 101
Make Your Grooves Sound Better
How To Chart A Song Quickly


Drumeo Team - We're professional, award-winning drummers and drum teachers, coaches, recording artists, and content specialists who are passionate about drums and helping drummers around the world. This post was written and/or edited by Aaron Edgar, Sam Landa, Brandon Toews, Jared Falk, Dave Atkinson, or another pro on our team (which has a combined 1000+ years of drumming experience). Are you looking for inspiration, education, and support to take your playing to the next level? Join the Drumeo community today!

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