Improving your 

ability to play drums


It is difficult for me not to be nostalgic about The Beatles and Ringo Starr. I grew up listening to the band and learned my early drumming skills cheerfully playing along to their recordings. Since Ringo came on the drumming scene with a very loud rim shot in 1963, I have had many conversations with fellow drummers about Ringo’s skills or lack of such.

To those who have mocked Ringo my retort has been, “how many hit records have you played on?”. This has usually quieted most who for some reason feel they have to malign him. Faced with the counter of “anybody could play those tunes and sound good”, my last retort is, “how many times have you recorded in the studio?”.  If the mocking continues after that I know I am dealing with a fool.

Any drummer who has studio experience knows it is not easy to come up with a unique but simple drum part, lock it in and make it groove. That is the stuff of which hit records are made.

Buddy Rich was once asked his opinion of Ringo’s playing to which he replied, “Ringo was adequate, no more than that”. Coming from Buddy I would consider this a compliment. Buddy was known to pull no punches concerning his opinions on music, musicians, and other drummers especially those that copied him. Buddy could be brutally honest. Objectively, I would agree with Buddy. Ringo was adequate for the music he was playing. And the music he was playing was GREAT pop music!

Early on in my rhythmic life, I found it difficult to figure out Ringo’s style when it came to his fills and how he returned to the groove. If you didn’t catch Ringo on a live TV show there was no way to replay what he did to visually analyze what was going on. There were no VCR’s, DVD’s, YouTube, etc., just records to wear out.

To me, the sticking of his fills didn’t logically flow around the drum set as I perceived they should. Something was off, illogical. It wasn’t until much later I realized that Ringo was left-handed and was playing on a right-handed set up. There was just something off about his style but it all seemed to fit the music. I left it at that and didn’t think any more about Ringo’s style till years later when I heard talk that Ringo had not played on any of the recordings of The Beatles.

It is a known fact that Ringo did not play on the recordings of “P.S. I Love You” and “Love Me Do” that were released in the United States. Andy White recorded those tracks. Ringo added percussion.

The decision to use Andy White was made by George Martin. George Martin was not familiar with Ringo and based on previous experience with Pete Best, Martin did not want to chance using a drummer he didn’t trust to deliver solid tracks for the band’s debut album.

After giving into Martin this one time, the band insisted on using Ringo. Ringo was their man and they saw no reason to replace him. In their eyes, Ringo was just as good or better than Andy White. The band held firm and prevailed. This is probably where the rumors started about Ringo not playing on the band’s sessions.

Ringo concedes that Paul played drums on a total of four recordings. They are: “Back In The USSR”, “Martha My Dear”, “Dear Prudence” and “The Ballad Of John and Yoko” The three from the White Album were done when Ringo quit the band for a few days. “The Ballad Of John and Yoko” was a quick take John and Paul did when Ringo was not available.

Several years ago great session drummer Bernard Purdie made some bizarre claims taking credit for playing on many of The Beatles’ recordings. To me this seemed ridiculous. Now, with much more drumming experience under my belt, I felt compelled to verify this.

The claims that Ringo did not record with The Beatles led me back to those recordings I had trouble figuring out in my youth. Once again, the fills hold the key.

One just needs to listen to “Please, Please Me” or “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” and compare these to the live versions on the Ed Sullivan Show and The Washington Concerts. The drum sound is the same especially the crack of his snare on the backbeats and the quirky fills are evident. Those nuances are not copied from another drummer. It is Ringo.

Only a drummer who is self taught, playing backwards on a right-handed set while leading with the left hand can get those small nuances where the left hand is leading rudiments and fills around a right handed drum set up. These sticking nuances appear over and over again in the tracks of the band’s discography. Also, Ringo’s snare sound is always pronounced and distinctive in the recordings and live shows.

When asked about the ridiculous claims that he wasn’t playing on the Beatle’s tracks Ringo simply states “well, who was in the recording studio if it wasn’t me?” Indeed!

In defense of Ringo’s playing I have listed several tracks below that show the economy, taste, and excellence of Ringo’s drumming. Other tracks can be quoted as well but I see no need to over do it.

1. In My Life – on this track Ringo borrowed a groove he previously copied from Arthur Alexander’s recording of “Anna (Go To Him)” which was also a recording on the first Beatle LP “Please Please Me”. He uses this groove on the verses and it works beautifully at the slower tempo. His transition onto the Bridge/Chorus alternates between quarter notes on the ride cymbal’s bell then to a full groove. The change is seamless and tasteful. The drum part as a whole is beautifully crafted. Ballads are harder to play simply because any flaw or mistake is magnified by unfilled space in the music. There is not one flaw in his track.

2. Please Please Me – it is no surprise that this song was The Beatles first #1 hit in Europe. Part of its success has directly to with the energy of Ringo’s performance and Paul’s bass line. Together they drive the band. Ringo’s fills are clean, strong and on the money.

3. Wait – here the interplay of Ringo’s drums and his dubbed over percussion tracks form a tight cohesive drum part. The tracks are logically and artistically thought out between drums, maracas, and tambourine. All together the drum/percussion track is killer.

4. Tell Me Why – here Ringo’s drum part is swinging on every beat of the song. His fills are clean and powerful and his merciless swing on the verses moves the song forward every beat. The fast triplet fill he plays with both hands separately and simultaneously on the toms and snare at the end of the bridge is very difficult to pull off at that tempo. Yet he does is flawlessly.

5. Lady Madonna – Ringo plays two separate drum tracks here. One track is using brushes while the other track is a heavier drum part with a pronounced backbeat. This adds a lot of push to the whole song and the two drum tracks work great together.

6. Happiness Is A Warm Gun – Ringo navigates the odd time signatures between 3/4, 5/4, and 6/4 effortlessly. Other examples of Ringo’s ability with changing time signatures can also be found on “Here Comes The Sun”, “All You Need Is Love”, “We Can Work It Out” to name a few.

7. Come Together – this slow rocker had Ringo leading his way counter clockwise around kit in the musical interlude starting at the top of the tune. Ringo starts the pattern with two eight notes on the bass drum, then fills on the high hat with 16th note triplets which then lead into the large tom then small tom with more 16th note triplets. An interesting sticking pattern conceived by a left-handed drummer leading with his left hand counterclockwise around the set. The rest of the drum track is solid and strong.

8. No Reply – Ringo had a grasp of Latin rhythms. On various tracks you can find overdubbed clave, bongos, maracas, cowbell, etc. He freely used bolero grooves (“And I Love Her”, “Till There Was You”, etc.) and Cha Cha grooves (“I Will”, “Please Please Me”, etc.). On “I Feel Fine” one can easily hear the echo of Ray Charles’ “What I Say” in the drum part, which is a fast conga tumbao pattern adapted to the drum set. On “No Reply”, Ringo lays down a smooth Brazilian Bossa Nova groove on the verses. He deftly changes between the Bossa groove on the verses to an 8th note groove on the chorus throughout the song. It is one of his most overlooked tracks.

While Ringo may not be the “greatest” drummer who drew breath, he certainly could lay down solid creative tracks that propelled The Beatles and helped them sell lots and lots of records. Even now, when you hear Ringo on a recording, his distinctive style is easily recognizable.

I recently saw a performance of “Love” by Cirque du Soleil. The remix of the tracks tell a story unto themselves. The Beatles original mixes had the guitars and vocals hot and upfront while the bass and drums were pushed back. The tracks from “Love” brought out the interplay between Paul and Ringo and the grooves they created were relentless.

Listening to the “Love” sound track over a huge state of the art sound system where I could hear everything clearly fully erased any doubt in my mind about Ringo’s raw yet tasteful drumming. He and The Beatles as a whole are responsible for inspiring many young people to become musicians. They made it look easy because they were so good at what they did.

Thanks Ringo!

76 Responses to Ringo Starr – In Defense Of, A Drummer’s Perspective

  • Fino Roverato says:

    Well said Tom.Ringo always played tastefully and never got in the was of the vocalist.Whats Ringo’s favorite drum track he performed? “Rain”.
    I would also add “I Me Mine” as a track that really grooved. also “Yer Blues”
    check out the The Beatles Washington concert 1964.Ringo is rockin.A real team player.

    • Tom says:

      Fino, agreed, there are many great tracks and analyzing all of them is fun. “Rain” is great to listen to and I know Ringo cites that as his favorite. He was letting loose on it. The tracks I chose highlight specific skills that often go overlooked especially the song “Wait” which is a beautiful completed puzzle of percussion Ringo created.

  • rick says:

    Nice job Tom – a self-taught drummer on a backwards set: some of the most quirky, inventive fills ever! It’s one thing to hear something you CAN’T play — but most of the time it’s way more fun to hear something you WOULD NEVER THINK OF ( that’s Ringo ). Of course, both is best, but….
    I would also add:
    1) those wonderful intro fills to each verse of Day Tripper
    2) the timpanic ( orchestral ) backing in the second verse of A Day in the Life.

    • Tom says:

      Thanks Rick. “Day Tripper” is a another great track and one where the group started to change their sound. Ringo was on the money in that track. I thought of including “A Day In The Life” as one of the tracks because of the wonderful, staggered 16th note fills but I could have gone on and on. There are many great tracks to choose from.

  • Sean Swift says:

    Thank you Tom. These are great insights/thought that you share here. I agree with the listening analysis you have made. And I came upon this by way of Ken French (Seattle) via Facebook, btw.

    There is one track that sounds like it could be Purdie to me, if any of that business contains any truth at all. And that tune is “Bang Bang Maxwell”. That’s a pretty tight kick drum part on that, and I have wondered while listening. I’m not saying Ringo isn’t capable of playing it at the same time.

    I mean, it makes sense too that not using Ringo was at least thought about over the 6-7 year run from ’63-’70. Other bands were doing it including the Beach Boys, with whom the Beatles admit they felt a sense of competition.

    I’d love to hear more analysis, and for more facts to arise on the matter. I believe the majority of the tracks are Ringo, and again that your assessment of his “left handed” sticking articulations on a right handed kit are tangible/audible features contained within Ringo’s style. Thank you again.

  • Sean Swift says:

    Correction: The name of the tune is “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”, which I just listened to again. If it is Bernard Purdie, he’s doing a good job of following the known studio producers’ request which was “Play like Ringo”. It sounds more like Ringo really if you listen…

    • Tom says:

      Thanks Sean. It certainly is true that ghost players were frequently used on pop recordings to save time in the studio (time = $$$). I read an interview with Kenny Arnoff where he speaks of not playing on the first John Cougar album because the producer replaced him. He agreed that it was the right thing to do at the time. It only made him work harder to get his studio chops down. Regarding Bernard, there is no evidence from anyone that he was in The Beatles sessions. Here an interesting reference:

      • larry miller says:

        Bernard Purdie is delusional , he did not substitute for Ringo. The Beatles had too much power to succumb to some record company peon’s request. The musical chemistry between the FOUR Beatles was the key to their success. Jealousy and paranoia sure make some good rumors.

        But, it IS true that Elvis was taken back to Venus by admirers . He is still occasionally does backing vocals on charity records, but is never credited.

    • Orlin says:

      If you ever watch Let It Be film, you will see Maxwell’s Silver Hammer being recorded. With Ringo. By that time George Martin did not have that much control over the Beatles and it was the reason for his non involvement in the Let it be project. There ed no producer credit on that album, the Beatles used sound engineers like Glyn Johns, who certainly didn’t have Any authority to contract outside players without the specific approval by the group.

  • Sean Swift says:

    Another thought if you don’t mind is this: I would describe Purdie as an “on top of the beat” player. Ringo is not. Ringo’s feel is more Gadd like without the exact time precision, but both play with a relaxed feel. I believe that is a fair enough description/comparison.

    If one were to listen to almost anything with Aretha, Steely Dan’s The Royal Scam, the Aja tune Home at Last, there is a definite on the top feel to all of it. The point of course being that it is hard to think of a Beatle tune where this (on top) feel exists.

  • Karrie Sawka says:

    This is a fantastic article. I am so tired of getting ridiculed for being a huge fan of both Ringo and George. If I hear one more time that Ringo and George are “the weakest links” I am going to scream. My favorite song from when the group was together is Rain. You can really hear Ringo drumming away in this song and it is amazing!!!

    Peace and love to all!!

  • Nice article Tom. I feel Ringo was the Beatle’s secret weapon. Every great band has a great drummer. Ringo’s groove and taste is respected by many major artists.

    Rumor I heard in regard to Bernard Purdie was he played on their version of “Ain’t She Sweet.” Could this have been when Ringo was hospitalized?

    • Tom says:

      I read that as well except what I read was that Bernard didn’t play on it. Why take those tapes all the way to NYC and dub another drummer. Brian didn’t have that kind of money to do that then.

      • Mick says:

        “Pretty” Purdie “retired” here to Portland; I interviewed when I was hosting a show on the local jazz station a few years back; asked him specifically – he said, emphatically, “No.”

      • Orlin says:

        Absolutely true. Even the band didn’t make that kind of money, not were they aware of the future influence they would have in order to need this kept a secret by Purdie. Andy White wasn’t kept a secret, there would have been no need for Purdie to be paid for such request. Andy got paid union scale for his contribution.

        • Chaz Charles says:

          So, I did read somewhere that he may have possibly replaced Tony Sheridan on The Hamburg Sessions. And what he said of those recordings…”Ringo was never on them.” Could have been tongue in cheek?

          • Tom says:

            That may be true. There are comparisons on YouTube of the two different versions of those sessions and the drum performance is different from what Pete Best originally played. It sounds like the drum track was replaced. By whom is still in question. However I do not believe Bernard was being “tongue in cheek” when he was referring to Ringo’s playing on the first 22 or 23 songs they recorded (I don’t recall the exact number). For quite a while he carried this forward until it caught up to him. The fact is, with exception of what I wrote, Ringo was on the rest of those tracks. The style and sound is uniquely Ringo.

    • Orlin says:

      Ain’t She Sweet wasn’t recorded with Ringo in the First place. That is Pete Best. So has Purdie subbed for him too? On a low budget album?

      • Tom says:

        Correct. That was Pete Best. Bernard has retracted his statements that he recorded with the Beatles. It is interesting to listen to the recordings with Best on drums. Especially the demos for EMI. Best’s time was unsteady and he did not groove nearly as well as Ringo.

  • Jimmy says:

    Purdie could not have played Maxwell’s Silver Hammer. His style is so different and so is his fills. Purdie would have used a combination of ghost notes on the snare, combined with sizzle grooves on the high hat. The descending fills within the toms are so unique to Ringo and the whole drum part is conceived in a single track. There was this Anthology take by The Beatles of Maxwell Silver Hammer and its them without the overdubs so Paul fools around on one of the later verses.

    The difference of Ringo performance here than the released version was that he made a tom fill intro right at the beginning of the song and did a mini fill when the piano suddenly made a shift.

    There are tons of examples of Ringo’s drumming to show his hidden chops (despite being criticized not to have them), some of which are after the Beatles. I have heard many “lost” Beatles recordings on Youtube and there were these magical things he was coming up with on those sessions particularly, the Get Back sessions.

    The swishing energy of Ringo’s high hat is second to none at his time and he makes very good shuffles with the right hand, ex. What Goes On, Act Naturally, Magical Mystery Tour. Oh! Darling was a monster.

    Some post Beatles tracks featuring Ringo to mention:

    I Found Out (by John Lennon)- here Ringo used a beastly thumping pattern on the bass drum with one foot!

    God (by John Lennon)- some very nice tom fills on this song. Every fill is unique. The timekeeping was a masterful.

    Back Off Boogaloo (by Ringo Starr) a groovy rudimental pattern Ringo only used on two songs (the other being his version of The Little Drummer Boy).

    At My Front Door (by Harry Nillson)- tight monster fills that people often mistaken the drummer being Bonham (who only appeared on the music video of the song)

    To A Flame (by Stephen Stills)- the drumming is entirely tom-tom fills high hat and bass drum. Beautifully crafted. Ringo could play songs by relying on the toms.

    Time (by Ringo Starr)- from one of Ringo’s most recent albums called Y Not. The drumming here is groovy that I hear lots of ghost notes on a nice electronic drum kit and some fantastic signature fills.

    That’s my take on his drumming.

    Self-taught drummers tend to make a unique sound without being technical.

    Skilled players with so many chops, tend to do exhibition rather than music and at some point, they start to sound same to me because of lack of subtlety. They start to lose that unique personal sound as they pound the skins.

    Ringo and Bonzo tend to be my drumming heroes since I’m a new drummer myself.

    • Brian C. says:

      “Skilled players with so many chops, tend to do exhibition rather than music and at some point, they start to sound same to me because of lack of subtlety. They start to lose that unique personal sound as they pound the skins.”

      This is the lie that Ringophiles have to resort to so they can justify their absurd position on Ringo. Shelley Manne (an honest to goodness great drummer) played with country artists, rock gigs, pop singers, all the way to Charlie Parker. Like ALL great drummers, he played only what the music called for. You would not know it was Shelley Mann playing on the country tracks if you had not been told. Dennis Chambers played on Parliament funk tracks, and on some he played Straight up pocket with few if any fills. And he is a technical wizard. I could go on.

      So stop pretending that drummers with technical skill “tend to be” unmusical exhibitionists. Some are, but you haven’t heard of most of those guys because they DON’T GET WORK. This is a myth whose sole purpose is to create the fiction that Ringo is somehow special because he does the minimum required of a professional drummer.

      Late Period Buddy Rich is somewhat of an exception to this rule, but listen to early Buddy when he’s with Dorsey or Shaw. You DO NOT KNOW it’s him, because he KNOWS to serve the song. ALL WORKING DRUMMERS serve the song.

      What makes Ringo different is that he could NOT do what James Gadson, Jim Keltner, Clyde Stubblefield, and a ton of other cats could to. Ringo would sound like crap for ANY band that made any serious demands on its drummer, either technical or even serious groove demands. Ringo was never hired by a funk or R&B band for a reason, yet ANY high end R&B drummer would have done comparable work with the Beatles. Put Shelley Mann or Weckl on A Day In the Life and you will get a similar product, only with much better execution.

      But given the seemingly enforced unanimity of this thread, I expect the moderators to disappear this comment.

      • Tom says:

        Hi Brian. Thank you for your condescending analysis. You make some good points however you ignore a few facts.

        When you mention, “James Gadson, Jim Keltner, Clyde Stubblefield, and a ton of other cats could to” (by the way it is “too” and not “to”), I doubt these drummers would agree with you. I know two of them personally and I am sure when I show them this they will laugh.

        You ignore the fact that all of The Beatles were not great musicians. Their goal was not to be “studio musicians”. That takes a whole skill set they did not have. They sound like an original band and not a group of studio musicians backing a singer as the Wreaking Crew did and did quite well.

        After some time they became adept at working in the studio under George Martin and eventually learned the technical end of it but they were first a band that could write songs and to say the least, it worked.

        Any pro drummer could have played in the Beatles and that is true. However, that doesn’t mean anything. The feel of the music would have been different as it was when Simon Philips replaced Keith Moon. For sure Simon could run rings around Keith but I doubt if “Teenage Wasteland” would have sounded the same had Simon recorded it first. For all of Keith’s madness on the drums that track would never sound the same with anyone else.

        The same is true of Ringo and The Beatles. And that is where this ends. You cannot rewrite history Brian. It is there in the tapes.

        • Brian C says:

          Well, at least I wasn’t disappeared, which is nice and appreciated.

          The thing is I don’t have to rewrite history.

          “Love Me Do” loses nothing from being recorded by Andy White.

          “Dear Prudence” is one of the better drum tracks in the Beatles’ catalogue, thanks to Paul McCartney.

          “The Ballad of John and Yoko” loses nothing from having Paul on drums instead of Ringo.

          I’ll credit this much: *early* Ringo had some chops and a unique lilt that, for better and for worse, gave rise to the unpolished 60’s rough and ready rock sound. But my view is that to be a GREAT drummer, you have to have more than your own pet lilt. A GREAT drummer, to quote Baby Dodds. has to be versatile, has to be able to work in multiple settings, some of which put demands on the drummer. A drummer who can only play the song, in only the least demanding genre (both technically and groovewise) cannot be considered a GREAT drummer. He is a drummer who is adequate to one task. He could not play for James Brown, George Clinton, Bill Withers, Isaac Hayes, let alone Rush or Zepplin.

          Ringo’s adequacy on drums can serve as a good lesson to young chop freaks who can’t keep time. But once a player becomes good enough to play on a cruise ship, he has nothing to learn from Ringo Starr. A drummer who does not command the study of good drummers cannot be a great drummer.

          And those kind words are reserved for young Ringo. When the Beatles stopped touring, Ringo lost a lot of the qualities that made him even mildly interesting. He became a loud plodder who occasionally played a triplet fill that was mildly interesting.

          So all we are left with are appeals to the ineffable Ringo je ne sais quoi that can’t be pinned down in words because it doesn’t exist and never existed.

          But I very much appreciate your reply.

          • Tom says:

            Hi Brian. I would not delete your comment. No way. There is truth in in. There are also some things you are overlooking. The Beatles did not just play one style of music. Their influences took them into Classical, Broadway, Country, Folk, R & B, Swing, Blues, Skiffle, Classical Indian, Afro Cuban, Hard Rock, etc.

            Except for six songs, Ringo was on the rest. He spanned those style. Also, there are many tracks after Rubber Soul (when they stopped touring) where Ringo is playing his butt off. He is negotiating odd time signatures on several tracks and laying down his own original style of grooves.

            Some of his best playing is on Revolver, Sargent Pepper, Magical Mystery Tour, The Beatles (White Album) and Abbey Road. I have referenced a few of these tracks in the article.

            I don’t know how much experience you have in the studio but if you have spent a lot of time tracking live drums it is not easy. To do it well (make it groove and in the pocket) and with originality takes skill.

            As of 2014 the Beatles have sold 1.6 BILLION singles in the United States, and 177 million albums according to an article written by CBS. Your statement “So all we are left with are appeals to the ineffable Ringo je ne sais quoi that can’t be pinned down in words because it doesn’t exist and never existed” is laid to waste by these numbers.

            People are responding to the the totality of the emotional impact of the music that Ringo was a part of and helped drive with his talent. It is not a matter of being able to sight read, play fast be-bop, play sambas, etc. It is a matter of the quality of the communication that people respond to.

            Granted, Ringo is not on the level of Tony Williams, Vinnie Colaiuta, Louis Bellson, Buddy, etc. However I doubt the music of The Beatles would sound better with these players.

            On a personal level, when I was coming up there were many wonderful drummers in NYC that could sight read, play jazz, cut shows, etc. but they could not play Rock and Roll, Funk or it’s variants. When they tried it did not sound or feel right.

            Eventually they lost work. Fortunately I grew up listening to everything and assimilated everything I could . Those who looked down on Pop and Rock paid the price for it. The Beatles came up during that same time. Music was rapidly evolving then (50′ and 60’s). While many pros were looking down on these styles by refusing to learn them, they were left behind.

            A few years after The Beatles landed in the US artists such as Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra and other great singers started catching on and recorded their music.

            In the end Ringo doesn’t care what anyone thinks about his playing. He knows what it felt like to drive that band and what he put into it. Everyone who loves the music knows it as well. That is what makes his playing great and it is felt and therefore it does exist. Maybe not for you and that’s fine.

            Thanks for the chat Brian.

  • Ace Freeley says:

    I’ve always liked Ringo’s drumming, but I really don’t think that’s him on “I feel fine”. To me it sounds like a jazz session drummer playing a pretty traditional mambo beat and, IMO, Ringo just didn’t play that way. At least that’s what I think.

    • Tom says:

      I have thought about that as well Paul. He played the groove differently live and abbreviated the pattern on the right hand occasionally. I suspected the same for a while. However, the drum sound and the fills match the live sound. Ringo is on record saying that he played differently live because he couldn’t hear anything (no monitors and screaming). In some live footage you can see him struggling to hear by the look on his face. I know the feeling and what that looks like on his face. He said he had to simplify his playing live so he could hear the bass. That is what he used for an anchor. I know technically he could have pulled it off with his right hand. He could play some very fast “rock a billy” shuffles on his right hand so it would not have been a problem for him to play that groove. The groove is basically “1 &a2+3+4+” – “2+” on the small tom – and 4 on the snare. It is lifted from Ray Charles tune “What I Say” which every pop drummer learned at the time as it was a big night dance club/cover tune.

    • Orlin says:

      If you watch the official video promotional clip for I Feel Fine, Ringo is playing Judy like the recorded version, not the way he later did the love one. Watch his cymbal hand

  • Jimmy says:

    Another thing that pisses me off is whenever Ringo gets mentioned on top list of the most influential drummers in rock ‘n roll, there will always be idiots there trying to set him down, like saying he sucks. This has been repeated on and on by these uneducated guys, making Ringo the most insulted drummer.

  • Mick says:

    Tom – Thanks for your defense of Ringo’s skills. I have always felt that he was an under-appreciated drummer as well. Speaking of Buddy Rich, I actually attended a drum clinic taught by him in about 1972; during the question & answer session, somebody asked him, in fact, if there was anybody in the rock genre that he respected as drummers. His response was that most of them were just “making noise” – he used Keith Moon as an example – but he did say that he thought that Ringo, “and that grouchy-looking guy that plays with the Rollingstones” (he pronounced “Rolling Stones” as one word) “could probably make a living in jazz.” High praise, coming from Buddy!

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  • Brad Byers says:

    I know Charlie Watts loves jazz, and as a jazz aficionado myself, I was disappointed when I heard Watts actually play some be-bop…I gotta say, he didn’t swing at all. It did not feel good.

    • Tom says:

      Brad, I agree. I was expecting to be surprised when I watched a video of his big band and I was disappointed. I doubt he practices much. Charlie has the money to play whatever he wants and with whomever he wants. At least he is trying to keep jazz alive and for that I give him credit.

  • Scott says:

    What I like about Ringo is the sound of his drums and his somewhat quirky fills. Now that I know he was a lefty playing on a right handed set, I understand why his fills were a bit quirky. It’s what I like about Billy Cobham, by the way, although with totally different technique.

    • Tom says:

      His snare sound was awesome. Geoff Emerik experimented with mic placement on the drums and helped get Ringo’s drum sound.

  • As a musician/band leader who has played professionally for 48 years, I can honestly say any band I’ve been with would have killed for a drummer of the caliber of Ringo. Just watch the Let It Be video of him on Get Back. No drummer can cop that feel due to Ringo’s setup and lefthandedness (is that word?) on a righthanded drum set. Also applies to Paul’s piano playing which attributes to his strong lefthandedness in the bass section of the piano (ie, Lady Madonna). At least three of our drummers over the last few decades were as good technically as Ringo, but they didn’t have his feel and sound.

    Ringo’s fills alone should be a college credit course in any music school and his variety of patterns and his layering technique are what modern drumming is built on. Whenever I hear a critic mouthing about about Ringo’s drumming I know they haven’t seen this video (about half way down the page):

  • Wado Hobdin says:

    Ringo – he had plenty of experience before joining the Beatles – which made him a good all round player – 7 nights a week in Hamburg helped even more.. Ringo could swing a band & his tempo was always solid. He was helped greatly by both George Martin & sound engineers like Geoff Emerik whilst learning his craft as a studio player. Highly creative as a drummer with a unique style, there is no reason to criticize Ringo. His acting ability & vocals leave a lot to desire – but his drumming skills were far above the norm.
    He Got De Beat – Sure Turn On De Heat – Ringo We Like – Now Go Take A Hike…

  • Joaquim Duarte says:

    In saying that Ringo was adequate Buddy, perhaps unwillingly, payed the best compliment anyone can to a rock or pop drummer. Adequate means perfect here, no underplay or exaggeration, just the perfect, rhythmic, percussion. Overplaying would mean stepping into the realms of jazz or hard rock/heavy metal. That would never serve the songs and would probably ruin many of them. When you listen to isolated tracks such as I Feel Fine, Here Comes The Sun or Oh Darling you discover amazing details that were otherwise being perceived only subconsciously and then you know you’re listening to the best song drummer that ever lived.

  • Skylark says:

    The notion that Ringo Starr needs any DEFENSE is ridiculous. Anyone who can’t recognize Ringo’s excellence –as well as his greatness– is just having a hard time hearing with their gluteal muscles pressed firmly against both ear canals.

  • Steve gadd says:

    All that counts is the end result. Quick …name a buddy rich tune (draw a blank). Plus he was the worlds biggest asshole to work for besides benny goodman.
    Name a ringo tune ….300 to pick from . All hits.

    • Brian C says:

      Crediting Ringo for the Beatle’s hits is like crediting the Chicago hot dog vendor for the Bulls’ championships.

      Ringophiles drive me up the wall when they move the goal posts the way they do. There are many high school players who could NOT meet the minimal requirements to play with the Beatles, but there are (not quite as many) but many who could have been just as adequate as Ringo, and many other players who would have made the Beatles music BETTER than Ringo. REM’s drummer, Bill Berry (I think) played REM’s music great, yet no one calls him a “great” drummer. But if you listen to his contributions, he’s including subtleties that really add something to the music in a way that Ringo rarely did.

      MOST professional drummers can play the song as well as Ringo can. But Ringo CANNOT play what most professional drummers can play. No chops, no range, no versatility, poor tone quality.

  • Andrew says:

    Anyone know why Ringo always plays with a second drummer since the 70s? I noticed it first on the Concert for Bangladesh, and it seems to have continued since then… I don’t want to hear another drummer while Ringo’s playing – just him!

    • Tom says:

      Good question. My understanding was that connects like Bangaladesh and others were benefit concerts where multiple recording artists and musicians joined in. George had Eric Clapton and several other guitarists on stage with him. Leon Russel worked a lot with Jim Keltner and so did some of the other musicians in those concerts. They were all friends and the more celebrities you had on stage the more attention you would draw to the cause for donations. Ringo could have handled it alone but I am sure it was fine with him. It is hard to play with another drummer but they fit together very well. That sound of two drummers was popular in the 70’s. The Dobbie Brothers, James Brpwn and the Allman Brothers band had two drummers. It was not an uncommon site then. Here is an article you might be interested on:

      • Tony says:

        Hal Blaine said that Jim Keltner really disliked double drumming, but Jim said drumming with Ringo was a treat that everyone should experience. Ringo also double drummed with Steve Gadd. Steve Gadd was asked what he though about Ringo’s drumming:
        What kind of musical dialogue do you have with somebody like Ringo? Even though he’s one of the greatest drummers in rock ‘n’ roll history, he’s very unlike you in that he doesn’t read or write music, never studied theory…

        “Yeah, I know what you mean. We had a great time together. See, Ringo comes from a different kind of school, and I find that totally exciting and challenging. How he does what he does…it’s so different from what other drummers do. If somebody approaches music or their instrument in a way that’s unique, I want to be around that person. To me, there’s something to learn there.”

  • Rick says:

    I have been playing drums since I was 4 and got my first real set in 1966 at age 14. I am left handed, and play on a right handed set. I do things a bit different than right handed drummers, but also a bit different than Ringo. It’s just the way I taught my self how to play. I’m ambedexterous, so I was always a bit different than purely lefties and righties. It is really interesting to hear these stories, because I grew up playing with his records and I never knew until recently, that he was left handed. Cool, cool, cool.

  • Biggie says:

    Just to clear up the issue regarding Purdie’s claim to do have drummed on some Beatles’ tracks…he probably actually did, but not any of the songs Ringo played on. When the Pete Best era recordings from the band’s sessions with Tony Sheridan were released in the US after the Beatles hit it big, someone made the decision to overdub another drummer on top of Best. Given the zillions of sessions Purdie did it’s quite possible he was that drummer. If you look on YouTube there’s a video available that compares the drum parts on different versions of those tracks and it’s clear some overdubbing was done.

    • Tom says:

      Hi Biggie. Yes there is sonic evidence that this occurred. However it is not clear who may have dubbed those parts. It may be Bernard. Bernard is a a great drummer however he still maintains after all these years that Ringo did not play on any of the recordings and that is ludicrous. Why he choses to maintain this position is illogical. Ringo knows he was in the studio and so do the others who were there. Bernard is being stubborn. Ringo doesn’t care what anyone thinks. He knows what he did. Thanks for adding to the discussion.

  • John Williams says:

    As regards drumming, there’s only one thing that matters… serve the song. Everything else is NOISE. Figuratively, and literally.

    I really, really doubt that Buddy would’ve imbued those songs with the creativity that Ringo did. Ringo’s feel, idiosyncratic approach, and sympatico with ‘Beatle music’ was, and remains, unequaled.

    He was (absolutely) creatively brilliant. Not because he avalanched the listener with a bunch of dung, mind. Not because he dazzled with fast, proficient chops. Not because he served Ringo’s ego. But because he prioritized the musicality of the ‘piece’ over the percussive din that others would have reveled in.

    For his genre, he was the best, and Rich couldn’t have touched him. Even if he’d have tried. Starr was the master of feel… what incomparable SOUL he had.

  • Kieran Martin says:

    As someone who’s played drums for over 10 years, I feel like those criticising Ringo’s playing are those that are into massive high tempo drum solos, rather than serving the song. Ringo never played solos, beyond “The End”. He did only what was necessary. I see people play the kind of solos Keith Moon or John Bonham or Ginger Baker would play, and the musical part of my brain goes, “OK, that’s great and all, but can you actually support a song?”

    I play drums pretty regularly, and I can safely say just playing along to a song is infinitely more satisfying than having a solo, and I can safely say Ringo is the most satisfying drummer out there. Most certainly my biggest influence. No one perfects a song like he does.

    • Tom says:

      Agreed. His playing was and is always tasteful and creative. It isn’t that Ringo did not have technique to solo. He used his technique to compliment the songs. He actually had very good self taught technique as evidenced by the fast grooves and fills in the early work of The Beatles. It was always in time and unique to him. Bonham could also groove to a song beautifully. He came up during the post era of Cream and Fusion when drummers had the obligatory 20 minute drum solo. Ringo came up during the singer/song writer era. Thanks for reading the article!

  • TheoLib says:

    Are you sure about “Why Don’t We Do It In The Road?” Other sites say that it was Paul and Ringo alone; Paul says it was Ringo on drums; and Ringo says it was himself on drums.

    Whiter than the Beatles adds this little bit of detail, true or not:

    Ringo played drums, just bass drum, snare and cymbal with no hi hats. The minimalism of the drums is mirrored in the restricted piano part and the slightly out of tune electric guitar, the repetitive lyric and the sense that it is all over before it’s begun.

    • Tom says:

      Thanks Theo for bringing it to my attention! I don’t remember where I found that information when I did my research. Probably one of the books. So much is written on the band and I could have read something and assumed its validity. Mal was quoted as saying Paul played the drums on the track. I have researched it further and Paul originally laid down drums on the track then had Ringo come in to finish it off.Thanks again!

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