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Music

The Beatles drummer Ringo Starr once revealed the secret to his unique sound

@josephtaysom

Ringo Starr’s drumming style has unfairly recieved criticism throughout his career, and thankfully, people now seemingly universally accept his genius. Admittedly, his style is incomparable to other greats such as John Bonham or Keith Moon, and the former Beatles drummer once revealed why he sounds so unique.

The unfair criticism of Ringo largely comes from a falsely attributed quote which derides his ability that, incorrectly, onlookers believed to be from John Lennon when comedian Jasper Carrot uttered those fateful words. However, if truth be told, Ringo’s style didn’t fit in with conventional standards, which helped provide another dimension to The Beatles’ sound.

Even Starr’s drumming background was unconventional because of the style of music he made before joining The Beatles, which was skiffle. He once recalled: “My first band was in the factory with the guy who lived next door to me: Eddie Clayton, who was just a really cool guitar player. And I always wanted to be a drummer since I was 13, and my friend Roy [Trafford] made a tea-chest bass – a tea chest with a stick and a string – and that’s what skiffle was.”

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Remarkably, his first drumset was made from whatever household items they could jumble together, whether this was washboards or, in Starr’s case, a tea chest.

If it was a pure technician you were after, then Ringo wasn’t the man for the task, but he made up for his weaknesses in other areas. As Paul McCartney once said: “Not technically the best by a long shot, but for feel and emotion and economy, they’re always there, particularly Ringo.”

During an appearance on Conan, Ringo explained that he believes his unique approach to the instrument doesn’t come from playing skiffle but from his grandmother. He explained: “Well, I was born left-handed, and my grandmother thought that was not a good sign so she turned me right-handed. So I have a right-handed kit, but I lead with my left.”

He continued: “It makes it weird because I need time to do a fill, he’ll understand this (points at the house band drummer), he can roll from the snare to the tom-tom and all the way round, whereas I can’t do that because I have to go under all the time, but, I can go this way really cool. I could never work a fill out, it comes in the emotions of the songs.”

If Ringo was taught the instrument by a teacher and went down the traditional route, they’d have drummed his idiosyncrasies out of him, making him like every other person who plays the drums. Instead, he created a brand new sound through happenstance that shaped the biggest band of all time.

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