Monday, 8 November 2010

Ringo Starr and timpani.

We all know Ringo Starr as the drummer for the most influencial pop band ever existed. We also know he isn´t the best drummer in the world, but we know he was what The Beatles needed at that time: nothing less and nothing more.

Apart from the drums (his kits is something I´ll write about in the future), Ringo also recorded tambourines, congas, bongos... But, for a classical percussionist, the really surprising thing is that he also recorded timpani.

This photo was taken at Abbey Road, studio #2, on September 30th, 1964, during the session for "Every Little Thig". Nine takes were recorded (the chosen one was #8), and then some overdubs were tracked: Ringo on timps, which is also doubled on piano by Paul McCartney.

With regard to the piano part, there was a story about George Martin playing it, but this photo proves it was McCartney:

You can hear the song here:

These timpani were probably part of the existing backline at Abbey Road (they are marked "1" and "2").

We can see Ringo´s peculiar technique: french grip in his right hand, and german one in his left hand. We can also see the rings that originated his nickname.

For those of you who are meticulous (some of you already know about my passion on recording techniques), the mic in the pictures is a Neumann U47 (or maybe an U48: they are exactly the same except for their polar pattern, which I cannot see, so it´s impossible to know whether it´s a U47 or  U48).

I think this is the only time Ringo played timpani, and these photos are an exceptional graphic document that allow us to see the most famous drummer in history playing on instruments we normally see in an orchestral context.

…et in Arcadia ego.
© David Valdés


  1. Other Beatles' recordings featuring timpani are: "Strawberry Fields Forever", "With a Little Help from my Friends", and "Carry That Weight". The microphone is an U47, since it has a long body and a chrome windscreen. The U47 was the usual microphone for guitars, piano, percussion, and backing vocals, while the U48 was used for lead vocals with or without a second backing vocal on the opposite side of the microphone. At this session, from 30th September 1964, the microphone is placed at 60 cm from the skin of the timpani and, most probably, in cardioid polar pattern.

    1. Very interesting information: Thank you very much for your comment!