Ringo Starr Used to Leave a Pile of Woodchips in the Studio From Hitting the Drums so Hard

Ringo Starr played the drums with vicious force. A Beatles engineer shared how this impacted his style as a drummer.

While Ringo Starr let his bandmates control much of The Beatles’ creative direction, he was a force to be reckoned with on the drums. He was an excellent timekeeper and was a grounding force in the band. He was also a powerful drummer. According to audio engineer Geoff Emerick, Starr was a small man. Still, he hit the drums with such force that he left debris in the studio.

Ringo Starr hit the drums with great force

Starr has never been a flashy drummer, but he has a unique style. Emerick credits this to his stature.

“[His fills aren’t] fast — in fact, he himself has likened them to the sound of someone falling down the stairs — and they’re often a little laid back, a little behind the beat,” Emerick wrote in his book Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of the Beatles. That’s not because he wasn’t a good timekeeper — he was — but because, unlike many of the rock drummers who came after him, he simply was not a big man physically.”

While Starr worried about hitting the drums too hard, he was capable of immense force.

“I would constantly be saying to Ringo, ‘Can you hit the snare a little harder? Can you stomp on the bass drum pedal harder?’ and he would reply, ‘If I hit them any harder, I’m going to break the skins,’ but it did make a huge difference to the sound, and he did hit those drums hard,” Emerick recalled. “In fact, after each session that Ringo played on, there would be a huge pile of woodchips around the drum kit from all the drumsticks he’d demolished. But because he was exerting so much effort, it took a certain amount of time for his arms to move up and down, hence the laid-back feel of his fills.”

A Beatles audio engineer said Ringo Starr seemed insecure when he played the drums

Though Starr put great strength into his fills, he seemed insecure every time he did it.

“Funnily enough, he would often go into a near panic whenever he had to do a drum fill,” Emerick wrote. “You could almost hear him freezing, trying to decide what to do as he’s doing it.”

Emerick believed that this impacted his style as well. The hesitation also gave the fills a laid-back sound.

Geoff Emerick described the Beatles drummer as a ‘machine’

Every time The Beatles recorded, Starr gave it his all. This meant playing for hours, going home, and doing it all the next day. Emerick said he did it without complaint.

“We rarely edited together different backing tracks, so what made it to the final record was almost always a complete performance, which meant that The Beatles often had to play a song over and over again, trying to get it right,” he wrote. “In that sense, Ringo was like a machine, drumming away for hours on end.”

He returned every morning, excited to start anew.

“When a session would finally finish — especially the really long all-night sessions that we started doing later in the group’s career — Ringo would leave the studio totally knackered, completely drained,” Emerick wrote. “I was always impressed at how he’d rebound the next day, though, fresh and ready for another bout of marathon drumming.”

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