Yeah, we know that feeling, and it’s usually thanks to a pretty badass drummer! The kings and queens of tempo, rhythm, and beat are here to shine, as we explore the 50 greatest drummers throughout history. So pick up your sticks, roll up your sleeves and let’s get this show on the road!
Kicking off the list with one of the best-known drummers (and rockers) on the planet, Mr. Dave Grohl! The man has some serious skill, and a very impressive portfolio - starting with Nirvana and then of course in the 90s becoming the frontman for the Foo Fighters.
Who would’ve thought the badass drummer would’ve had some vocal chops too! As a child, Grohl’s family couldn’t afford to pay for a drumming teacher, and he cites the band Rush as his teacher - he used to play on pillows with heavy sticks!
As the wife of Santana, there has to be a certain level of musicality that’s within Cindy Blackman. Her instrument of choice? Well, percussion! The American jazz and rock drummer has recorded many jazz albums and has performed with the likes of Buckethead, Lenny Kravitz, and Joss Stone.
In modern times, she remains among some of the greatest drummers with her great technical gift and her imagination. Fun fact: she first met her husband Santana when she was touring with Lenny Kravitz in Europe.
Ah yes, the Catman! One of our personal favorites is Peter Criss, from legendary supergroup KISS. He also had a great voice and occasionally lent his vocals to the band. “Shock Me” is the track with one of our favorite drum solos.
While there is some contention as to how good of a drummer Criss actually is, there’s no doubt that he helped KISS as the backbone of their band with his Ludwig drum kit. Of course, later on, he switched over to Pearl. We love you, Peter!
Considered one of the best technical drummers of all time, Peart is renowned for being meticulous with his timing and for hitting hard! The drummer for the band Rush, we already know how big of an influence his drumming has been - especially after Rush was the band that Grohl listened to for his drum lessons!
The band chose Peart because he reminded them of Keith Moon of the iconic band, The Who! He’s known for his style and for his massive drum kit!
The man who consistently tops the list as the number one drummer of all time is none other than John Bonham. The drummer for iconic British rock band Led Zeppelin is undoubtedly one of, if not THE greatest. Known best for his instincts and ability to feel “groove”, this was shown in his speed, fast-kick drumming as well as ability to hit, and hit hard!
The self-taught drummer tried emulating other fantastic drummers (think Buddy Rich and Max Roach). One of our favorite drumming solos of his is in the track “Good Times Bad Times.”
No list of great drummers would be complete without Keith Moon. The guy however is not lacking in confidence whatsoever, as the self-described greatest drummer in the world. We guess you have to back yourself to get anywhere in the world, right?
A fun trivia fact is that he was the inspiration for “Animal” in The Muppets for his love of smashing the drums and being pretty wild! Sadly though, his talent and tenacity were only to be shared with The Who and the world until the age of 31.
Okay, any fans of Rage Against the Machine here? Yes? Okay good, because so are we! Of course, we are paying some homage to the band’s drummer, Brad Wilk. Also, we should probably mention the fact that he’s played for Audioslave, Black Sabbath AND Prophets of Rage.
Definitely seems to be a lot of talent here, and also some serious celebrity that’s come with his talent! He’s a fantastic heavy metal drummer, and he’s second to none when it comes to speed ad power.
When you’re making the beats for the likes of Cream and Blind Faith (with Eric Clapton), you’re bound to make the list for the greatest drummers of all time! Such is the case with Ginger Baker, long-regarded as one of the pioneers of the style using two kick drums, as well as giving drummers more air time on tracks!
Often drummers would be the base of the song, the backbone even, but Baker emphasized the importance of drummers having their own extended solos! Baker is remembered for being inventive and also a bit wild with his drumming style, but was a lover of jazz and bebop drumming!
You may remember Karen Carpenter as the waif-like angelic-voiced singer of The Carpenters. But did you know that she was also gifted on the drums? Here we are praising not just the hard rock drummers but rather all drummers!
She was only young when she passed but is remembered for her three-octave contralto, and for keeping up with “exotic” time signatures. First and foremost, Carpenter considered herself a “drummer who sang.” Even the likes of Hal Blaine and Buddy Rich gave her great praise.
The esteemed Scottish percussionist is definitely one of a kind! She’s been selected as one of two laureates for the Polar Music Prize, and this makes her even more amazing because she is almost completely deaf. Glennie has a unique talent (of which we are in awe of) by being able to listen to music not with her ears, but with her body.
At the young age of twelve, she had nearly lost her hearing entirely. She’s known as a wonderful improviser and is in fact, a Dame! She’s the only person in HISTORY to be a full-time percussionist (and not part of a rock band)! If you get a chance, check her out on Youtube and be prepared to be blown away.
It’s quite something when you can bring something beautiful to the world of drumming - but maybe that’s because we aren’t quite the percussion connoisseurs that we think we are! But there is no kidding around when we talk about Mitch Mitchell and his jazz technique and ability to riff.
He’s been referenced as an inspiration to the Police’s Stewart Copeland, and it’s no wonder - he was the drummer for Jimi Hendrix (after a coin flip, if you can believe that). His heavy grooving on the kit was the perfect counterpoint to Jimi and his guitar. A match made in heaven!
You know the song, “Be My Baby”? The groovy, funky, catchy beat? Well, you can thank Hal Blaine for that contribution to music! While that’s one of his best-remembered tracks, he also worked alongside the likes of Frank Sinatra, the Beach Boys, the Supremes and Elvis!
His ability to adapt to any session, regardless of kit size (he’s even played on water jugs before for the Beach Boys!), makes him one of the greats. He’s undoubtedly the most recorded drummer in history - once you’ve done over 35,000 of those, you’re good for it!
Imagine being on stage and playing on Broadway at the age of four. Yeah, imagine it - Buddy Rich was doing it! Known for his speed, power and technical ability, Rich is one of the greatest drummers of all time. And self-taught to boot!
A real child prodigy, Rich had a love for big bands - and by the age of 15, he was one of the highest-paid child musicians in the 1930s! He was young but he was prodigious in his drumming, and played for legends Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald!
“ Ba-dum-ba-dum-ba-dum-ba-dum-dum-dum, I can feel it coming in the air toniiiiight..” Seriously though, waiting a minute and a half for that iconic drum riff is so well worth it. It’s probably one of the greatest drum riffs of all time, if you can call it a riff! And it was given to us by none other than Phil Collins, drum master.
He played for Genesis before going out on his own and has produced some fantastic albums (not to mention the score for “Tarzan”.) But sadly the iconic drummer and vocalist recently shared that due to his declining health, he is no longer able to play the drums. A loss indeed.
So we know that this Fort Worthian (yes, that’s what they call them in Texas) is a Foo Fighter and that he’s a lover of the Gretsch drum kit! But did you know that this isn’t his first rodeo on the drums? The skillful drummer was in fact, the drummer for Alanis Morissette before joining the Fooeys!
He’s probably one of the most influential drummers of all time. He cites Roger Taylor and Stewart Copeland as his main influences growing him, showing some classic rock roots there!
Oh yes, Pearl Jam. I mean, it was bound to come appear on our list - and we do love a bit of classic rock. Matt Cameron, born in San Diego, California, is the drummer of Pearl Jam.
He’s a “top-shelf” drummer in metal circles, but also has an ingrained knowledge of punk rock, which makes him a triple threat with an added ability to handle the more exotic time signatures! He’s a well-respected drummer and is known for his head-banging drumming!
Okay so maybe we’re biased but Journey is probably one of our favorite American rock bands. And the drummer for the iconic band is none other than Steve Smith. He’s even had the honor of being named the “NO.1 All-Around Drummer” five years in a row by the "Modern Drummer” magazine!
His enviable career came to great attention and acclaim with Journey, but what we love is that while their music was “radio-friendly”, he managed to work his magic and sneak in a little something something for the drummers out there!
Mr. Weinberg, also known as “Mighty Max” is indeed one of the great drummers - and is best known as the drummer for Bruce Springsteen’s “E” Street Band. The drummer is not just that, but a fantastic musician, because he’s got the “ear.”
That ear is what makes a musician great, because it means they have the ability to hear what a song needs. And Weinberg certainly did that, as the drummer and the backbone of the band. He initially played in pit bands for the theatre before answering an ad for a drummer - for Springsteen!
Alex Van Halen
We do love a bit of glam rock, and which band is better an example than Van Halen? Of course, their drummer is none other than Alex Van Halen, who has played quite a few shows in his time! And if you needed proof of his drumming ability, just listen to “Hot for Teacher” - the precision is almost..frightening.
Not to mention the fact that he was the co-founder of Van Halen when it was formed in 1972!
Maxwell Lemuel Roach may not be familiar to many of you - but for those percussionists and lovers of the drums, you’ll know exactly how important he was to pioneering bebop! The American jazz composer and drummer is considered one of the most influential drummers in all of musical history!
He played with the likes of Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, and Thelonius Monk! Quincy Jones has referenced him as part of the “A-Team” of bebop music and has been influenced by his innovations on the drum scene.
Any of y’all love a bit of disco? Because for us, it’s one of our top genres of music! And this list wouldn’t be complete without Anthony Terrence Thompson, the driving force who was behind Chic and Power Station! He had an incredible ability to be able to adapt to any session and move effortlessly from jazz to funk to rock and back again!
He was a hot commodity and had a talent that was second to none. We raise our sticks to this session man and fabulous drummer.
We all love a bit of chili. We especially love the red, hot peppers. Next up is Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer, Chad Smith, who’s been through thick and thin with the band since 1988. Fun fact - he’s one of very few drummers to have cropped up on “The Simpsons”, and he’s also had some fun skits with comedian Will Ferrell!
The SABIAN Cymbals aficionado has the ability to bring out a funky, deep groove that drives RHCP, with his diverse influences (think Buddy Rich and John Bonham) and keen sense of the beat. He’s technically excellent and brilliantly intuitive, but also knows how to have some fun!
Hungarian-born Tommy Ramone will forever be remembered for shaping one of rock’s most influential bands. He was a father of punk, and he was the pacemaker for the movement. His hardcore drumming basically involved him slamming through the first three albums for the Ramones!
He was the second drummer of the band (taking the reins from Joey Ramone), when Joey was promoted to lead singer! Undeniably though, his talent and intuition for punk is one of a kind.
Lola, L-L-L-L-Loollaaaa! Okay, we know a few more songs than that, but there’s no doubt that the Kinks are a quintessential English rock band. And the man who was the driving force behind the band’s iconic beats? Mick Avory.
The drummer and percussionist joined them just after they formed, and spent two decades with the band. But he is remembered as one of the most quietly innovative drummers in the sixties! He even rehearsed with a group who were to become…the Rolling Stones.
James “Diamond” Williams
After penning this article and doing our research, we’ve really learned how important a great drummer is, and how they make a difference in any band or musical group. But we want to give some love to James “Diamond” Williams (look up, The Ohio Players), a funky, powerhouse who also sang backup.
According to Drum Magazine, Williams “throws down like a man half his age.” We guess the music never dies! Nor does the beat! One of his quotes which we love “a good drummer can wear you out with a bass drum, a hi-hat, and a snare drum.” Boom!
Guns N’Roses are basically legends when it comes to glam rock drummer status. Steven Adler achieved worldwide success with the band when they came to the fore in the late 80s, but he was fired over his addiction and toxic ways, as many rockers suffer from. We would like to just talk about that crazy 80s hair? It’s pretty lush, let’s be real.
As a drummer, he’s got a cool hi-hat technique which is featured in “Welcome to the Jungle”, and he’s been coined as the “most valuable” drummer the band’s ever had. Rock on!
If a guy has a set of drums with his name on them, you’d think that he must know a thing or two about playing the drums, right? Enter Stewart Copeland, the musician and composer who rose to prominence as the beat-maker for English band, The Police.
The American born drummer is one of the greats on the drum kit - and he’s not just a drummer, but an accomplished musician too. Check out “Synchronicity I” for a taste of his genius!
Ahhh we love some classic rock, and we love the color purple - so yes, you guessed it, the drummer for Deep Purple is next on our list! He is also, sadly, the last remaining member of the original band. While he’s one of the older drummers on our list, there’s a reason for that - he’s considered the forefather of modern rock drumming.
Just think of the tracks he bought to life with his drumming - “Hush”, “Smoke On the Water” and “Space Truckin” prove his contribution.
This talented multi-instrumentalist is, of course, more than just a fabulous drummer. But, we’re forgetting to tell you one thing (if you didn’t know) - he’s the drummer for Queen! Perhaps the most iconic British rock band, Taylor was the perfect choice for the band, having been recognized early on for having a unique sound.
He’s got a knack for instruments, playing anything he really wants to, as well as having a falsetto vocal range! He has cited Ringo Starr and John Bonham as his influences, having started playing at the age of twelve.
Michael Portnoy is best known as the songwriter and musician who played drums (as well as provided backing vocals) to the prog metal band, Dream Theater. Despite leaving the band after a quarter of a century, there’s no doubt he helped the band solidify their presence as a metal band.
He’s come from the prestigious Berklee Music College (he earned a scholarship there, wow!), and is a technical drummer as much as he is a hard hitter. He’s a big fan of Neil Peart and John Bonham!
The drummer of none other than The Rolling Stones, first we want to say RIP to Mr. Charlie Watts. Having passed away, he’s got a legacy that will continue on for many many decades. His music and drumming ability will definitely survive him!
Originally, Watts was a graphic artist but then picked up drum playing again (after receiving a drum as a Christmas present as a teen). From playing a few small gigs in London, he met Brian Jones, Keith Richards, and of course, Mick Jagger. He’s known for his jazz drumming that crossed over into the rock pond!
A session man, a modern drummer, and a drummer that a lot of names look up to! You may not have heard of him if you’re not in drumming circles or the music industry, but this man is highly regarded, particularly around Los Angeles.
The Pennsylvania-born drummer started young, before being gifted with his first drum set at age fourteen. He attended Berklee before then working with Frank Zappa. It was on his albums that he recorded performances considered to be “among the most astounding ever recorded.” Go on, go check out “Joe’s Garage.”
Sure, Jeff Porcaro is known best for working with Toto, but he is in fact, one of the most recorded session men, working on HUNDREDS of albums! He was already an established studio man in the 70s, before then joining Toto. His younger brother Steve is also a member of the band.
But Jeff, even from the start of his career, was always considered as one of the music industry’s best drummers. He’s worked with Sonny and Cher, Boz Scaggs, Steely Dan, Elton John, Don Henley, Bruce Springsteen, and he even played on Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” album. If you search his name, you’ll be blown away by the musicians he’s worked with over the years.
On a list of the greatest drummers, we were bound to feature a thrash-metal band, duh! And of course, Dave Lombardo is the Cuban-American drummer of Slayer. He’s a co-founding member of the thrash metal band.
He’s known for his aggression and speed, with a double bass technique which garnered him the title “the godfather of double bass” (just ask Drummerworld!). He’s hardcore and we love him!
We’re on a roll here - from thrash metal to heavy metal, we’re just paying our dues to the great bands that shaped the hard rock scene. Lars Ulrich is the drummer of Metallica. Born in Denmark, and grandson to Torben and Einer Ulrich, he began as a budding tennis player before then transitioning over to playing drums.
Pretty incredible! Everyone thought he’d go down the tennis path, but after seeing Deep Purple in Copenhagen, he decided tennis wasn’t for him at all.
Another insanely talented drummer on our list of treats is Terry Bozzio. Born in San Francisco, the drummer is known best for his work with Missing Persons, as well as legendary rocker Frank Zappa. He started drumming at age ten with makeshift drums - think coffee cans, crumpled road signs - before begging his old man for drum lessons (you can thank The Beatles’ performance on Ed Sullivan).
He then played in rock musicals, jazz groups and then auditioned for Zappa. He’s played with Jeff Beck and is also renowned for his solo ventures. He’s a delight to watch, and one of the most dynamic drummers!
Born in Rochester, New York, Gadd was guided towards drumming from a young age. His uncle, who was an army drummer, encouraged his young nephew to start drum lessons. He then went on to become one of the most influential drummers of all time.
He set a new standard for techniques and also performance, gaining him many fans. Just listen to “Aja” and you’ll see what we mean. He’s worked with many musicians and groups, best known for working with Paul Simon, Steely Dan and Simon & Garfunkel.
No list would be complete here without some alt-rock love! Mike Bordin, of Faith No More, snatches up a spot on our list, and it’s all credit to his amazing skills. He’s got a unique, pulverising style. And he can adapt - to be a jack hammer or be as soft as a needle dropping.
He’s a leftie who plays a right-handed kick-drum, which we’re basically floored at. Named “Puffy” due to his unruly afro hairstyle he wore in the 80s, he’s also played for Black Sabbath and EZ Street!
A fabulous jazz drummer, Anthony Tilmon Williams is one of the greats. He’s so revered that he was inducted into the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame back in 1986. He first gained repute when working with Miles Davis, and helped to pioneer the movement of jazz fusion.
Probably the greatest compliment Williams received was from music critic Robert Christgau, who exalted him, describing him as “probably the beset drummer in the world.” Wow!
Tool is an extremely epic band - and their drummer is just as epic! Standing at 6’5”, Danny Carey first started on the drums at age ten. After a few years in the school band, he joined the jazz band, which then would guide his approach to drumming in future.
Percussion theory further shaped him, before moving to Portland and then LA. He eventually found his way to Maynard James Keenan and Adam Jones - practicing in lieu of drummers who flaked! And hence, Tool.
Heck yeah, we love a bit of Iron Maiden. Head banging doesn’t get much better than this - and the English-born Nicko McBrain is a master of it! The keen golfer (unrelated, but a fun fact) has played with the heavy metal band since 1982, and started off doing some session work (after learning on pots, pans and a gas cooker with knives), before joining the band.
McBrain is definitely the “pulse” of the band, and perhaps surprisingly is a devout Christian! Imagine being a part of a band called “Satanist” and then doing a 180 and from 1990 onwards being staunchly Christian!
Aldridge taught himself to play drums in the 60s (when he was around ten or so), and eventually built his drum kit with money he’d earned from odd jobs (like delivering the paper). He, like many other respected drummers, was largely self taught, and credits his unique style and eccentricities to the fact that he didn’t have a drum teacher.
The self-taught drum genius has worked with an impressive lineup of bands and musicians, including Pat Travers Band, Ozzy Osbourne, Gary Moore, Ted Nugent, Whitesnake, Thin Lizzy and the king of shredding, Yngwie Malmsteen.
Yes, we really do love KISS, but what we also love are their drummers! Eric Singer is probably one of rock’s most desired drummers - and it’s not just because of his involvement with KISS! It’s actually because of the sheer amount of experience he’s had over the course of his career.
Growing up with music in his blood, he learned how to keep a beat from recordings of Ringo Star and Mitch Mitchell. His lineup of bands and artists include Lita Ford, Black Sabbath, Badlands, and Gary Moore - before finally playing for KISS in 1991!
The drummer and percussionist, born in Venice, California is probably most famous for being a former member of Guns N’ Roses, but he’s also worked with Velvet Revolver, The Cult, and Slash’s Snakepit. He learned his craft from listening to Van Halen and Devo, but ultimately was born in the heyday of the 1960s, when rock was just around the corner.
What we love most about Sorum is his ability to inspire the next-gen of drummers - kids who look up to his smooth but on-point drumming. Speed and power make for a brilliant drummer.
The US-based but English-born jazz, rock, and pop drummer has a resume that many would be envious of! Best known for his work with Toto, Simon also played with Judas Priest, Michael Schenker Group, and Ph.D., not to mention the fact that he’s played as a session man for Jeff Beck, Gary Moore, and The Who!
He was also the drummer for The Who during their American reunion in the late 80s - so for someone to fill in for Keith Moon, he’s pretty incredible!
Drumming legend Neil Peart once remarked that Gene Krupa was in fact, the first rock drummer! The superstar drummer was probably the first one to be known for his drum solos, with a special mention to the track “Sing, Sing, Sing.” Krupa played with Benny Goodman for many years, staying with him for recordings as well as a part of the Benny Goodman Trio.
The renowned drummer in jazz bands, from simply being a timekeeper to a drum soloist with some rather flamboyant ditties, has been cited by many drummers as a source of inspiration. Therefore, he goes on our list as one of the greats!
Ah yes, AC/DC. A powerhouse of Aussie rock, our list certainly would be missing a great without him! During his three tenures with the band, at tone point, he became the only remaining Australian in the band!
Along with the other band members, he entered the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, for his contribution to music but also for his “serve-the-song” drumming mentality, with praise from the likes of KISS drummer Eric Singer.
Pink Floyd is undoubtedly one of the most epic bands to have ever played - and we need to praise the chops of drummer Nick Masson. Born in 1944, the English drummer and one of the founding members of the band is what we’d consider a colossus of music. He’s probably one of the most revered players in drumming and is the only band member to have appeared on all of their albums.
But while he could hold his own, he says he gets great joy from “that moment when the bass player plays, you set something out and the other musicians join in.” We love that electric moment too!
Crover makes the cut as one of the great drummers of the modern generation - his drumming for Melvins, Shrinebuilder, Men of Porn, and of course, Nirvana, definitely had him on our map for greatest drummers! His push-pull drumming style and contribution to music even has him on Rolling Stone’s top 100 drummers list!
He cites Cheap Trick, the Beatles, and the Monkees as some of his influences, and shared with Rolling Stone that he doesn’t “just listen to Venom and Slayer.” We love his laid-back nature but serious drumming