There are many best drummer lists on the internet, many of which feature drummers in a “worst-to-best” fashion. I don’t subscribe to that notion, which is why my list has no order.
Listed below are the 50 best drummers of all time, according to me. They happen to be my favorite drummers, as well. But what do I know; I’m just a blogger on the internet? Feel free to voice your opinions in the comments! These lists seem to be somewhat controversial.
Some drummers listed here may be popular and famous while others are “better musicians” according to subjective opinion (this is why these lists are tough).
Will your favorite drummer be included in my list? Read on to find out.
Rest in peace, Taylor.
Taylor Hawkins was a drummer best known for his work with the rock band Foo Fighters. He first joined the group in 1997 and has been a member ever since. In addition to his work with Foo Fighters, Hawkins played with Queens of the Stone Age, Taylor Hawkins and the Coattail Riders, and Probot. He has also released several solo albums. Hawkins is regarded as one of the best drummers of the 90s.
Taylor Hawkins was an incredibly versatile drummer, and his unique style has helped to shape the sound of Foo Fighters over the years. He was known for his powerful drumming, as well as his ability to seamlessly switch between different genres. Whether he was laying down a groove for a rock song or providing a steady beat for a ballad, Taylor Hawkins always delivered.
Zak Starkey (b. September 13, 1965) hardly needs any introduction. The English drummer is the son of The Beatles drummer Ringo Starr and has recorded with The Who since 1996. He also has worked with the English rock band Oasis.
Frank Edwin Wright III (b. December 9, 1972), otherwise known for his stage name Tré Cool, has held the backbeat for punk rockers Green Day since their second album.
Green Day was one of my favorite acts growing up. I was big into pop punk music for a while. Skateboarding was my biggest passion and their music was great to listen to while riding. It also happened to be right about the time I started playing the drums.
William Thomas Ward (b. May 5, 1948) is best known for his work with Black Sabbath. In the era of great British drummers (Bonham, Palmer, Paice), Bill Ward’s playing stood out from the rest. His playing with Sabbath was absolutely an influence on my playing and still is to this day.
Progressive rockers Yes gained a bit of attention over the last few years as the song “Roundabout” was a viral meme known as To Be Continued.
Alan White (b. June 14, 1949) is an English drummer and songwriter most known for his work in Yes, following Bill Bruford’s departure. After the death of Chris Squire in 2015, White became the longest-remaining member in Yes.
Most known for his work with ELP and Asia, Carl Palmer (b. March 20, 1950) deserves a spot on my list. Carl was fortunate to come from a very musical family.
His grandfather played the drum set, and his grandmother played violin in a symphony. Palmer has stated that his primary influence growing up was Gene Krupa.
Michael Shrieve (b. July 6, 1949) is most known for his work in the rock band Santana. In addition to being a fantastic drummer, Shrieve has composed music for many films including Tempest and Apollo 13.
Matthew David Cameron (b. November 28, 1962) is currently the drummer of Pearl Jam, but he got his start playing with acts like Soundgarden, Temple of the Dog, and Skin Yard.
After discovering Neil Peart, I discovered Mike Portnoy. I have never been the biggest fan of the music written by Dream Theater, but I can appreciate the drumming.
Mike has a way of taking the ideas and techniques of 70s prog rock drumming and upping the ante. It’s always awesome to watch him play, whether its old clips from DT or newer videos from The Winery Dogs. Mike Portnoy is considered to be one of the best metal drummers of all time.
Jeff Porcaro was one of the most in-demand drummers of his generation. A native of Los Angeles, Jeff started playing drums at an early age and quickly developed a reputation as a talented and versatile musician.
He played on some of the most iconic records of the 1970s and 1980s, including Steely Dan’s “Pretzel Logic” and Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” In addition to his session work, Jeff was also a member of the Grammy-winning rock band Toto. He tragically passed away in 1992 at the age of 38, but his legacy continues to live on through his music.
Danny Carey was another giant inspiration for me in high school. Born May 10, 1961, Danny is the drummer for the progressive metal band Tool. Carey has also worked with bands like Pigmy Love Circus, Volto!, and Primus.
Now, here’s a drummer with an extensive background. Dave Grohl, the drummer for Nirvana and lead singer and guitarist of the Foo Fighters, is an incredible drummer. No one can deny it.
One of Grohl’s most recent pieces is Play, a 23-minute song, and mini-documentary that’s well worth a watch. Fans of energetic guitar and drum music will love it.
Chad Smith holds a special place in my heart. Growing up, the album Californication was on repeat on way to and from school in my CD player.
Chad plays some of the funkiest grooves and is a fantastic drummer; remember the drum battle between him and Will Ferrel?
Keith Moon laid the foundation for rock drummers of the late twentieth century and onward. His larger-than-life playing style and bombastic drum
Unfortunately, Keith was taken from the world too soon.
Buddy Rich was a legendary drummer who was known for his virtuoso technique and lightning-fast speed. Born Bernard Rich in 1917, he began playing drums at the age of two and made his first professional appearance at the age of four.
He quickly developed a reputation as a prodigy, and by the 1930s he was touring with some of the biggest names in jazz, including Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw.
In a career that spanned five decades, Rich recorded and performed with many of the greatest names in music, including Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, and Miles Davis. He also led his own big band, which was renowned for its high-energy performances. Buddy Rich died in 1987, but his legacy as one of the greatest drummers of all time lives on.
Buddy Rich is the king of the “one-handed roll” and had a profound impact on my playing growing up. His drumming was so fluid, yet technical. He made everything look simple.
Art Blakey was a legendary drummer who helped to shape the sound of modern jazz. Born in Pittsburgh in 1919, Blakey began playing drums at an early age and soon developed a unique style that emphasized complex rhythms and powerful solos.
He made his first recordings in the 1940s, and by the 1950s he was leading his own band, the Jazz Messengers. Over the course of his career, Blakey recorded hundreds of albums and played with some of the biggest names in jazz, including Miles Davis and John Coltrane.
He also mentored many young musicians, including Herbie Hancock and Wynton Marsalis. Art Blakey died in 1990, but his legacy continues to influence jazz percussionists around the world.
I can’t begin to describe how influential Art Blakey was to my playing. When I was younger, I would play “Moanin'” on repeat, even learning the piano part for no reason.
Philly Joe Jones
Philly Joe Jones (b. July 15, 1923 – August 30, 1985) needs no introduction. Jones was the drummer for the First Great Miles Davis Quintet. He can be heard on albums like Porgy and Bess, Cookin’ with the Miles Davis Quintet, and Milestones.
Jones also was a bandleader, releasing albums from 1957 to 1983.
Philly Joe Jones made appearances with famous jazz musicians such as Chris Anderson, Chet Baker, Evans Bradshaw, Clifford Brown, Kenny Burrell, Joe Castro, John Coltrane, and others.
Ginger Baker (b. August 19, 1939) is a drummer and founder of the English rock band Cream. Baker is touted as being “rock’s first superstar drummer.”
Despite having major influences from jazz and African rhythms, jazz fusion heavy metal, and world music were his eventual wheelhouses.
Baker has cited Art Blakey, Max Roach, Elvin Jones, and Philly Joe Jones as main influences on his playing. While Cream’s didn’t always lean to jazz, Ginger brought it out. Baker was also similar in many ways to The Who’s Keith Moon.
Sometimes, however, jazz cuts through, whether in the form of the ride patterns or archetypal drumming, such as in the piece “Toad.”
During my touring days when I drove, I had The Police on non-stop. Stewart Copeland is one of my favorite drummers. His playing on Ghost In The Machine is extraordinary.
Stewart is famous for four-on-the-floor patterns, off-beat hi-hat syncopation, and reggae half-time shuffles; these grooves are heard throughout GITM.
Charlie Watts was a legend in the music world. As the drummer for The Rolling Stones, he helped to define the sound of rock and roll. Over the course of his career, Charlie developed a unique style that combines power and precision.
He was also known for his showmanship, often throwing in a few extra licks or flourishes to get the crowd going. Charlie’s drumming was a major part of The Rolling Stones’ success, and he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989.
Charlie continued to tour with The Rolling Stones until his untimely death in 2021 at the age of 80.
Mitch Mitchell was an unbelievable drummer: perfect for the Jimi Hendrix band.
One of my favorite tunes to drum along with to this day is Fire. It’s a moderately fast song and features crazed fills that manage to fit the music very well.
Ian Paice is a drummer best known for his work with the hard rock band Deep Purple. Paice is considered one of the greatest drummers of all time, and has been inducted into both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Mojo Hall of Fame.
Paice began his career as a session musician, playing on tracks for artists such as The Beatles and Cream. He joined Deep Purple in 1968, and helped to define the sound of their early albums.
In addition to playing with Deep Purple, Paice has also played with Whitesnake, Gary Moore, and Ian Gillan. He remains an active member of Deep Purple, touring and recording with the band to this day. Ian Paice is a true legend of rock music, and his contributions have had a lasting impact on the genre.
Ian Paice has been compared to John Bonham and vice-versa. I actually just read through a comment thread debating who was better. Why? Both Ian and John are incredible drummers. We’ll leave it at that!
I discovered Ash Soan on Instagram where he posts tons of clips in his famed Windmill Recording Studio. His playing is nothing short of incredible and tasteful. Soan’s session drumming credits include Cee Lo Green, Adele, Clare Maguire, Will Young, David Cook, and many more.
Ringo Starr is a singer, songwriter and actor best known for his work as the drummer for the Beatles. Ringo’s real name is Richard Starkey, and he was born in Liverpool, England, in 1940.
Ringo first joined the Beatles in 1962, after their original drummer, Pete Best, was fired. Ringo quickly became an integral part of the band, both musically and personality-wise. He brought a sense of humor and fun to the group, which helped to offset the sometimes tense atmosphere between John Lennon and Paul McCartney.
Ringo also proved to be a capable songwriter, co-writing such Beatles classics as “Octopus’s Garden” and “Don’t Pass Me By.” After the Beatles disbanded in 1970, Ringo went on to enjoy a successful solo career, scoring such hits as “It Don’t Come Easy” and “Photograph.”
Ringo was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as aBeatle in 1988 and as a solo artist in 2015. Ringo Starr is truly one of the greatest drummers of all time.
Max Weinberg spent most of his career playing drums with Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band but also was the bandleader for Conan O’Brien on Late Night and the Tonight Show.
After the dissolution of the E Street Band in 1989, Max went for an audition as a bandleader for Late Night. Max quickly recruited the Max Weinberg 7, a group of musicians he had worked with during his career. Needless to say, he got the gig.
Weinberg was often involved in humorous banter with O’Brien leading to many memorable moments throughout the show’s history.
The phrase “Keep It Simple, Stupid” simply does not apply to Terry Bozzio. His massive kit may seem unnecessary, but his musicality and drumming prowess make up for it.
Growing up, my dad always played Steely Dan records in his car stereo, one of which was Aja. I never had a clue that this album would become one of my favorites.
Bernard Purdie is one of many drummers who play on the record (Gadd, Greene, Marotta, among others). His performance on Home At Last features what is known as the Purdie Shuffle, a triplet-based shuffle groove with half-time feel.
If you haven’t learned how to play the Purdie Shuffle, learn it now. You can thank me later.
Simon Phillips is absolutely in my top-ten favorite drummers. He’s played with some incredible musicians, especially with piano virtuoso Hiromi.
Simon’s approach to linear drumming has had a big impact on my drumming as of late. Tunes like Dreamer from Alive are a perfect example of linear playing.
When I was first starting on the drums, one of the first books I learned from was Ultimate Realistic Rock by Carmine Appice. It’s a perfect lesson book for beginning drummers that I highly recommend.
Carmen is mostly associated with rock music, despite being heavily influenced by Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa. Appice has played with Vanilla Fudge, Cactus, the power trio Beck, Bogert & Appice, Rod Stewart, King Kobra, and more.
Phil Collins is a drummer, singer, and songwriter from London, England. He is best known as the lead singer and drummer of the rock band Genesis.
He has also released several solo albums, including the Grammy-winning “No Jacket Required.” Collins has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and has received numerous awards throughout his career.
In addition to his music career, Collins is an avid philanthropist and has been involved in various charitable organizations. He is also an accomplished actor, having appeared in films such as “Buster” and “Hook.” Phil Collins is a multi-talented individual who has had a successful career in music and film.
Phil Collins is arguably the most iconic drummer of all time next to Buddy Rich and Ringo Starr. Collins is responsible for writing and recording one of the most recognizable drum fills in history. His work in Genesis has gained him the rank of one of rock’s best drummers. He’s also noted as being one of the best singing drummers of all time.
I would be lying if I said Neil Peart wasn’t one of my favorite drummers. While he can be considered a tad overrated, that doesn’t bug me. I learned so much from him when I was in high school, both relating to drums and life.
Neil’s playing style is very technical and the music of Rush follows unique time signatures, riff-based instrumentation, and chord changes that are nontraditional to rock music.
In their early days, I would consider them progressive rock, but in the early
John Bonham is generally located in the #1 position on most “best drummer” lists, and for a great reason. Bonham is arguably the most influential drummer of the twentieth century. Comment down below if you disagree.
John spawned a new breed of rock drummers, many of whom are included on this list. His playing was raucous, technical, and impressive. The solo in Moby Dick was a religious experience for me, to say the least. John may be the most influential drummer of the 1970s.
Travis Barker seems to get a lot of shade thrown his way online, and I can’t help but wonder why. His playing is incredible! Anyone who cannot see it is blind. You must have a problem with the genre and style of music, not the player.
Travis Barker is a drummer best known for his work with the rock band Blink-182. He first rose to prominence in the 90s with his signature frenetic drumming style, which helped to propel the band to mainstream success.
Barker has also worked with a numerous artists, including rapper Travis Scott and pop singer Halsey.
Outside of music, Barker is also an entrepreneur, with interests in fashion and clothing design. He has also been outspoken about his struggles with mental health, and has been an advocate for increased awareness of the issue. Travis Barker is a multi-talented musician who has had a profound impact on the world of rock music. He’s one of the best drummers of the 1990s and to this day.
Cindy has quite a long resume as a working musician, which lead her to become one of the best American jazz and rock drummers today.
She is an incredible player; I can’t quite recall, but I think I remember seeing her at an Interstate Music clinic when I was very young.
Cindy has played with many incredible artists such as Pharoah Sanders, Sonny Simmons, Ron Carter, Sam Rivers, Cassandra Wilson, Angela Bofill, Buckethead, Bill Laswell, Lenny Kravitz, and others.
Cindy is married to rock guitarist Carlos Santana and she has stated that Tony Williams was a major influence on her as a drummer.
Steve Gadd is, without a doubt, the world’s most celebrated session drummer. Again, like with Purdie, I loved him as a kid and didn’t even know it. In my eyes, I was listening to Steely Dan’s drummer, without even realizing he was a studio musician and had played on tons of other albums.
My favorite, in particular, is an album by Chick Corea titled The Leprachaun. The song Lenore has some of the best linear drumming I have ever heard.
Elvin was the drumming machine behind John Coltrane’s quartet. From 1960 to 1966, Jones appeared on albums like A Love Supreme and Crescent.
Elvin Jones worked with plenty of notable jazz musicians over his career including Charles Mingus, Teddy Charles, Bud Powell, and Miles Davis.
Tony Williams (b. December 12, 1945 – February 23, 1997) was an American jazz drummer most famous for his work with world-renowned trumpet player and bandleader Miles Davis.
Williams was a pioneer of jazz fusion.
Tony has appeared as a sideman with many bandleaders including Chet Baker, Geri Allen, Ron Carter, Stanley Clarke, Miles Davis, Gil Evans, Stan Getz, and many others.
Al Jackson Jr.
Al Jackson Jr. was a highly respected drummer who worked with some of the biggest names in the music industry. Born in 1935, Jackson began his career as a session musician in the early 1960s.
He went on to play on seminal albums by artists such as Otis Redding, Booker T. & The MGs, and Al Green. Jackson’s distinctive style – which combined R&B, soul, and pop elements – made him one of the most in-demand drummers of his generation. He continued to work regularly until his untimely death in 1975.
Today, Jackson is remembered as one of the great innovators of modern drumming. His contributions to the world of music continue to inspire drummers of all genres.
Gene Krupa was one of the most influential drummers of the 20th century. A master of jazz and big band, he helped define the drummer’s role in modern music.
Krupa was born in 1909 in Chicago, Illinois. He began playing drums as a child, and by his teens, he was gigging regularly with local bands.
In 1928, he made his first recordings with bandleader Red Nichols. Over the next decade, he became one of the most in-demand session drummers in New York City. Then, in 1934, he joined Benny Goodman’s band, propelling him to international fame.
During his career, Krupa recorded and performed with some of the biggest names in music, including Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, and Frank Sinatra. He died in 1973, but his legacy as a groundbreaking drummer still influences musicians today.
Clyde Stubblefield was a drummer who helped shape the sound of Funk music. Born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in 1943, Clyde began playing drums early. He quickly developed a unique style that incorporated elements of R&B and Jazz.
In 1965, Clyde joined the James Brown Band, and he went on to play on some of the most iconic Funk songs of all time, including “Cold Sweat” and “Funky Drummer.”
Clyde’s signature grooves had a profound influence on Hip Hop, and he has been sampled by hundreds of artists, including Public Enemy, NWA, and The Beastie Boys. Clyde continued to perform and record until he died in 2017.
He was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2018. Clyde Stubblefield was a true pioneer of Funk music, and his impact is still felt today.
Hal Blaine is a drummer best known for his work on countless recordings by some of the biggest names in music. Blaine began his career as a session musician in the 1950s and quickly established himself as one of the most in-demand drummers in the business.
Over the course of his career, Blaine played on an estimated 35,000 recordings, including hits by Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, and Simon & Garfunkel. In addition to his work as a studio musician, Blaine also toured with a number of bands, including The Beach Boys and The Carpenters.
He was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2000 and was awarded a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2018. Hal Blaine is truly a legend of American music and known as one of the greatest drummers from the 60s.
Max Lemuel Roach (b. January 10, 1924 – August 16, 2007) was an American jazz drummer credited to playing with musicians like Coleman Hawkins, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, and others.
In 1992, he was inducted into the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame.
Max’s The Drum Also Waltzes is one of my favorite drum solos of all time when looking back. He laid the foundation for drumming independence in a way I found challenging, yet rudimentary.
Karen Carpenter was a hugely successful musician in the 1970s, best known as the lead singer of The Carpenters. She was also an accomplished drummer, and her drumming skills can be heard on many of the band’s biggest hits.
Drums and singing should go hand in hand more often. Karen Carpenter had one of the greatest singing voices of all time. During the popularity of The Carpenters in the 70s, women weren’t known for being drummers. There was a certain stigma around it. Fortunately, this is not the case as much today.
Karen tragically died at the age of 32 from complications related to anorexia nervosa, but her music continues to live on. To this day, Karen is remembered as one of the most talented and popular musicians of her generation. Her warm voice and catchy tunes are still cherished by fans all over the world.
Karen left our world early, but her impact is still felt today. We also included her in our list of the best female drummers. Have a listen to “We’ve Only Just Begun,” and tell me it doesn’t bring a smile to your face.
Roy Haynes is one of the most celebrated drummers in jazz history. Born in 1925, he began his career playing in the big bands of the 1940s.
He quickly developed a reputation for his versatility and skill, and he soon began working with some of the biggest names in jazz, including Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, and John Coltrane. Over the course of his long career, Haynes has played on hundreds of recordings and has won many awards, including a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
He continues to play, and at the age of ninety-seven, he shows no signs of slowing down. Roy Haynes is a true legend of jazz, and his contributions to the music will be felt for generations to come.
In one of my earliest drum lessons, my first instructor Bob Lalko introduced me to Dave Weckl. I can’t thank him enough. He’s the king of fusion drumming. You won’t be disap
Dave Weckl is a drummer who has played with some of the biggest names in music, including Chick Corea, Dave Matthews Band, and Simon and Garfunkel. He is also a renowned educator, with numerous instructional books and DVDs to his credit.
Dave first picked up a pair of drumsticks when he was just six years old, and he hasn’t looked back since. His natural talent and passion for music quickly led to success in the local music scene, and before long he was touring with nationally-known acts.
Weckl’s unique blend of technical mastery and feel has made him one of the most in-demand drummers in the business. In addition to his work as a performer, he is also an active clinician and educator. Dave has given countless clinics and workshops around the world, and his instructional materials are used by students of all levels. Whether he’s behind the kit or in front of a classroom, Dave Weckl is always working to share his love of music with others.
Gavin Harrison is a professional drummer who has played with a number of well-known bands, including Porcupine Tree, The Circle, and King Crimson. He is best known for his innovative use of polyrhythms and odd time signatures, which has earned him critical acclaim from fellow drummers and music critics alike.
In addition to his work as a drummer, Gavin Harrison is also an accomplished author and speaker. He has written two books on drumming technique, and he frequently gives clinics and workshops on the subject. Gavin Harrison is a highly respected figure in the world of drumming, and his unique talents have helped to shape the sound of modern progressive rock.
His biggest influences include Steve Gadd and Jeff Porcaro. Harrison won Modern Drummer’s readers’ poll for “best progressive drummer of the year” from 2007 to 2010, 2016, and 2019.
Jojo Mayer is a world-renowned drummer who has been playing for over three decades. Mayer is best known for his work with the band Nerve, which he co-founded in 1986.
Mayer’s signature style combines elements of jazz, funk, and hip-hop, and he is widely considered to be one of the most innovative and technically proficient drummers in the world.
In addition to his work with Nerve, Mayer has also released several solo albums and has worked with a number of other artists, including John Zorn and Bill Laswell. He currently resides in New York City, where he runs the Jojo Mayer Performance Workshop.
Joe Morello was a jazz drummer most known for playing with the Dave Brubeck Quartet. His unique playing style, which made use of odd time signatures and polyrhythms, helped to define the sound of the band and made him one of the most influential drummers of his generation.
Morello began his career playing in big bands and combos in the 1940s, but it was his work with Brubeck in the 1950s and 60s that cemented his reputation. In addition to his work with Brubeck, Morello recorded several solo albums and played many jazz greats, including Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, and Dizzy Gillespie.
Joe Morello passed away in 2011 at the age of 82, but his legacy as one of the greatest jazz drummers of all time lives on.
Don Henley is a drummer, singer and songwriter best known for his work with the band Eagles. Henley was born in Texas in 1947 and began playing drums at an early age.
Henley joined the Eagles in 1971, and he quickly became one of the band’s most valuable assets. His distinctive voice can be heard on such Eagles classics as “Hotel California” and “Desperado.”
In addition to his work with the Eagles, Henley has also released several solo albums, including the Grammy-winning “Building the Perfect Beast.” Throughout his career, Henley has sold millions of records and won multiple Grammy Awards. He remains an active force in the music world, and he continues to tour and perform to this day.
Tommy Aldridge is a drummer who has played with some of the biggest names in rock music. He began his career in the early 1970s, playing with bands like Black Oak Arkansas and Pat Travers.
In the 1980s, he joined Whitesnake, helping to propel the band to new heights with his hard-hitting style. He has also played with artists like Ozzy Osbourne, Ted Nugent, and Thin Lizzy.
Throughout his career, Tommy Aldridge has proved to be one of the most versatile and talented drummers in rock music. His passion for his craft is evident in every performance, and he continues to be one of the most in-demand drummers in the business.
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