Women Drummers in History

Women of Drums: 10 of the Best Female Drummers of All Time

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As we stand today in 2020, men appear to dominate the drumming community and industry as a whole. Female performers rarely are found behind the kit. 

On closer inspection, you will be surprised to find that this is not the case at all. Even if the male drummer dominates the industry, some famous female drummers are very well recognized. 

Many women have conquered the drums and amazed people with their mastery of percussion and drums. It’s especially is true when the genre is not jazz or blues, but rock or heavy metal. 

Below we will give you a list of the best female drummers of all time. 


1. Viola Smith 

Viola Smith is known to be among one of the first professional drummers in the United States, born in Mount Calvary in 1912. 

She looked at the style of Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich and, over time, achieved a technical brilliance on the drums that is almost unmistakable. 

Viola Smith was widely known for his many swing bands, orchestral works, and also in pop music projects. Her thrilling performances with a drum made people refer her as the fastest drumming girl

However, things were not easy for her as she had to break barriers that female musicians were facing during the time. 

The parents ran a concert hall in the village, while Smith and her six siblings then sat in the family orchestra. The band became better known and had some notable appearances. 

Smith then switched to the women’s orchestra “Coquettes” in the 1940s and later played with well-known greats like Chick Webb and Ella Fitzgerald in one of the most successful women’s big bands in the world. 


2. Evelyn Glennie

The fascinating thing about Evelyn Glennie is that she is almost deaf and, at the same time, is considered one of the best drummers in the world. 

Most of the time, when performing, she is sitting on the drums barefoot and knows how to work her skill on the respective instrument. 

Evelyn is considered a multi-percussionist, and you likely won’t see her sitting behind a drum set.

In addition to this, she writes pieces of music and is considered one of the best-known interpreters of contemporary music. 

Evelyn Glennie was born in Aberdeen shire, Scotland, in 1965. At the age of 8, she lost her hearing, but could later feel recordings when she clamped the loudspeaker between her legs. 

She completed her studies at the Royal Academy of Music in London. Evelyn has already worked with stars like Sting, and also with various philharmonic orchestras. Her inability to hear did not stop her from performing at the international level. 

Evelyn explains that because she could not use her ear, she had to train other parts of her body to feel the music. Despite her challenge to hear, she had to She boasts of over 100 concerts a year, which speak of her unique talent. 


3. Anika Nilles

The name of the German drummer Anika Nilles has appeared more times on the front pages of various drummed magazines. 

She has been working hard since she started playing drums at the age of six. She studied diligently, not only the curriculum at the University of Popular Music and Music Business. 

Thanks to her hard work, Anika was able to make herself known as a YouTube sensation. She enjoys over 13 million views on drum videos she makes and posts. 

Her experience has enabled her to achieve her own excellent and, at the same time, slightly extravagant drum style. 

She has used her drumming style not only for playing cover versions but also for playing her songs. 


4. Hannah Welton

Hannah Welton has been on stage since her early childhood. But not as a drummer, but as a dancer. But when she first saw the drum kit at age 7, it was love at first sight. 

Immediately she began to study the instrument thoroughly, under the guidance of the most skilled drummers and teachers Louie Bellson and Ruby Alvarez. 

At the age of 12, Hannah and her family moved to Chicago, where she had another great opportunity to study the drums, this time under the supervision of Peter Erskin and Johnny Rabb. 

After high school, Hannah enrolled at Chicago College of Performing Arts, where she was taken up by multiple Grammy winner Paul Wertico. 

Under his leadership, Hannah not only graduated from school, but she also became a much better and versatile musician. 

During her studies, Hannah went through several school ensembles, but immediately after graduation, she started to build her brand. 

In 2013 she received an invitation from Prince himself for his new 3rd eye girl project, which she accepted without hesitation. 

In addition to composing his music for his projects, she also teaches drums and holds seminars as a corporate player for Gretsch. 


5. Karen Carpenter

She became famous as the lead singer of the group The Carpenters and was able to play drums and sing at the same time. 

Together with his brother Richard Carpenter, they both became the most successful duo in music history. Hits like “Yesterday Once More” or “Rainy Days and Mondays” have become classics. 

Carpenter expressed her style through feather-light and compelling arrangements. She was also associated with a calm and soft voice. 

Karen drumming skills were also appreciated by her male counterparts, with the likes of Hal Blaine and Buddy Rich showering her with numerous praises. 

Today, Carpenter is still considered one of the best drummers in the world.

Carpenter was born in New Haven, Connecticut in 1950, and died of a heart attack in 1983 when she was only 32 years old. The trigger for heart failure was her anorexia, which then cost her life. 


6. Cindy Blackman

When Cindy Blackman saw a drum set for the first time as a little girl at a girlfriend’s house, she immediately fell in love with it at first sight. 

She was only even years old when she got her first drum set after an interminable whining. Her career began as a street musician in New York. 

Blackman was born in Ohio in 1959 and initially studied in Boston Blackman made a name for herself alongside Lenny Kravitz. She has earned her spurs in the music world, both in jazz and rock music. 

She is a versatile drummer who plays very deep, raw jazz grooves. This has helped her grow his fan base with millions of people listening to her music. 

In the 80s, Blackman founded and led his band, then played on drums with Lenny Kravitz from 1993 to 2004. His drumming art enabled her to be featured in many releases and tour the world. 

Cindy Blackman remains among the top drummers of all time. In 2016, she teamed up with producer Narada Michael who is also a drummer, and the two have been working on new material. 


7. Maureen Tucker

Maureen Tucker was born in New Jersey in 1944. She became famous in the seventies for her unique drum style at The Velvet Underground. 

After hearing The Rolling Stones, she bought her first snare drum at the age of 19. Tucker taught herself the drums by playing a lot with the radio. 

Her main task as a drummer was keeping rhythm. That is why she often played very minimalist. Besides being one of the first women to play drums in a rock band, alongside Karen Carpenter, there were other reasons why she stood out. 

There was a way in which she arranged her drum set. The bass drum was upside down on the floor. She did have cymbals, but she hated them and used tambourine instead. 

She usually played standing and preferably used mallets instead of drum sticks. After leaving the band in the 70s, Tucker took a long break, then appeared again as a drummer in the group “Half Japanese” in the late 80s and then with her band. 


8. Meytal Cohen

Cohen is from Israel and was born in Ramat Gan in 1984. Her career started as a live and studio musician at the age of 18 when she learned to play the drums. 

Before starting her career formally, she did two years of military service in the Israeli army. Women are also conscripted there. 

Cohen then moved to Los Angeles in 2004, attended the Los Angeles Music Academy, and quickly showed how talented she was. 

After her graduation, she had an opportunity to tour Australia, Mexico, The United States, and South America with his band. 

In 2010, her video project on YouTube, which she was performing drum covers of popular rock songs, brought her name to recognition. 

This prompted Cohen to found his band and record the first album. Her song Breath became famous. She had a significant influence and was an inspiration to many young girls in Israel. 

Cohen made drums more popular with women and promoted female instrumentalists. 


9. Meg White 

What would the White Stripes band be without Meg White? The drummer previously worked as a waitress in a restaurant when she met John Anthony Gillis in Detroit and married him in 1996. 

They started the band when White wasn’t on drums. It was only a year later that she got behind the drums and found the change refreshing and liberating. To date, their technology is expressive and explosive. 

White was born in Michigan in 1974 and grew up in Detroit. When the marriage to Gillis no longer worked, they got divorced, and the band’s story ended. However, White continued to perform as a drummer. 

During this time, Megan white was able to help more young girls take drum lessons at music schools and associations. Meg White is not a technical drummer, although her drum style is certainly not simple. 

Expression, power, and rhythm are critical in her way of playing. Since the beginning of The White Stripes, she has always played on her iconic red Ludwig set. 

Her drum set is immediately recognizable by the red-white resonance sheets on the toms and bass drum. 


10. Bobbye Hall 

Bobbye Hall is a percussionist for music genres such as jazz, soul, blues, and rock. 

She is considered the queen of percussion and has created various albums that have enjoyed great success. Her career includes appearances with Bob Dylan and Stevie Wonder. 

Hall uses several instruments for her playing, including bongos, tambourines, and triangles. Hall was born in Detroit, Michigan, and at that time, she was still called Bobby Jean Hall. 

In her parents’ house, she used all objects to work with sticks, including pots and bowls. As a teenager, she tried her luck in various night clubs. 

When she lived in Europe for a few years, she changed the first name from Bobby to Bobbye. This was to differentiate herself from the male name attribute as a female drummer. 

She performed in Los Angeles in the 1970s and was one of the few women on this instrument. She married the producer Joe Porter and particularly attracted attention with her arrangement in soul jazz. 

Bob Dylan also came across her and took her on tour. She expresses her technique through numerous percussion instruments, often by snapping fingers or clapping her hands. 


Wrapping Up

Many female drummers are famous and influential, but we have to draw a line somewhere. Behind these talented women, numerous other musicians live out their musical soul on the drums, in rock, punk, jazz, or pop, and are also unbeaten in classical ensembles. 

The opinion has long been outdated that women cannot play the same way without inhibitions or give everything on the drums. They are often much more creative and unique in their techniques.

Photo credit: dave.kobrehel on Visualhunt / CC BY

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One Response

  1. dg March 10, 2020

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