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The Top 9 Most Famous Left-Handed Drummers

Finding a left-handed drummer might seem almost as rare as seeing a double rainbow. 

However, most people don’t know that some of the most famous drummers in history were, in fact, left-handed! Some of them even pioneered new techniques and drumming styles, which revolutionized how modern drummers, both left and right-handed, play. 

Today, we will look at some of the most famous left-handed drummers in history and see how their legacies inspired new generations of drummers. 

Phil Collins

Most of you will know Collins for what might be one of the most popular drum fills of all time on his hit single, “In the Air Tonight.” However, his history as a drummer stems from 1970, when he was the lead singer and drummer in the rock band Genesis.

Phil Collins
Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Collins eventually left Genesis in 1996, launching a wildly successful solo career with several charting albums, including “Both Sides” and “Face Value.” 

And while his unique voice certainly set him apart as a star for the last four decades, his innovative drumming style influenced a generation of drummers. Beyond his dynamic playing style and intricate fills that can be heard throughout his music, especially in his more delicate ballads, he was most noted for his use of gated reverb in his recordings. 

Listen to “I Don’t Care Anymore” or “In the Air Tonight,” and you can hear this technique in action, which involves throwing a snare through a tight reverb with a short decay to create a uniquely explosive effect. 

Ringo Starr

This next drummer probably needs no introduction, though if you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t heard of a little band called The Beatles, then you might not know Ringo Starr, possibly the most influential drummer of all time. 

Ringo Starr
Vern Barchard, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Starr joined the Beatles in 1962 after the band decided to replace their original drummer, Pete Best.

One fun fact is that even though Ringo was left-handed, he started out playing right-handed kits due to the lack of available left-handed kits on the market. 

Though there are many examples of his distinctive drumming style, one of my absolute favorite drum tracks is from the intro of “Ticket to Ride,” where you can hear him leading with his left hand. 

Simon Phillips 

Simon Philips is one of the most versatile left-handed drummers of the past century, having played with plenty of notable musicians and bands, including Judas Priest, The Who, Jeff Beck, Toto, and more.

SIMON PHILLIPS plays drums for HIROMI play piano on the Jimmy Lyons Stage - 54TH MONTEREY JAZZ FESTIVAL 2011
Craig Lovell / Eagle Visions Photography / Alamy Stock Photo

He got his start with the Jack Bruce Band when he was just 19, before gaining worldwide recognition for his virtuosic drumming style. After many years of playing, he was inducted into the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame in 2003. 

While Phillips is not exclusively left-handed when it comes to playing drums, he has been known to switch off, leading with both his right and left hands on different songs.

Robert “Sput” Searight

Moving on with another ambidextrous drummer, we have Robert “Sput” Searight, best known as one of the drummers for the jazz fusion band Snarky Puppy. Like many left-handed drummers, Searight used his open-handed playing style rather than switching the kit to the other side. 

Oslo, Norway. 18th, August 2022. The American rock band Toto performs a live concert at Vulkan Arena in Oslo. Here drummer Robert Searight is seen live on stage. (Photo credit: Gonzales Photo - Terje Dokken).
Gonzales Photo / Alamy Stock Photo

If you’re a left-handed drummer into jazz, hip-hop, neo-soul, or world music, Searight is a great one to watch. Beyond his years spent playing with Snarky Puppy, in which he won three Grammies, he has also played with tons of recognizable names, including Justin Timberlake, Snoop Dogg, and Erykah Badu. 

Out of all the modern drummers in the industry right now, Searight has the most dynamic and innovative style. 

Carter Beauford

Keeping with the same rhythm, Carter Beauford is another leftie that decided to keep his kit the traditional way, defaulting to the open-handed style. 

Carter Beauford
LittleSister / Alamy Stock Photo

He is best known as the drummer for the Dave Matthews Band, which he joined back in 1991, though he has also played with a wide range of other musicians, including John Popper, Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, and Carlos Santana. 

His open-handed drumming style has been incredibly influential, and his ability to improvise during those insanely long Dave Matthews Band concerts with encore after encore is unmatched. 

Bobby Jarzombek

Bobby Jarzombek has played with several prominent artists and bands, including Riot, Fates Warning, Sebastian Bach, and Halford. Beyond the fact that he also takes the open-hand approach, giving him the ability to lay down super complex grooves, he probably has some of the most interesting double-bass patterns of any metal drummer I’ve heard. 

Bobby Jarzombek
ZUMA Press, Inc / Alamy Stock Photo

Compared to other prog-metal drummers out there, he goes beyond flash. 

Jarzombek said that he started using the open-handed technique around two decades ago, though he still leads with his right hand when it comes to fills, switching back and forth throughout songs. 

Mike Bordin

Mike Bordin is best known as the drummer for Faith No More, who he played with from the early 80s into the late 90s before they began touring again in the 2010s. As with Jarzombek, Bordin has a powerful and versatile drumming style, ranging from metal to jazz to funk and beyond. 

Beyond his work with Faith No More, Bordin has also played with some of history’s most respected metal acts, including Korn and Ozzy Osbourne. While he uses a right-handed kit, he leaves his primary cymbal on the left side of the kit, where he leads. 

Bun E. Carlos

Bun E. Carlos started playing with Cheap Trick in the early 1970s and instantly became known for his straightforward, hard-hitting drum style. He’s probably a significant part of why Cheap Trick songs are so catchy. 

What’s unique about Carlos is that he often alternates between his left and right hands, though he plays on a right-handed kit. 

Beyond his work as a drummer, Carlos has made a name for himself as an avid collector of vintage kits, which you can check out here.

Steve Coy

Steve Coy was one of the few drummers on this list who was said to have played with a left-handed kit, even though he often led with his right hand. We’re not sure why, though it seems fitting to put him on this list because of its uniqueness.

Though Coy played with plenty of great acts throughout his career, he became best known as the drummer for Dead or Alive, which he started playing for in 1982. What separated Coy from most of the drummers at the time was his incorporation of electronic kit elements, which were vital to the group’s unique sound. 

Some might even say that electronic music wouldn’t be what it is today without Coy. 

Respect the Southpaws

Of course, there are so many left-handed drummers I left out of this list, though there is no doubt that they’ve all left an indelible mark on modern music. Being a left-handed musician is always strange, as it presents several unique challenges and plenty of opportunities to explore new feels and sounds. 

However, to this day, most left-handed drummers play with right-handed kits, employing the ambidextrous open-hand technique, which brings a fresh style to their grooves and helps them approach drumming in unconventional ways. 

Cheers to left-handed drummers! 

Tyler Connaghan

Tyler is a music producer and multi-instrumentalist from Los Angeles, CA. When not producing music for TV and film or playing in various projects, he enjoys writing about the gear he loves most.

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One Comment

  1. Thanks… a very good lefties list. But you CANNOT forget 6-time grammy nominated jazz/fusion/rock legend… the iconic Rod Morgenstein! Sure, his work with Winger is where he gained commercial fame, but his playing and influence starting in the 70s w/Dixie Dregs is just phenomenal and especially w/the grooves, feel, the odd times, etc. No disrespect intended to Bob Jarzombek, but if you hear the catalogs, you gotta put Rod’s work on the shelf above and as an influence on those who followed in the 80s, etc like him. Drum on.

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