Due to their strength and adaptability, drums are a crucial component of rock & roll music. They act as the foundation of a song, establishing the beat and tempo. They contribute to the energy and intensity that rock & roll is known for with their loud, dynamic sounds.
While there are no exact criteria for great drummers, when it comes to choosing, we can take someone’s technical, innovation, and talent into consideration. This way, we can come up with some names which can be deemed as the greatest drummers of all time.
Drums can be used for a variety of rhythmic patterns and time signatures which are essential for rock and roll. It can also provide a wide range of sound choices which gives a song a unique flavor. The drums are an essential component of the rock and roll sound because of all of these factors.
It’s always a big decision to choose who the best drummers are. But we’ve done our best to find out and here is our list of the best drummers of all time.
1. Neil Peart (Rush)
One of the greatest drummers of all time, he was chosen in the band Rush because he reminded the rest of them of Keith Moon. In order to produce a sound that was uniquely his own, Peart’s distinctive style incorporated elements of jazz, rock, and classical music. He was a superb storyteller as well as a gifted songwriter, frequently incorporating literary and philosophical topics into his drum solos.
His influence on upcoming and many drummers cannot be overlooked. His large set of drums was also a very famous signature of his. Rush became a supergroup with hordes of loyal fans thanks to the technical excellence, strong devotion to his profession, and never-ending originality of its lead singer.
Sadly, he passed away on January 7, 2020, due to brain cancer. Peart’s masterful blending of music and words established a bar for brilliance that will be challenging to surpass.
2. John Bonham (Led Zeppelin)
John started playing drums at the age of five. After playing with various bands, he landed with Robert Plant and other Led Zeppelin members and became the drummer of Led Zeppelin.
Nothing more appealing than John playing the drums. When it comes to Bonzo, He transformed the function of the instrument and influenced a generation of drummers. Bonham had a great instinct and feel for the groove which made him a great drummer. During Led Zeppelin’s live performances, Bonham frequently played lengthy drum solos that were noted for their forceful approach.
He is behind songs like ‘Rock n’ Roll’, ‘Good Times, Bad Times’ and many more. His thunderous toms, pounding kick drums, and impassioned cymbal crashes all worked together to produce a distinctive and potent sound that is still recognized today. The basis and frequently the driving force behind Led Zeppelin’s songs, Bonham made the drums an essential component of the band’s sound.
3. Keith Moon (The Who)
Keith is a self-proclaimed greatest drummer in the world. His distinct playing style was frantic, fast-paced, and extremely inventive, adding intricate fills, rolls, and unconventional touches to every tune. Moon was a real showman who frequently pulled off tricks like setting fire to his drumsticks or punctuating the end of a song with explosives.
Moon hated to play in repetition. He is considered one of the most influential drummers of his generation. He was characterized by his power playing an aggressive and energetic performances. Sadly, his career was cut short. He passed away in 1978 due to a drug overdose at the age of 31.
4. Buddy Rich
Buddy Rich can be replaced by no one. His way of drumming was ahead of his time which served as a great influence to many drummers who came after him. Rich was a fantastic improviser who could come up with original solos for shows. He was also a prodigy on the drum set, frequently going beyond the capabilities of a single drummer.
Buddy has played with many jazz musicians of his time like Charlie Parker, Nat King Cole, and many more. He started playing drums at the very young age of 4, and on top of that, he was also self-taught. He was known for his great technique, energy, and speed.
Rich was a true showman who always tried to keep the audience entertained by infusing theatrical aspects into his presentations. He was able to rank among the most recognizable drummers in history thanks to his extraordinary talent and love for the instrument.
5. Ginger Baker (Cream)
When someone discusses the topic of best drummer, without mentioning Ginger Baker is incomplete.
Ginger Baker was a British drummer known for his pioneering work in the rock and blues genres. He was one of the most influential drummers of the 1960s and 1970s and was a founding member of the legendary rock band Cream.
Baker was known for his explosive and virtuosic drumming style, which combined elements of jazz, African rhythms, and classical music. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Cream in 1993.
6. Gene Krupa
One of jazz music’s most important drummers was Gene Krupa. He stands out from the competition thanks to his excellent skill, good sense of timing, and powerful style. He was able to blend swing and jazz elements to produce a really dynamic sound.
Gene was the first drummer who was known for his drum solos. He followed the fundamentals of drums but made it look complicated and spectacular. A generation of drummers was encouraged to follow in Krupa’s footsteps because he was the first to use a drum kit in a fully developed manner. He was also a fantastic performer, well-known for his boundless vigor and passion. Krupa is one of the best drummers of all time because of his distinctive style and talent.
7. Ian Paice (Deep Purple)
Ian Paice is an English drummer who is best known as a member of the rock band Deep Purple. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest drummers of all time and has been praised for his technical proficiency, musicality, and innovative approach to rock drumming.
Paice’s distinctive style, characterized by powerful grooves and precise timing, has influenced numerous drummers and helped to define the sound of classic rock.
Known for his impeccable timing and accuracy, which allows him to play complex rhythms with ease and maintain a solid foundation for the rest of the band, his drumming is characterized by its musicality, as he often adds fills and variations to the beat that complement the song and add interest.
8. Charlie Watts (Rolling Stones)
Charlie Watts is an English drummer who is best known as the drummer of the legendary rock band, The Rolling Stones. He has been with the band since its formation in 1962 and has played on every one of their studio albums.
Watts is known for his understated, minimalist approach to drumming, which contrasts with the more flashy, showy styles of many other rock drummers. He is praised for his steady, unflashy beat and his ability to create a powerful groove with few frills or embellishments.
In addition to his work with The Rolling Stones, Watts is also a noted jazz drummer and has recorded several jazz albums under his own name. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest drummers in rock and roll history and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of The Rolling Stones in 1989.
9. Roger Taylor (Queen)
Thanks to his extraordinary talent and adaptability, Roger Taylor is frequently acknowledged as one of the finest drummers of all time. He was able to control intricate rhythms and add unique percussion pieces to passages. Taylor could play a wide range of musical genres, including jazz, funk, and rock.
Taylor was also very experimental often times trying a wide range of music from rock to jazz. Additionally well-known for his amazing stage vigor was Roger Taylor. Their live performances of Queen were propelled by his intense drumming, and he frequently employed his drum set to forge captivating solo passages. Fans and musicians alike adore him because of his talent and charisma. His skill, versatility, and energy make Roger Taylor one of the greatest drummers of all time.
10. Taylor Hawkins (Foo Fighters)
Taylor was best known as the drummer of Foo Fighters. He joined the band all the way back in 1997 and has been an integral part of it. He was well known for his impeccable technique, creative playing approach, and commanding presence on stage. Hawkins played fast and complicated passages with ease thanks to his superb control and accuracy. He was an engaging drummer to watch because of the amazing groove and fire in his performance.
His playing has influenced innumerable drummers across the years, and his impact on contemporary drumming cannot be denied. He wrote some of the most enduring rock tunes ever and had a great ear for arrangement and lyrics. Taylor Hawkins is regarded as one of the best drummers of all time because of his talent, originality, and influence.
It’s always tough to include and leave someone out of the list. However, we have tried our best and given you guys our list of the best drummers of all time. Be sure to comment on your favorite drummer and do point out other amazing drummers we missed.
Other Notable Mentions
11. Phil Collins (Genesis)
Among all drummers, Phil Collins is recognized as one of the best. He is famous for his dynamic playing, superior technical ability, and innovative use of electronic drums and drum machines. His playing is very adaptable, easily switching between many musical genres. He rose to fame as the drummer of the rock band Genesis.
His contributions to the realm of drums are immense, and his influence on popular music is indisputable. Collins also has a great sense of groove and frequently comes up with interesting rhythms. His impact on the drumming community is unquestionable, as he has written some of the most recognizable drum parts in history. He is a superb singer-songwriter as well, having created some of the most well-known songs ever.
12. Rick Allen (Def Leppard)
Rick Allen is an English drummer who is best known as the drummer of the rock band Def Leppard. Despite losing his left arm in a car accident in 1984, Allen has continued to drum and perform with the band. He is considered a pioneering drummer in the field of adaptive drumming and is known for his innovative approach to drumming with one arm.
Allen’s drumming is characterized by its power, energy, and technical proficiency, and he is widely regarded as one of the most talented and creative drummers of his generation. He has been praised for his ability to adapt to his injury and continue playing at a high level, inspiring other drummers and musicians with disabilities.
13. Ringo Starr (The Beatles)
Ringo is known for being the drummer of The Beatles. He is one of the most famous drummers of all time and that is all due to his ability. He had a very difficult beginning but despite all that, he went on to have a great career in music.
Due to his distinctive style and involvement with The Beatles, Ringo Starr is frequently cited as one of the best drummers of all time. He wasn’t a particularly good drummer in terms of technique, but he had a wonderful sense of rhythm. He had the talent to take straightforward components and put them together in a way that was highly catchy. Starr was also remarkably reliable, and his capacity to keep the same backbeat throughout every song made him the ideal choice for The Beatles. One of the finest drummers of all time, Ringo Starr is distinguished by his own style, talent, and consistency.
14. Dave Grohl (Nirvana, Foo Fighters)
Dave is among the heavy hitters on the list. One of the most proficient and well-known drummers in the world is Dave Grohl. He joined Nirvana in 1990 and was their drummer until 1994. After that, he created Foo Fighters, which is one of the biggest bands in the world still to this day.
He is well known for his impressive speed, and forceful, and aggressive style. Grohl is one of the most compelling drummers to watch because of the special blend of strength and delicacy in his playing. He is also highly adaptable, able to play in various musical genres, and can change with the times.
He has a remarkable sense of songwriting and arrangement and has written some of the most iconic riffs in music history. Dave Grohl is one of the greatest drummers of all time and has unmatched talent, originality, and influence.
I don’t normally look at “greatest” lists. Most of the time they’re the same or absolute head scratchers, but I checked this one out and I was shocked to see the greats Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa! And who can argue Neal Peart #1 and John Bonham at 2? Phil Collins was amazing and Roger Taylor is extremely underrated. What I don’t get is how David Grohl and Taylor Hawkins are one of the 10 best of all time when far, far better and more influential drummers like Cozy Powell, Ansley Dunbar, Ian Paice, Carl Palmer, and Ginger Baker are omitted. Ringo Star, one of if not the most famous drummer of all time, is one of the most basic drummers ever. His career was made possible by 2 guys, Paul McCartney and John Lennon. Talent wise he’s groupie level and not even close to being worthy of being in the same room with anyone on your list or the ones I’ve named.
While I do give you a thousand 👍🏻 for including Rich and Krupa, and there will never be another Neal Peart or John Bonham, but Star, Grohl, and Hawkins over Powell, Dunbar, Paice, Palmer, Baker, or Carmen Appice, or even Tommy Lee? Come on, really?
I agree, and music has evolved so much, I even posted a comment with some other names of great drummers. I look at technical skill over everything. Some of the guys on this list are just big names because of the band’s they were in, not the greatest of all time. Ringo is probably the least talented drummer in the world but he was in the Beatles. Tommy Lee would do a solo in a spinning box and never miss a beat, Danny Carey can transcend how you listen to Tools music, Lars Ulrich was just raw nerve in his younger days. Alot of the British drummers stole so much from Nicko Mcbrain that they have a saying for it over there. Jay Weinburg was literally born with sticks in his hands. Carmen was one of the great but didn’t get a mention. Looks to me like this list was copy and pasted from a list done in the 90s.
Carl Palmer for sure. I’m sorry but Charlie Watts to me was not all that great. Certainly not top 10 worthy. And to leave out Alex Van Hale was a sin as well.
I agree with most of what you say, makes good sense. Not so sure on Phil Collins, he doesn’t get much recognition from Led Zeppelin group members but maybe that wasn’t his fault?
Not Ian Paice? Absurd
So the entry at no 7 is someone masquerading as him?
What about Max Roach or Elvin Jones? A journeyman jazz drummer can outplay a super rock drummer, and a few of your choices are hilariously over-rated. I saw/heard Ginger Baker live, and his outstanding characteristic was LOUD. He was impossible to follow.
Totally glossed over Bill Bruford. Shame.
No mike portnoy? Bonhman is my fav but opinions aside mike portnoy is bar none the best drummer to ever live. Wtf!! He’s not even in the list. Go listen to some dream theatre for effs sake…
Any list of greatest drummers that doesn’t include Bernard Purdie, Steve Gadd, Hal Blaine, and Richie Hayward isn’t much of a list.
Leaving Ritchie Hayward off any greatest list is incomplete.
Looks like most of the Golden oldies, I’m 48 yrs old and don’t agree with most of these. Max Weinburg, Jay Weinburg, Danny Carey, Joey Jordison, Lars Ulrich, Nicko Mcbrain, Dave Lombardo to name a few who could easily replace most of these “greatest”. And Dave and Taylor being on the list is just plain weird, they are good but not great.
I have to go with John Densmore of the Doors or Don Henley
Dino Danelli of the Rascals was also one of the best better than Ringo
Carter Beauford? say what you like about DMB, Carter is amazing
Danny Carey is not even honorable mention? He’s better than half of the drummers named