Rock is one of the largest genres of music, taking it from indie to metal, with borders overlapping. This is mirrored in some of the winning nominations, with rock’s scope ranging from punk to prog and metal. What is identified as a rock? Well, you guys have agreed to! What is evident from our findings, though, is that rock drummers prefer groove, as our top drummers are dominated by the hopping swing of drummers who first described the word ‘rock drummer.’ Outside of that, it’s clear that when it comes to becoming a decent rock drummer, chops are important, but not nearly as important as possessing a distinctive voice: something that’s evident to any single entry here. What makes a better drummer is a question that separates musicians and fans alike: there will still be debates over whether professional competence can preside over sentiment, or whether a classy sense of restraint is more attractive than dazzling showmanship.
As such, it’s almost difficult to create a comprehensive list of the best drummers in the world… but we’ve tried. As well as the legendary faces of some of the biggest bands in the country, we’ve made room for some of the most in-demand session drummers of all time, including Steve Gadd and the late icons Jeff Porcaro and Hal Blaine. If you believe there are you can always recommend the best drummers of all time.
1. Roger Taylor
Give a beginner a pair of sticks and ask them to tap a rhythm, and odds are you’ll meet the ‘boom-boom-bap, boom-boom-bap’ of Queen’s We Will Rock You. Roger Taylor is not necessarily the flashiest of drummers, but while you’re one-quarter of a line-up that also includes Freddie Mercury, Brian May, and John Deakin, it’s important to be mindful of room and songwriting. That said, Roger is no slouch, with Queen’s music ranging from plain to orchestral pop prog at times. Where other drummers may have riddled music with fusion-like nuances, Roger kept it straightforward with the occasional flex of chops or solo, if necessary, totally nailing what was needed for a band whose performance had a lot of harmonic seasoning. Sit down and study his bits, and you can enjoy the subtleties even more.
2. Travis Barker
Blink-182’s Travis Barker is one of the most popular drummers of the new millennium thanks to his hardcore sensitivity, skater aesthetics, hip-hop drive, pop appeal, and reality TV-ready babyface — not to mention his simplicity of collaborating with EDM superstars or rappers and DJ-ing in his spare time. It’s a well-rounded groove mentality that lifts everything he does. ‘ve never heard of a drummer serving beats to people like that, bringing them to my hip-hop mates,” Barker said to Drum. Magazine, guy. He’s an animalistic performer who plays ferociously and has no fear of going theatrical.
3. Ringo Starr
The very mention of Ringo Starr’s name in the drumming poll is sure to lift as many eyebrows as the head-nodes do. Yet we are not involved in the discussion. Ringo substituted Pete Best and finished the puzzle with The Fab Four. His drum pieces, feel and technique was unorthodox but well-matched to the genius of Lennon, McCartney, and Harrison. Did he have any chops? Should he have played a solo? Are we really going to see him perform a drum clinic? The response doesn’t matter, because the outcome is the same: he was in The Beatles and sculpted a whole different course for pop music drums.
4. John Bonham
Typically considered to be the greatest drummer of all time, John Bonham of Led Zeppelin was known for his instinct and sense of rhythm that shone in his love of pace, fast kick drumming, and hard-hitting strength. He got his first drum kit when he was 15 years old and was mainly self-taught, emulating greats like Max Roach and Buddy Rich. Bonham’s talent was so ferocious that contemporary drummers like Dave Grohl, Dave Lombardo, and Chad Smith all saw him as their biggest influence. While he excelled at dynamic rock drumming, he later started to incorporate funk and Latin styles into his work.
5. Bill Bruford
Bill Bruford took the rulebook for ‘rock drums’ and not only rewrote it but digitized it and made it into his own song-within-a-song. As well as being a top-notch professional guitarist, Bill used electronics from the launch with drum pads. Never before had such a voice been given to the drums with such independence. After his time in Yes and King Krimson, Bill followed his own compositions, blending jazz with electronics in Earthworks. He may have traded sticks for books these days, having recently sold off a raft of gear. Yet Bill Bruford was, and will still be, the drummer’s thought drummer.
6. Buddy Rich
Buddy Rich was a jazz drummer and bandleader known for his pace and strength without losing his technique. He was a child prodigy, playing percussion on Broadway at the age of four and on vaudeville shows. He started leading international tour bands in his youth, and by the age of 15 he was the second-highest paying child entertainer in the 1930s! As the big bands lost their popularity, he remained committed to performance, conducting sessions for Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, and performing a variety of TV appearances. He played with a conventional grip, but he would turn to matched grip while playing the floor toms and doing cross-sticks as one of his stick tricks. There was a time when he experimented with brushes almost entirely.
7. Keith Moon
Keith Moon was the drummer of The Who, known for his early use of double bass drums in his drum kit. He would blend into the drum fills in the craziest positions of the tracks, stressing tom-toms and cymbals, behaving more like an orchestrator than a guitarist. He was considered to emulate other greats like Gene Krupa and Hal Blaine, but with much more wavering pacing. He disliked the drum solos and declined to perform them even though he was forced to survive on stage. After almost every performance, he would break his drum kit on stage. He will also ruin the entire hotel rooms and plumbing of the houses. His disruptive behavior contributed to his early death, but he still managed to leave his mark as one of the drumming giants.
8. Phil Collins
To the uninformed, Phil Collins is a musician who has also played some drums over the years. Yet he’s a drumming hero for us. Think about it this way: when you’re filling in for John Bonham with a resurrected Led Zeppelin isn’t really the first thing people remember about you, you’ve actually had a pretty decent career of your own. He helped create the 80’s drum sound, sold well on his way to a few hundred million records, and showed his ability to play the drums with the best of them numerous times. Alas, Phil set down his sticks for good in 2019, but we’d say he’d be able to walk away.
9. Ginger Baker
Ginger Baker is best known as the Cream and Blind Faith superstar drummer alongside Eric Clapton. He was one of the first drummers to use two kick drums and record long drum solos. His use of matched grip, syncopation, African rhythms, and ride cymbals made him more of a bebop and jazz drummer than a rock drummer. All the great people remember Baker’s prowess, and Neil Peart said that Baker was setting the standard for the drums of rock. His performance and acting are defined as primitive, extroverted, and imaginative. He was also considered a pioneer of heavy metal drumming, even though he didn’t play in the genre and hated it.
10. Art Blakey
Art Blakey was a jack of all trades and a master of all of them. He was a phenomenal bandleader, a talented guitarist, a watchful mentor and, generally speaking, a party life. Sometimes credited for inventing early bebop and setting the foundation for hard pop, he is widely known for giving many great jazz musicians their start by taking them under his wing and allowing them to perform in his legendary 17-piece band, The Jazz Messengers. He began the careers of such great musicians as trumpeter Lee Morgan, pianist Bobby Timmons or sax player Wynton Marsalis and many many others who credit him as a significant influence and a great teacher—high praise given that many of these musicians have played with such great jazz players as Charles Mingus or Miles Davis. Not only did Blakey teach a lot of jazz lessons to these youngsters, but he would also build the ideal foundation for them as soloists during live performances; ever the attentive listener.
11. Joe Morello
As with every other drummer on this list, seeing Joe Morello play is an electrifying experience. Smooth, creative and motivated, he treated the drum set like a world-class chef would cook his signature dish: carefully gather up all the finest ingredients and pair them in elegant, unusual ways to produce amazing blends of flavor and texture. He was especially noted for playing the odd time signatures used by that party in pieces such as “Take Five” and “Blue Rondo à la Turk.” Famous for his work on college campuses in the 1950s, Brubeck’s group hit new heights with Morello. The quartet, completed by high-level saxophonist Paul Desmond and bassist Eugene Wright, was recorded in June 1959, and “Kathy’s Waltz” and “Three to Get Ready” were all intermixture with the signatures for 3/4 and 4/4 time.
12. Dave Grohl
He used to be the drummer for the Nirvana rock band and formed Foo Fighters, for which he is the principal songwriter, guitarist, and singer. Grohl is also the rock super-co-founder group’s and drummer Them Crooked Vultures, who wrote music to his short live side projects Late, and has played all instruments! And Probot. – And Probot. He was also with the Queens of the Stone Age to record and tour. At the beginning of the nineties, Dave Grohl embodied rock drumming. His brutal, excentricious style and imminent energies were the exact ingredients for the superstardom of Nirvana’s grunge gods.
13. Ian Paice
Although Deep Purple constantly had members flicking in and out the fort was kept down by one musician — drummer Ian Paice. At that time his heavy metal sound was blazing, and he paves the way for numerous others to follow. Paice was born in Nottingham but early moved south at the age of 15. In the late 1960s, he started his musical career in his dance band. The first band that he played was Georgie & the Rave-Ons, whose first single, with the 17-year-old Paice and George Adams, was released after the Shindigs were rebuilt. Paice was added to the MI5 in 1966 and soon changed its name to Maze. The Maze created mainly a club band and several singles, mostly released in Italy and France.
14. Roger Hawkins
Roger Hawkins was once dubbed “the best drummer in the world” by none other than Jerry Wexler, the inventor of the word “rhythm & blues.” Well-known studio drummer for the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section back in the ’50s, Hawkins helped build the rock n’ roll fabric as we know it. Hawkins had a special talent in adapting his own personality to the particular needs of the artist, from Paul Simon to Aretha Franklin to Wilson Pickett. Listen to his masterful cymbal dance at Aretha Franklin’s “Chain Of Fools,” and it’s almost difficult not to be influenced by the delicate drama of his songs.
15. Neil Peart
In any area of his approach to drums, Neil Peart was an innovator. He had the creative prowess to bring his ideas to life with accuracy, the creativity to propel things forward-the very definition of ‘progressive’-and when music was needed, he could build a rhythm to match with any breakbeat. Then the kits were there in all their glory. Seeing Neil crosses a 360-degree rig that involves enough drums to create several conventional kits, innovative circuitry, and tuned percussion is a sight to behold, and one that many drummers will pay their entrance fee just to witness. Peart’s distinctive direction is what made millions of drummers fall in love with his playing, when someone provides total originality with every aspect of their instrument take-up, it also makes them inimitable. Neil may have gone way too young, but with his drumming (and lyrics), he left us with the greatest gift: it will continue to inspire and influence for decades to come.
16. Danny Carey
If there are other life types in our world, one day we hope they’re going to feel an affinity with Danny Carey’s drumming. Mixing heavyweight prog elements with the ferocity of any metal player along with Stewart Copeland’s more delicate blossoms, putting Carey in a ‘rock’ box is a little like naming Concorde public transport. But he does rock, and like Tool’s songs, he does so in a manner that is incomparable to everyone else. Moan all you want the Tool takes their time to make songs, but with each release comes years and years of learning and creativity. If you’re uninitiated, do yourself a favor and let Danny Carey’s drumming change your mind on what ‘progressive’ actually means.