In the early 2000s, The White Stripes was one of the biggest bands in the world. Multiple hit singles and chart-topping albums propelled drummer Meg White and vocalist/guitarist Jack White through the stratosphere.
While they’ve since disbanded, one thing that set the band apart was Meg’s raw, simple drumming, which quickly became both a trademark of their sound and a point of contention to haters.
As we know from legendary bands like The Beatles, AC/DC and The Rolling Stones, a drummer doesn’t need to be a technical wizard to be a star – and The White Stripes wouldn’t have had the same organic, garage rock oomph with a ‘grid-perfect’ drummer.
“I would often look at her onstage and say, I can’t believe she’s up here. I don’t think she understood how important she was to the band, and to me and to the music.
She was the antithesis of a modern drummer. So childlike and incredible and inspiring.”
The same could be said about Jack White’s guitar: no crunchy distortion, no White Stripes.
Meg White’s powerful, quirky sound helped her snag 6 Grammys and a spot on Rolling Stones’ 100 Greatest Drummers List.
She knew how to leave space and give songs character, and that’s why she’s one of the top rock drummers – and “loudest introverts” – of the 21st century.
As one person pointed out on Twitter, “Some folk just don’t get it: limitations are part of what makes rock music good.”
Who is Meg White?
She was the drummer for The White Stripes, a garage rock band that dominated the airwaves in the early 2000s.
During the peak of her career, Meg played Ludwig drums and Paiste cymbals. She usually opted for a simple 3-piece or 4-piece setup.
She was once married to her bandmate, Jack White, but they divorced before the band hit it big. They initially claimed to be brother and sister in the hopes of avoiding speculation or unnecessary focus on their relationship.
What happened to Meg White? Is she still drumming? Nope. Not publicly, anyway. She’s flown under the radar since The White Stripes disbanded in 2011.
1. Meg White’s grooves are urgent and heavy
Her simple but powerful grooves have a certain urgency to them, giving the band a jump start in every song.
These ‘thumping’ beats have been a trademark of The White Stripes since day one.
Meg took the “less is more” approach – you can get more power when you have more space.
Listen to the dramatic groove in “The Union Forever”, where cymbals only fall where there’s a kick or snare. Many drummers would keep the cymbals going throughout the bar, but Meg chooses carefully.
Here’s the first chorus:
For more heavy grooves, listen to those crashes in the chorus of “Dead Leaves And The Dirty Ground”:
And the cymbal placement in the second “re-intro”:
Meg was known for slowly adding layers as a song would progress, building energy by making simple changes or adding another piece of the kit. In “Rag & Bone”, she starts by only playing on the rim, then adds in kick, then floor tom, and finally exploding into the full groove.
2. She crafted drum parts with powerful simplicity
Meg’s accents would often follow the guitar line. Sometimes the use of space can feel as much like a hook as the guitar melody.
“Seven Nation Army” is a perfect example of how simple doesn’t mean boring. Any other drum part wouldn’t have fit this song, and without Meg White’s stripped-back playing it may not have earned a Grammy.
Listen to the driving quarter note groove in the first half of the chorus, before it punctuates the guitar every other phrase:
Meg’s parts are full of choices most drummers wouldn’t make, and that’s why she’s such a unique player.
The music is in charge of us.
How many drummers would be satisfied playing the same beat for an entire song? It’s worth sacrificing our egos for the good of the music:
“My Doorbell” features a funkier, slightly syncopated groove involving a tambourine stick. It’s definitely a recognizable drum part:
“White Moon” is another great example of playing for the song, and is mostly comprised of kick, shaker, and crash cymbals. It supports the music perfectly:
And then there’s “Little Room” – which takes a lot of discipline to play kick drum and hi-hat consistently for the entire song:
3. Meg knew how to leave space with style
Pro musicians tend to recognize Meg White’s genius, and many have voiced their praise (Questlove, Tom Morello, Margo Price and Butch Vig, to name a few).
In the intro of “Ball And biscuit”, Meg doesn’t play the hi-hats consistently, and that’s what makes this basic beat more interesting:
There’s a distinct maturity and restraint in the notes she decides not to play. “The Big Three Killed My Baby” features kick, floor tom and snare in the chorus – and only kick and crash in the verse. It has a retro vibe and echoes some of those staple drum parts of the ’70s.
While many rock drummers neglect their left foot, Meg’s often doubles what her other limbs are doing. You’ll notice it in the hi-hat part of the first chorus of “There’s No Home For You Here”:
The White Stripes had a unique, unpredictable writing style with tempo changes and multiple feels within many of their songs.
“Black Math” has a slowdown in the middle of the song that makes it sound even heavier, and “Bone Broke” features a slow chorus and some different feels on the drums – like a swung snare with straight crashes, and a tension build in the solo using only kick and crash.
Here’s the second verse:
And in “Red Rain“, a light ride cymbal part gives way into heavy accents, the dynamics injecting more life into the song as it moves along.
Some people think the more notes a drummer plays, the better they are. But it’s not always technical prowess that turns a musician into a legend.
Ringo Starr, Charlie Watts, and Phil Rudd all found a platform within some of the world’s biggest bands, and over the years more and more people are recognizing how critical their straight forward drumming was to the music’s success.
If you’re a beginner drummer, try learning a White Stripes song or two (we have a ton of play-along tracks and game-changing practice tools in the Drumeo members area).
Advanced players should also try learning Meg White’s parts, because while they may seem easy to grasp at first, drummers know that sometimes the hardest rhythms to play well are the simplest or the slowest.
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is an author, educator, and performer based out of Vancouver, Canada. Brandon is the author of The Drummer's Toolbox, co-author of The Best Beginner Drum Book, and the Content Director at Musora, home to the award-winning online music education platforms Drumeo, Pianote, Guitareo and Singeo.