Each drummer on this list has impacted the drumming world in a significant way. Some are innovators, some are world-renowned session drummers, and others have played in some of the most influential bands in history. As you read through our list, be sure to check out the recommended albums for each drummer as well. Who knows – you might discover your new favorite player!
It’s difficult to associate a numerical value with an artist or musician because these things are subjective. In order to achieve the rankings that we did, we considered each drummer’s innovation in the drumming world, their technical ability, and their achievements throughout their career. This is also an evolving list that, like opinions, can shift over time.
Read on to find out who made our list of the Top 100 Drummers of All Time!
Jimmy “The Rev” Sullivan was the drummer for the heavy metal band Avenged Sevenfold. He began playing the drum set when he was ten years old. During his early years, his primary areas of focus included rock, fusion, and thrash metal. He also studied drum theory and technique. Throughout his time with Avenged Sevenfold, Sullivan became known for his fast double bass drum playing, his rudimental drum fills, as well as his way of using two ride cymbals in his grooves. He also performed with Brian Haner, Suburban Legends, and Pinkly Smooth.
Recommended Albums: “City of Evil” – Avenged Sevenfold, “Avenged Sevenfold” – Avenged Sevenfold
Anika Nilles became a YouTube sensation when she released her first video “Alter Ego.” She started drumming when she was six years old and has since studied with master educators like Claus Hessler and Jost Nickel. In addition to releasing play-through videos on her YouTube channel, Nilles performs with Nevell as well as her own band. Her playing style regularly incorporates ideas based on odd note groupings, subdivisions like quintuplets and septuplets, and linear patterns.
Recommended Albums: “Pikalar” – Anika Nilles, “Anika Nilles” – Anika Nilles
Matt Cameron is best known for his work with Soundgarden and Pearl Jam. Cameron began performing professionally in San Diego when he was 14 years old. At the age of 20, Cameron moved to Seattle. It was in Seattle that he met the members of Soundgarden. It wasn’t until the late 1990s when he joined Pearl Jam as their permanent drummer. Matt Cameron is known for his rudimental approach to creating drum fills, his incorporation of open-handed playing, and his musicality – more specifically, his ability to choose when or when not to take the spotlight during a song.
Recommended Albums: “Superunknown” – Soundgarden, “Backspacer” – Pearl Jam
Brian Blade is one of the most accomplished contemporary jazz drummers of the past 20 years. He grew up listening to gospel music, and when he was a teenager, he began playing the drums. When he started drumming, he discovered legends like Elvin Jones, Art Blakey, Miles Davis, and John Coltrane. In addition to leading his own group, Brian Blade & The Fellowship Band, he has achieved success working with David Binney, Kenny Garrett, Chick Corea, Wayne Shorter, John Patitucci, Norah Jones, Joshua Redman, and Bob Dylan. Brian Blade is a master of sound and texture – he is often seen using a variety of different sticks, brushes, and mallets.
Recommended Albums: “Seasons of Change” – Brian Blade & The Fellowship Band, “Without a Net” – Wayne Shorter
Matt Garstka became the drummer for the progressive metal band Animals as Leaders in 2012. When Garstka was young, his father introduced him to blues, reggae, and rock music. By the time he was a teenager, he had already begun playing jazz, fusion, and Latin music. By learning how to play all of these different styles, Garstka set himself up for success. After listening to “The Joy of Motion,” his first album with Animals as Leaders, many of his childhood influences are evident. Whether it’s his syncopated Latin-influenced ride cymbal patterns, or his swing-influenced, triplet-based ghost note figures, Garstka has fused all of his influences together to create his own distinct style.
Recommended Albums: “The Joy of Motion” – Animals as Leaders, “The Madness of Many” – Animals as Leaders
Will Calhoun is an accomplished drummer from New York known for being a member of the band Living Colour. While Calhoun is typically considered a rock drummer, he has also had a successful career playing blues, jazz, fusion, pop, and hip-hop music. He has performed with Wayne Shorter, Jaco Pastorius, Marcus Miller, Mos Def, B.B. King, Paul Simon, Public Enemy, and Run-DMC. Calhoun’s unique playing style fuses elements from all of these different styles of music. He also uses electronic pads and triggers into his setup which allows him to incorporate sounds and effects that can’t be created on an acoustic drum set.
Recommended Albums: “Vivid” – Living Colour, “Celebrating Elvin Jones” – Will Calhoun
Tony Royster Jr. won the 1995 Guitar Center Drum-Off Competition when he was just 11 years old. When he was young, his drumming heroes were two of the greatest fusion drummers in history: Billy Cobham and Dennis Chambers. His drumming frequently demonstrates his blazing fast hand and foot speed, as well as his incorporation of “gospel chops” and linear patterns. Tony Royster Jr. has performed with many of today’s greatest R&B, pop, and hip-hop artists including Katy Perry, Mac Miller, Jay-Z, Joe Jonas, AWOLNATION, Residente, Big Sean, and Tori Kelly.
Recommended Albums: “The Evolution of Tony Royster Jr. Soundtrack” – Tony Royster Jr. & ASAP, “Megalithic Symphony” – AWOLNATION
Joey Jordison is best known for his work with Slipknot. He joined the band in 1995 and continued to record and perform with them until the end of 2013. Jordison is known for his double bass drumming and his incredible speed and endurance. On stage, you will typically find him seated behind a massive double bass drum kit, masked or unmasked. In addition to Slipknot, he has worked with Rob Zombie, Murderdolls, Korn, Marilyn Manson, Sinsaenum, among many others.
Recommended Albums: “Slipknot” – Slipknot, “Iowa” – Slipknot
Josh Freese is known for his work as a touring and session drummer. He started playing the drums when he was eight years old, and by the age of 12, he was performing professionally in the Disneyland Top 40 Band. Freese began playing with Dweezil Zappa at the age of 19 and later went on to work with Sting, Mötley Crüe, Guns N’ Roses, Katy Perry, A Perfect Circle, Weezer, Paramore, Daughtry, and The Vandals, among many others. Through his extensive work as a session drummer, Josh Freese has mastered the art of versatility.
Recommended Albums: “Mer de Noms” – A Perfect Circle, “57th & 9th” – Sting
Abe Laboriel Jr. is a touring and session drummer best known for his work with Paul McCartney. Having been mentored by Jeff Porcaro himself, Laboriel was bound for success. He began playing the drums when he was four years old, and by the time he was 21, Laboriel was playing with Steve Vai. Since the 1990s, he has also performed with Sting, Eric Clapton, Shakira, Lady GaGa, Sheryl Crow, Steve Lukather, Duran Duran, B.B. King, Kelly Clarkson, and many other artists.
Recommended Albums: “Back in the U.S.” – Paul McCartney, “Good Evening New York City” – Paul McCartney
Growing up, Chris Dave was inspired by jazz and gospel music. Today, he is known for his signature pop and hip-hop drumming style that incorporates elements from his early influences. Chris Dave has performed with the Robert Glasper Experiment, Mint Condition, Beyoncé, Wynton Marsalis, Pat Metheny, and Kenny Garrett. Two of his most notable drumming contributions are his appearances on Adele’s “21” and D’Angelo’s “Black Messiah.” Having worked with such an array of artists, Chris Dave has proven that he can adapt to any musical situation.
Recommended Albums: “Black Radio” – Robert Glasper Experiment, “Standard of Language” – Kenny Garrett
John “JR” Robinson is a world-class session musician who is most famous for his work with Michael Jackson. Robinson has appeared on a number of Michael Jackson’s albums including “Off the Wall” and “Bad.” He began playing the drums when he was eight years old, and he was performing with an original band two years later. He also attended the Berklee College of Music where he further developed his skills and abilities in many different styles of music. John “JR” Robinson has recorded with some of the world’s most successful artists including Eric Clapton, Quincy Jones, Steve Winwood, Lionel Richie, David Lee Roth, Daft Punk, David Foster, Madonna, and George Benson.
Recommended Albums: “Bad” – Michael Jackson, “Back in the High Life” – Steve Winwood
Max Weinberg has been the drummer for Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band since 1974. Weinberg started drumming when he was six years old. His greatest inspirations were Buddy Rich, D.J. Fontana, Ringo Starr, and Gene Krupa. Apart from working with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Weinberg has worked with Meat Loaf, Carole King, Air Supply, and Bonnie Tyler. Max Weinberg was also the bandleader on late night talk shows “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” and “The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien.”
Recommended Albums: “Born in the U.S.A.” – Bruce Springsteen, “Live/1975-85” – Bruce Springsteen
Terri Lyne Carrington is best known for working with jazz legends like Wayne Shorter, Stan Getz, Herbie Hancock, and Dizzy Gillespie. She started playing the drums when she was seven years old and went on to study at the Berklee College of Music under Alan Dawson. Her successful career has led her to perform with many other artists like Santana, John Scofield, Dianne Reeves, Mike Stern, George Duke, Esperanza Spalding, and John Patitucci. She was also the house drummer for “The Arsenio Hall Show” during the late 1980s.
Recommended Albums: “Radio Music Society” – Esperanza Spalding, “Money Jungle: Provocative in Blue” – Terri Lyne Carrington
Having played the drums since he was two years old, Larnell Lewis has risen to become one of the most notable names in modern drumming. He is currently the drummer for the fusion band Snarky Puppy, along with Robert “Sput” Searight who also plays drums in the band. His unique style incorporates elements of jazz, gospel, R&B, and even electronic music. In addition to performing with Snarky Puppy, Larnell Lewis has also shared the stage with Michael Brecker, Dave Holland, Laila Biali, Ranee Lee, and many other artists.
Recommended Albums: “We Like It Here” – Snarky Puppy, “Family Dinner – Volume 2” – Snarky Puppy
Benny Greb took the spotlight when he released his first instructional video “The Language of Drumming.” His success escalated even further with the release of “The Art & Science of Groove,” his second instructional video. Greb began playing the drums at the age of six. Throughout his childhood and teenage years, he enjoyed playing rock, punk and jazz music. Over the years, he has recorded with European pop, rock, jazz, and fusion bands. He has also released four solo albums to date. Benny Greb is known for his creativity and integration of unique sounds, his extensive vocabulary, as well as his unmatched time feel and groove.
Recommended Albums: “Grebfruit 2” – Benny Greb, “Moving Parts” – Benny Greb
Marco Minnemann has taken drum set playing to a whole new level. Through his incorporation of unique sounds (like rubber chickens!), his incredible sense of independence and interdependence, as well as his “over-the-top” personality, Marco Minnemann has made a name for himself in the drumming community. He is best known for his work with The Aristocrats, but he has also collaborated with Joe Satriani, Plini, Paul Gilbert, Steven Wilson, Jordan Rudess, Tony MacAlpine, and Tony Levin.
Recommended Albums: “The Aristocrats” – The Aristocrats, “Shockwave Supernova” – Joe Satriani
Jonathan Moffett is best known for his live performance work with Michael Jackson. They began working together in the late 1980s and continued to perform until Michael’s death in 2009. As Jonathan will tell you, Michael Jackson was his dance partner on stage – something that is evident when you see footage of them performing. Known for his incredible bass drum work, he was given the nickname “Sugarfoot”, or as Michael would call him, “Foot”. In addition to performing with Michael Jackson, Moffett has also worked with Madonna, Elton John, George Michael, and The Jacksons.
Recommended Albums: “The Jacksons Live!” – The Jacksons, “One More Story” – Peter Cetera
Over the years, many accomplished rock drummers have credited Colin “Cozy” Powell as a significant influence. His 30-year career included recording and performing with some of the most influential bands and musicians of the 20th century, such as The Jeff Beck Group, Black Sabbath, Rainbow, Whitesnake, Brian May, Yngwie Malmsteen, Jack Bruce, and Roger Daltrey. He is known as a pioneer of early heavy metal drumming.
Recommended Albums: “Rising” – Rainbow, “Slide It In” – Whitesnake
Known for his work as a session and touring drummer, Gregg Bissonette is one of the most sought-after players in the industry. At the age of five, he started playing on his father’s drum set. By the time he was 15, he was already performing professionally in a variety of bands and ensembles. His recording and touring resume is extensive, covering many musical styles including jazz, fusion, rock, blues, and world music. He has performed with a wide range of artists including Ringo Starr, David Lee Roth, Maynard Ferguson, Enrique Iglesias, Santana, Ozzy Osbourne, Ray Charles, and Steve Vai.
Recommended Albums: “Eat ‘Em and Smile” – David Lee Roth, “Supernatural” – Santana
Having played drums since the age of two, Virgil Donati is regarded as one of the most technically proficient drummers in the world. Throughout his career, he has continued to push musical boundaries through his work with Steve Vai, Planet X, Tribal Tech, Derek Sherinian, and many of his original projects. His ability to play rudiments with his feet or with multiple limbs and his ability to play layered odd-time signature grooves and fills are only small feats that Donati has demonstrated over the years. Virgil Donati has taken musical exploration and experimentation to another level.
Recommended Albums: “In this Life” – Virgil Donati, “Quantum” – Planet X
Todd Sucherman has been the drummer for the progressive rock band Styx since 1995. He started playing the drums when he was two years old and was performing by the age of six. He also attended the Berklee College of Music after he graduated from high school. Since the late 1980s, Sucherman has had the opportunity to perform with Brian Wilson, Steve Cole, Spinal Tap, Tim Cunningham, and Michael Bolton, among many other artists and bands. Whether he’s in the studio doing session work or playing a stadium show with Styx, Todd Sucherman consistently demonstrates musicality, precision, and flawless technique in every situation.
Recommended Albums: “The Mission” – Styx, “7 Deadly Zens” – Tommy Shaw
Kenny Aronoff’s hard-hitting, energetic, and consistent playing style is the reason why he’s one of the most active, in-demand rock drummers in the world. He is best known for his work with John Cougar Mellencamp during the 1980s and 1990s. Aronoff has also worked with Bob Seger, Rod Stewart, Avril Lavigne, John Fogerty, Jon Bon Jovi, The Smashing Pumpkins, Meat Loaf, Elton John, and The BoDeans, to name just a few.
Recommended Albums: “Uh-huh” – John Cougar Mellencamp, “Blaze of Glory” – Jon Bon Jovi
Jimmy Chamberlin is known for his work with The Smashing Pumpkins. He started drumming at the age of nine. During his teenage years, he primarily focused on studying Latin and jazz music. Some of his greatest influences included Buddy Rich, Gene Krupa, Elvin Jones, John Bonham, and Ian Paice. His recording credits also include work with Frank Catalano, Zwan, Skysaw, Tyson Meade, The Last Hard Men, and David Sanborn. Chamberlin’s mixture of jazz and rock influences have allowed him to develop a playing style that effectively blends elements from both styles – from fast, smooth press rolls to heavy rimshots and backbeats.
Recommended Albums: “Siamese Dream” – The Smashing Pumpkins, “Love Supreme Collective” – Frank Catalano
Dave Lombardo is known for being the original drummer of the thrash metal band Slayer. He began playing the drums when he was 10 years old, his greatest inspirations being KISS’ “Alive!” album and Led Zeppelin’s “Led Zeppelin II” album. His fast and aggressive double bass drum focused playing had a significant impact on heavy metal music. He is considered a pioneer of thrash metal and death metal drumming. Dave Lombardo has also worked with Grip Inc., Testament, Suicidal Tendencies, Fantômas, and John Zorn.
Recommended Albums: “Reign in Blood” – Slayer, “Seasons in the Abyss” – Slayer
Mike Mangini is known for his most recent work with the progressive metal band Dream Theater. His knowledge of classical and jazz music have allowed him to implement not only rhythmically complex ideas into his playing but also melodically complex ideas. His knowledge of rhythm and melody is displayed in his metal drumming through his composed drum parts as well as through his improvised solos. Before working with Dream Theater, Mangini worked with an array of artists including Steve Vai, Annihilator, Extreme, Tribe of Judah, James LaBrie, Eric Johnson, and Joe Satriani. In 2005, Mike Mangini also set a world record in the World’s Fastest Drummer competition for the “World’s Fastest Hands.”
Recommended Albums: “Alive in an Ultra World” – Steve Vai, “Dream Theater” – Dream Theater
Chris Adler is a founding member of the groove metal band Lamb of God. It wasn’t until Adler was 21 years old that he decided to start playing the drums instead of the bass guitar. Some of his early inspirations included Billy Cobham, Stewart Copeland, Shannon Larkin, Gene Hoglan, and Steve Shelton. In addition to playing with Lamb of God, he has more recently worked with Testament, Protest the Hero, and Megadeth. Specifically, through his work with Lamb of God, Adler is recognized for creating grooves that implement complex broken double bass drum patterns.
Recommended Albums: “Sacrament” – Lamb of God, “Volition” – Protest the Hero
Mark Guiliana has shared the stage with some of today’s greatest jazz and contemporary artists. His unique style, which integrates elements of traditional jazz with hip-hop and electronic elements, has made him one of the world’s most in-demand drummers. In addition to his unique playing style, he is known for experimenting with and creating unique drum sounds by placing cymbals on different drums, stacking cymbals on top of each other, and even placing cut out drum heads and small percussion instruments on top of his drums. He has performed with David Bowie, Brad Mehldau, Tigran Hamasyan, Phronesis, Gretchen Parlato, Avishai Cohen, and his two original groups, Beat Music and the Mark Guiliana Jazz Quartet.
Recommended Albums: “Gently Disturbed” – Avishai Cohen Trio, “Mehliana: Taming the Dragon” – Brad Mehldau & Mark Guiliana
Tomas Haake is the drummer for experimental metal band Meshuggah. He joined the band in 1990 before releasing their first studio album, and has been their drummer ever since. Haake is known for integrating polyrhythms and polymeters into grooves that have a standard 4/4 pulse. His grooves often feel as though they’re being played in odd time signatures. However, this is only due to his use of various rhythmic illusions. Some of Tomas Haake’s greatest influences include Neil Peart, Sean Reinert, Terry Bozzio, Vinnie Colaiuta, and Gary Husband.
Recommended Albums: “obZen” – Meshuggah, “The Violent Sleep of Reason” – Meshuggah
Horacio “El Negro” Hernández is a Cuban drummer and percussionist best known for merging elements of jazz and rock music with Afro-Cuban music on the drum set. Hernandez had a career in Cuba as a session drummer up until his late 20s when he moved to the United States. Since the 1990s, he has performed with Michel Camilo, Dizzy Gillespie, McCoy Tyner, Steve Winwood, Santana, and Paquito D’Rivera. Horacio Hernández is known for incorporating clave patterns into his drum set playing with a left-foot pedal. He also demonstrates ambidexterity behind the drum set.
Recommended Albums: “Live at the Blue Note” – Michel Camilo, “Thru My Eyes” – Michel Camilo
Joseph “Ziggy” Modeliste is most famous for his work with the funk band, The Meters. In the drumming community, Modeliste is known for being one of the first drummers to incorporate New Orleans and second line style drumming into popular styles of music. In addition to performing with The Meters, he has also worked with Dr. John, Robert Palmer, John Fogerty, Lee Dorsey, Keith Richards, and many other artists. His drum grooves are frequently sampled by hip-hop artists and have appeared in works by Ice Cube, Public Enemy, LL Cool J, and Run-DMC to name a few.
Recommended Albums: “The Meters’” – The Meters, “Look-Ka Py Py” – The Meters
Simon Phillips is one of the most accomplished session drummers of the past 40 years. He began playing professionally when he was only 12 years old. Phillips’ earliest influences were Buddy Rich, Tony Williams, Billy Cobham, Steve Gadd, and Ian Paice. Some of his earliest gigs were with his father’s Dixieland jazz band. His recording and touring portfolio is beyond impressive. Some notable artists he’s worked with include Toto, Judas Priest, The Who, Jeff Beck, Derek Sherinian, Michael Schenker, David Coverdale, David Gilmour, Frank Zappa, and Mick Jagger.
Recommended Albums: “Falling in Between Live” – Toto, “Oceana” – Derek Sherinian
John Blackwell Jr. toured the world with one of the world’s most successful artists: Prince. Blackwell began learning the drums when he was three years old from his father. By the time he was 17, he was performing professionally. Blackwell is known for his showmanship and his strong sense of groove, as well as his ability to play styles of music ranging from R&B to jazz to fusion. John Blackwell Jr. has also performed with Justin Timberlake, P Diddy, Charlie Singleton, Utada Hikaru, Cameo, and his own group, The John Blackwell Project.
Recommended Albums: “One Nite Alone…Live!” – Prince & The New Power Generation, “4ever Jia” – John Blackwell Project
After having recorded with Peter Gabriel and Sting in the 1980s, Manu Katché became a prominent figure in the world of pop and rock music. He began playing the drums when he was 15 years old, and began working as a session drummer not long after. Over the years, Katché has toured and recorded with many others artists including Jeff Beck, Dire Straits, Tracy Chapman, Herbie Hancock, Joni Mitchell, Joe Satriani, and Tears for Fears. Since the 1990s, Manu Katché has also released a number of solo albums.
Recommended Albums: “…Nothing Like the Sun” – Sting, “So” – Peter Gabriel
Travis Barker is most famous for his work with Blink-182. He joined the band in 1998 and has appeared on their five most recent studio albums. Barker began playing the drums when he was four years old. During high school, he joined the marching band, where he would develop his hand speed and his rudimental chops. Barker is known for his ability to play grooves and fills at blistering fast tempos and for his heavy-hitting playing style. In addition to his work with Blink-182, he has performed with Box Car Racer, Transplants, +44, P!nk, T.I., Avril Lavigne, and many other artists.
Recommended Albums: “Enema of the State” – Blink-182, “Neighborhoods” – Blink-182
Michael Shrieve is known for being Santana’s original drummer. At 19 years old, Shrieve was performing live at the 1969 Woodstock Festival and was the youngest performer there. Michael Shrieve, being a skilled jazz drummer and rock drummer, is responsible for introducing Santana to jazz and Brazilian music. This introduction would have a significant impact on Santana’s music throughout his career as a fusion artist. Shrieve has also worked with Mick Jagger, George Harrison, Pete Townshend, Steve Winwood, Jaco Pastorius, Freddie Hubbard, and Bill Frisell.
Recommended Albums: “Santana” – Santana, “Abraxas” – Santana
Larry Mullen Jr. is the drummer and co-founder of the rock band U2. Mullen began playing the drums when he was nine years old. He was also involved in marching band when he was young, which heavily contributed to his playing style on the drum set. U2’s “War” album demonstrates Mullen’s marching band influenced drumming in particular. In addition to working with U2, he has also participated in various projects with Nanci Griffith, Daniel Lanois, Robbie Robertson, B.B. King, and Automatic Baby. Larry Mullen Jr. has appeared on every U2 album to date.
Recommended Albums: “War” – U2, “No Line on the Horizon” – U2
Alex Van Halen is the current drummer and founding member of the hard rock band, Van Halen. He and his brother Eddie Van Halen are the only members of the group that have remained constant since the band formed in 1972. Alex Van Halen originally started learning guitar but soon switched to learning the drums instead. Some of his early influences were Ginger Baker, John Bonham, Buddy Rich, and Keith Moon. Throughout his career, he became known for using large drum set configurations that incorporated up to four bass drums, octobans, roto toms, and gongs! Some of his most recognized drum parts appear on Van Halen’s “Hot for Teacher,” “Panama,” and “Jump.”
Recommended Albums: “Van Halen” – Van Halen, “Fair Warning” – Van Halen
Antonio Sánchez is best known for his work with Pat Metheny. He began playing the drums when he was five years old, and by his teenage years, Sanchez was already performing professionally. He has shared the stage with Michael Brecker, Avishai Cohen, Chick Corea, David Binney, and Donny McCaslin, just to name a few. In 2014, Sánchez also composed and performed all of the original compositions in the movie “Birdman” on the drums. He is praised for his drum set independence, his authentic approach to Latin and jazz music, as well as his soloing abilities.
Recommended Albums: “The Way Up” – Pat Metheny Group, “Lines in the Sand” – Antonio Sánchez & Migration
Through his work with Nerve, Jojo Mayer has become an influential figure in the world of drum and bass music. He is known for taking programmed electronic and drum and bass rhythms and orchestrating them on the drum set. Mayer began playing the drums and performing with his father’s band at the age of two. By the time he was 18, he was already performing with some of the greatest jazz musicians on the planet like trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie. He has also worked with Intergalactic Maiden Ballet, John Medeski, David Fiuczynski, and Janek Gwizdala.
Recommended Albums: “Ghosts of Tomorrow” – Nerve, “Lunar Crash” – David Fiuczynski & John Medeski
Steve Jordan is best known for his work as a session and touring drummer. His career began in the late 1970s, and he continues to perform today. Jordan has had the chance to work with artists in pop, rock, country, jazz, fusion, and folk music, only to name a few. Some notable acts that he’s played with include The Blues Brothers, LeAnn Rimes, Aretha Franklin, Steely Dan, Toto, The Rolling Stones, Sonny Rollins, John Mayer, Alicia Keys, and Beyoncé. Steve Jordan’s versatility is what makes him one of the most sought-after drummers in the industry.
Recommended Albums: “Continuum” – John Mayer, “Out of the Loop” – The Brecker Brothers
A household name in progressive metal music, Mike Portnoy is recognized as being the original drummer and founding member of the band Dream Theater. His influences throughout his life have included Neil Peart, Bill Bruford, Terry Bozzio, and Carl Palmer. Some defining characteristics of Portnoy’s playing include powerful double bass drum grooves, melodic tom-based drum fills, and a heavy focus on odd time signatures. In addition to working with Dream Theater, he has worked with Liquid Tension Experiment, Avenged Sevenfold, Neal Morse, Adrenaline Mob, Twisted Sister, Flying Colors, and The Winery Dogs.
Recommended Albums: “Awake” – Dream Theater, “Black Clouds & Silver Linings” – Dream Theater
Tommy Aldridge has worked with some of the most legendary heavy metal acts in history. When he was young, drummers like Mitch Mitchell, Joe Morello, John Bonham, and Ginger Baker were his greatest inspirations. Aldridge would go on to perform with artists like Ozzy Osbourne, Whitesnake, Black Oak Arkansas, Ted Nugent, Motörhead, Thin Lizzy, Yngwie Malmsteen, and the Pat Travers Band. Tommy Aldridge is considered a pioneer and innovator of double bass drumming in rock and heavy metal music.
Recommended Albums: “Bark at the Moon” – Ozzy Osbourne, “Slip of the Tongue” – Whitesnake
Gene Hoglan is a prominent figure in heavy metal drumming. He has worked with some of the most notable metal bands spanning a variety of subgenres including thrash metal, death metal, and progressive metal. Some of these acts include Death, Dark Angel, and Strapping Young Lad. Hoglan started playing the drums when he was 13 years old. His favorite drummers at the time were Peter Criss and Neil Peart. Gene Hoglan’s double bass drum playing is an essential component of his overall sound. It’s powerful, precise, and fast. Hoglan is also known for incorporating unique percussion sounds into his setup – like boat propellers!
Recommended Albums: “Symbolic” – Death, “Darkness Descends” – Dark Angel
Jimmy Cobb has appeared on some of the greatest jazz albums of all time including Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blue,” “Sketches of Spain,” and “Someday My Prince Will Come.” He is known for his relaxed and consistent swing time feel on the ride cymbal as heard on tracks like “So What” and “Freddie Freeloader” by Miles Davis. In addition to playing with Miles, Cobb has worked some of the most iconic names in jazz: John Coltrane, “Cannonball” Adderley, Wynton Kelly, Wes Montgomery, Wayne Shorter, and Sarah Vaughan.
Recommended Albums: “Kind of Blue” – Miles Davis, “Coltrane Jazz” – John Coltrane
Known for her work as both a drummer and percussionist, Sheila E. holds an extensive resume having performed with some of the world’s top musicians. She grew up in a musical family and had the opportunity to perform from an early age with her father Pete Escovedo. Since the 1980s, Sheila E. has performed and recorded with Azteca, Prince, Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band, George Duke, Cyndi Lauper, Hans Zimmer, among many others. She is also the goddaughter of the legendary percussionist, Tito Puente.
Recommended Albums: “The Glamorous Life” – Sheila E., “Romance 1600” – Sheila E.
Nicko McBrain is recognized for being a member of the heavy metal band Iron Maiden. He received his first drum set when he was 12 years old. McBrain’s drumming hero was the great Joe Morello of the Dave Brubeck Quartet. Before joining Iron Maiden in 1982, he performed with a number of different artists like Pat Travers, Streetwalkers, and Trust. Through his work with Iron Maiden, Nicko McBrain became known for his single bass drum pedal speed and consistency as well as his massive tom-based fills that typically follow the melodic lines of the other band members.
Recommended Albums: “Piece of Mind” – Iron Maiden, “Powerslave” – Iron Maiden
Lars Ulrich is the drummer for the heavy metal band Metallica. He started playing the drums when he was a teenager. Bands like Deep Purple, Y&T, and Diamond Head inspired him to pursue a career in rock and metal music. Ulrich has received recognition for his signature thrash metal grooves and his incorporation of precise double bass drum patterns into his playing. Some of his most iconic drum parts appear on songs like “Master of Puppets” and “One.” Ulrich has appeared on every Metallica album to date.
Recommended Albums: “Ride the Lightning” – Metallica, “Master of Puppets” – Metallica
Alex Acuña is a world-renowned drummer and percussionist originally from Peru. At 10 years old, he was already performing in a variety of different bands. Through his teenage years and into his 20s, Acuña had a successful career as a session musician in Peru. In 1974, he chose to move to Las Vegas, Nevada where he had the opportunity to perform with Elvis Presley and Diana Ross. His career in the United States led him to work with countless artists including Weather Report, Paul McCartney, Joni Mitchell, Chick Corea, Whitney Houston, Santana, John Patitucci, and Herbie Hancock. Alex Acuña appeared on Weather Report’s “Heavy Weather” album which was one of the first commercially successful fusion albums in history.
Recommended Albums: “Heavy Weather” – Weather Report, “Touchstone” – Chick Corea
Gavin Harrison is known for working with Porcupine Tree and King Crimson. He started playing the drums at the age of six. By age 16, he was drumming professionally. Harrison’s first big break was playing with Iggy Pop in 1986 on a world tour. Before joining Porcupine Tree, he also worked with Dizrhythmia, Gail Ann Dorsey, Incognito, and Claudio Baglioni, among many other artists. Gavin Harrison is known for his creative and complex approach to playing the drums. His playing demonstrates his mastery of rhythm through his use of subdivisions, metric modulation, and beat displacement.
Recommended Albums: “Fear of a Blank Planet” – Porcupine Tree, “Cheating the Polygraph” – Gavin Harrison
Omar Hakim has recorded with some of the world’s most successful musicians. Hakim began playing the drums when he was five years old, and by age 10, he was performing in his father’s original bands. Because of his father’s connections, he also had the opportunity to spend time with and learn from Elvin Jones and Art Blakey throughout his childhood. Being proficient in styles like jazz, pop, fusion, and R&B has led him to record with Michael Jackson, David Bowie, Sting, Madonna, Céline Dion, Miles Davis, Weather Report, and even Daft Punk. Omar Hakim’s versatility and technical proficiency on the drum set has helped him redefine the role of being a successful session drummer.
Recommended Albums: “The Dream of the Blue Turtles” – Sting, “Random Access Memories” – Daft Punk
Carmine Appice is most famous for his work with the psychedelic rock band Vanilla Fudge. He grew up listening to his drumming idols, Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa. By the time he was 20, he had joined Vanilla Fudge, one of the most influential rock bands of the 1960s. Appice is known for his loud and powerful playing style, his double bass drum playing, and his use of groupings and linear patterns. Carmine Appice has also shared the stage and recorded with Rod Stewart, Blue Murder, Pink Floyd, Cactus, Paul Stanley, Ted Nugent, and Michael Schenker.
Recommended Albums: “Vanilla Fudge” – Vanilla Fudge, “Blue Murder” – Blue Murder
Known for merging the worlds of jazz and rock, Danny Seraphine made his mark in the drumming world as the original drummer of the band Chicago. Writing, recording, and performing with Chicago from the late 60s until the early 90s meant that his drumming would be heard by millions of fans and musicians worldwide. More recently, Seraphine has been working with his own project, California Transit Authority. In 2016, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Recommended Albums: “Chicago Transit Authority” – Chicago, “Chicago” – Chicago
Bill Ward is a pioneer of heavy metal drumming as well as a founding member of the heavy metal band Black Sabbath. Like many drummers, his earliest influences were some of the jazz greats: Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich, and Louis Bellson. Having left his mark on anthems like “Paranoid, “War Pigs,” and “Sweet Leaf,” Bill Ward has left none questioning his capabilities. His unique style fuses rudimental elements, elements of swing and other triplet-based music, as well as elements from rock music that came before the days of Black Sabbath. Bill Ward’s drumming has become the definition of traditional heavy metal drumming.
Recommended Albums: “Paranoid” – Black Sabbath, “Master of Reality” – Black Sabbath
Steve Smith is best known for his work with the rock band Journey. He has also made a name for himself as a session drummer. After recording numerous hits with Journey (like “Any Way You Want It,” “Don’t Stop Believin’,” and “Separate Ways”), Smith went on to record with Bryan Adams, Mariah Carey, Dweezil Zappa, Y&T, Vital Information, and even Andrea Bocelli. Having studied under master educators like Alan Dawson, Gary Chaffee, and Freddie Gruber, Steve Smith has also become a world-class educator and clinician as well as a master of technique.
Recommended Albums: “Frontiers” – Journey, “Vital Information” – Vital Information
Clyde Stubblefield was known for his work with James Brown. He was the drummer behind the legendary “Funky Drummer” groove. The sampled drum break has appeared in more than 1000 songs, making it one of the most sampled drum beats in history. As a child, Stubblefield’s first rhythmic influences were the sounds of trains and factories near his home. His first introduction to drumming was from watching parade drummers. In addition to working with James Brown, Clyde Stubblefield worked with Otis Redding, Eddie Kirkland, John Scofield, Garbage, Ben Sidran, The J.B.’s, and Fred Wesley.
Recommended Albums: “Sex Machine” – James Brown, “In the Jungle Groove” – James Brown
Charlie Watts was the longtime drummer of The Rolling Stones. When he was 13 years old, he started learning how to play the drums by playing along to his favorite jazz albums. Watts is known for his way of “playing for the music” as well as his simplistic approach to drumming. Creating the most complicated and intricate music was never a primary goal for The Rolling Stones. Charlie Watts’ simplistic playing style was the perfect fit for the band. Throughout his career, he has also shared the stage with Jack Bruce, Eric Clapton, B.B. King, Howlin’ Wolf, and Rocket 88.
Recommended Albums: “Sticky Fingers” – The Rolling Stones, “Exile on Main St.” – The Rolling Stones
Few drummers have impacted the drumming world like Phil Rudd. As the backbone of the hard rock band AC/DC, Rudd laid down the beats on legendary records like “Back in Black”, “Let There Be Rock”, and “Highway to Hell”. These albums have influenced countless musicians around the world and inspired many of them to start playing drums. Rudd was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003. He also released a solo album titled “Head Job” in 2014.
Recommended Albums: “Back In Black” – AC/DC, “Highway To Hell” – AC/DC
“Papa Jo” Jones, sometimes known as “Jo” Jones, was an influential jazz drummer during the 20th century. Jones was known for using the hi-hats as a timekeeping device instead of the bass drum. He would play the hi-hats with his left foot on beats two and four instead of playing steady quarter notes on the bass drum to keep time. He was also one of the first jazz drummers to popularize brush playing. During his career, Jones played with Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Oscar Peterson, Woody Herman, Teddy Wilson, Charles Mingus, and Coleman Hawkins, among many others.
Recommended Albums: “Jo Jones Trio” – Jo Jones, “Count Basie at Newport” – Count Basie
Danny Carey is the drummer for the progressive rock band Tool. He started playing the drums when he was 10 years old, learning to play concert snare drum as well as how to play jazz. In addition to playing with Tool, Danny Carey has also performed and recorded with Carole King, Volto!, Pigmy Love Circus, Primus, and Green Jellÿ. His technical approach to playing the drums frequently features the use of odd time signatures, polyrhythms, polymeters, and other rhythmic devices and illusions.
Recommended Albums: “Lateralus” – Tool, “10,000 Days” – Tool
Not many drummers can say that they were performing professionally by the age of nine, but Carter Beauford can. Growing up, his family introduced him to many different styles of music which would later influence his drumming with Dave Matthews Band. His ambidexterity and his open-handed setup both contribute to the signature Beauford sound. His playing is often intricate and dense, but always tasteful. Carter Beauford has also worked with Vertical Horizon, Santana, Béla Fleck, and Victor Wooten.
Recommended Albums: “Crash” – Dave Matthews Band, “Big Whiskey & the GrooGrux King” – Dave Matthews Band
While he was considered one of the greatest rock drummers, Ginger Baker still considered himself a jazz drummer up until his death in 2019. His main influences were Phil Seamen, Max Roach, Elvin Jones, and “Philly Joe” Jones. In the 1960s, Baker began using two bass drums while performing with Cream. He was one of the first drummers to use two bass drums in a rock setting, making him a pioneer of double bass drumming in rock music. He is known for applying African rhythms to the drum set, applying different jazz techniques into his rock playing, and for incorporating a variety of percussion instruments into his setup. In addition to working with Cream, Ginger Baker worked with Blind Faith, Fela Kuti, Ginger Baker’s Air Force, Baker Gurvitz Army, and The Graham Bond Organization.
Recommended Albums: “Disraeli Gears” – Cream, “Blind Faith” – Blind Faith
Ahmir Thompson, also known as “?uestlove”, is the drummer for the band The Roots. He started drumming when he was four years old. Some of his earliest influences were James Brown, Parliament, Sly and the Family Stone, and The Average White Band. It wasn’t until he attended an arts-focused high school that he heard the works of the jazz legends like Tony Williams, Max Roach, and “Philly Joe” Jones. The Roots would later become the perfect outlet for “?uestlove” to fuse his knowledge of R&B, jazz, and hip-hop drumming. “?uestlove” has worked with countless artists including Jay-Z, Al Green, The Soulquarians, D’Angelo, Pharrell Williams, Christina Aguilera, and John Mayer.
Recommended Albums: “Things Fall Apart” – The Roots, “Wake Up!” – John Legend & The Roots
Since the 1980s, Cindy Blackman Santana has made a name for herself as one of the world’s leading rock, jazz, and fusion drummers. From performing with Lenny Kravitz and Carlos Santana to Joe Henderson and Ravi Coltrane, she’s developed a distinct playing style that has impacted countless drummers around the globe. Cindy is known for her powerful and explosive drum solos, her dynamic control behind the drum set, and her ability to adapt and react in any musical situation. She is also known for carrying the legacy of one of her heroes, Tony Williams, forward in both her playing and in her clinics.
Recommended Albums: “Live at Montreux 2011: Invitation to Illumination” – Carlos Santana & John McLaughlin, “Another Lifetime” – Cindy Blackman
Having recorded on thousands of albums throughout his career, Jim Keltner is known as one of the greatest session drummers of all time. In fact, he is likely the drummer on many of your favorite recordings dating back to the 1960s. John Lennon, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Joe Cocker, Roy Orbison, Bill Withers, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, James Taylor, Dolly Parton, Pink Floyd, and Brian Wilson are only a few names on his extensive resume. Growing up playing jazz, Keltner developed a relaxed, loose feel behind the drums which has contributed to his signature sound on so many albums.
Recommended Albums: “Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid” – Bob Dylan, “Walls and Bridges” – John Lennon
Over his 75-year career, Roy Haynes has left a legacy on jazz drumming, specifically in regards to the sound of the jazz drum set. Clarity and articulation define the sound of Roy Haynes. His crisp, articulate snare drum sound has been a staple of his playing since his early days. Being fluent in the jazz languages like bebop, fusion, and avant-garde jazz, Haynes has had the opportunity to work with many world-renowned artists including Miles Davis, Chick Corea, Sarah Vaughan, Sonny Rollins, McCoy Tyner, John Coltrane, and Pat Metheny.
Recommended Albums: “Out of the Afternoon” – Roy Haynes Quartet, “Now He Sings, Now He Sobs” – Chick Corea
Jeff Porcaro was the original drummer for the rock band Toto. He is considered one of the most recorded drummers in history and has worked with some of the top musicians in the industry. Some of these artists were Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, Steely Dan, Elton John, Eric Clapton, and Diana Ross. He even recorded on Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” album and Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” album. Jeff Porcaro’s drumming was a staple of the pop/rock sound from the 1970s through to the 1990s. His most iconic drum groove is the “Rosanna Shuffle,” as heard on Toto’s “Rosanna.”
Recommended Albums: “Toto” – Toto, “Katy Lied” – Steely Dan
Carl Palmer is known for his work with the progressive rock band Emerson, Lake, & Palmer. His earliest influences included Buddy Rich, Gene Krupa, Joe Morello, and “Philly Joe” Jones. Palmer’s early influences are evident through his showmanship, which he always showcases during his live drum solos, as well as through his jazz-influenced vocabulary. Carl Palmer’s demonstration of speed, technicality, and endurance would become staples of progressive rock drumming. Palmer has also performed and recorded with Asia, Atomic Rooster, The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, Mike Oldfield, and Qango.
Recommended Albums: “Brain Salad Surgery” – Emerson, Lake & Palmer, “Trilogy” – Emerson, Lake & Palmer
The leader and founder of The Jazz Messengers, Art Blakey was a significant figure in jazz drumming. His career began in the 1930s and lasted until 1990, when he passed away. He was one of the founders of the bebop drumming style along with drummers like Max Roach and Kenny Clarke. His four-limb independence was also innovative, as he was one of the first to apply it to jazz drumming. Art Blakey appears on albums by Dexter Gordon, Hank Mobley, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Lee Morgan, Sonny Rollins, and many other artists.
Recommended Albums: “The Big Beat” – Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers, “Caravan” – Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers
Roger Taylor was the drummer for the rock band Queen. When he was young, his greatest influences were Mitch Mitchell, Keith Moon, and John Bonham. Taylor’s drumming style was a key contributor to Queen’s overall sound. What would “Fat Bottomed Girls” be without Taylor’s powerful descending 16th and 32nd note tom fills? Or “We Are the Champions” without his explosive cymbal shots leading into each chorus? Roger Taylor would ultimately set the bar for how to perform in a stadium rock band.
Recommended Albums: “A Night at the Opera” – Queen, “Jazz” – Queen
“Philly Joe” Jones was the drummer for Miles Davis’ First Great Quintet during the late 1950s. He was an innovator in jazz drumming known for his unique approach to soloing. Jones would use devices like motivic development, phrasing, and “call and response” in his solos. These tools would influence countless drummers in the way that they would approach the drum set melodically. “Philly Joe” also performed with Chet Baker, Clifford Brown, John Coltrane, Bill Evans, Hank Mobley, Art Farmer, Freddie Hubbard, and Dexter Gordon.
Recommended Albums: “Blue Train” – John Coltrane, “Milestones” – Miles Davis
Louis Bellson is known for being the first drummer to use two bass drums. He started playing the drums when he was three years old and was playing professionally by the time he graduated from high school. Some of his earliest influences were Sid Catlett and “Papa Jo” Jones. Bellson performed with some of the most successful bandleaders and musicians of the Swing era including Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Woody Herman, Sarah Vaughan, Dizzy Gillespie, and Louis Armstrong. Louis Bellson appeared on more than 200 albums throughout his career.
Recommended Albums: “Skin Deep” – Louis Bellson, “Are You Ready For This!” – Buddy Rich & Louis Bellson
Having played with artists such as Miles Davis, Keith Jarrett, John Scofield and Pat Metheny, Jack DeJohnette is known as one of the most diverse and influential drummers of the 20th century. He has taken his knowledge of R&B, fusion, jazz, and many other styles of music and molded them together into his own unique voice. His recording resume is also extensive. Some other artists he has collaborated with include John Abercrombie, Michael Brecker, Chick Corea, Bill Evans, Santana, Esperanza Spalding, Joe Henderson, Herbie Hancock, Freddie Hubbard, and Chris Potter.
Recommended Albums: “Tales from the Hudson” – Michael Brecker, “Live-Evil” – Miles Davis
In addition to being the frontman of the Foo Fighters, Dave Grohl was also the drummer for the grunge band Nirvana during the 1990s. Grohl began playing the drums in high school, only a few years before joining Nirvana. His drumming also appears on albums by Scream, Tenacious D, Queens of the Stone Age, Probot, Nine Inch Nails, Them Crooked Vultures, and the Zac Brown Band. While Grohl’s grooves and fills are not always complex, they have stood the test of time and have become iconic. When any drummer hears the opening guitar riff to “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” they can’t help but wait in anticipation for Grohl’s legendary opening drum fill.
Recommended Albums: “Nevermind” – Nirvana, “Them Crooked Vultures” – Them Crooked Vultures
Peter Erskine is known for his ability to adapt to any musical situation. He began playing the drums at the age of four. Over the past 40 years, Erskine has appeared on more than 600 albums that span many genres including jazz, pop, rock, R&B, and world music. In addition to being a world class performer, he is also a respected clinician and educator. Peter Erskine has worked with John Abercrombie, Weather Report, Steps Ahead, Michael Brecker, Randy Brecker, Diana Krall, Joni Mitchell, Jaco Pastorius, and many other artists.
Recommended Albums: “Steps Ahead” – Steps Ahead, “Some Skunk Funk” – Randy Brecker & Michael Brecker
Dave Weckl has received recognition through his work in the fusion genre. His technicality and fluidity behind the drums have been an inspiration to drummers around the world for decades. As a teenager in the late 1970s, Dave Weckl had already begun playing professionally. With the help of Peter Erskine, Weckl started playing with the band French Toast and working as a session drummer. Since the 1980s, Dave Weckl has collaborated with countless artists including Simon & Garfunkel, Chick Corea, Michael Brecker, Diana Ross, Robert Plant, Michel Camilo, and George Benson.
Recommended Albums: “Master Plan” – Dave Weckl, “The Chick Corea Elektric Band” – Chick Corea
Ian Paice is the drummer for the hard rock band Deep Purple. When he began playing the drums at the age of 15, many great drummers inspired him including Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich, Ringo Starr, and Charles Connor. Ginger Baker, Mitch Mitchell, and Carmine Appice would influence him later on in his career. Many admire Paice for his energetic playing, his speed around the drum set, and even more specifically, his blazing fast single and double stroke rolls. Take a listen to the beginning of “Burn,” and you’ll know what we mean. Throughout his career, he has also performed with Whitesnake, Paul McCartney, The Velvet Underground, George Harrison, and many other artists.
Recommended Albums: “Machine Head” – Deep Purple, “Made in Japan” – Deep Purple
Terry Bozzio is most famous for his work with Frank Zappa which began in the 1970s. He started playing the drums at the age of six. His greatest influences were Ginger Baker and Mitch Mitchell. Bozzio has been an innovator in drumming by introducing the idea of soloing with ostinatos. This concept allowed him and countless other drummers to take melodic drumming to a whole new level. Throughout his career, he also performed with Missing Persons, U.K., Dweezil Zappa, Jeff Beck, Steve Vai, and Duran Duran.
Recommended Albums: “Sheik Yerbouti” – Frank Zappa, “Danger Money” – U.K.
Over the years, many world-renowned rock drummers have credited Mitch Mitchell as a significant influence. Having learned how to play jazz early on, Mitch Mitchell was another pioneer of the fusion movement in the 1960s and 1970s. He understood the role of the drum set in a jazz setting which allowed him to focus more on supporting the melody in a rock setting. It was atypical for rock drummers to do this during this era. His playing was often triplet-based, and he often incorporated many different rudimental ideas into his grooves and fills. He is remembered especially for his work with The Jimi Hendrix Experience.
Recommended Albums: “Are You Experienced” – The Jimi Hendrix Experience, “Electric Ladyland” – The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Levon Helm is remembered as the drummer for one of the most influential rock bands in history, The Band. Helm grDavid Gans Photoew up witnessing performances by some of the earliest rock and roll artists like Elvin Presley, Ronnie Hawkins, and Bo Diddley in the early to mid-1950s. By his early 20s, Helm was performing with The Hawks (a name that would later change to The Band) who went on to support Bob Dylan throughout the 1960s. Levon Helm is not only known as a drummer, but also for his vocal, mandolin, harmonica, and guitar work. In addition to his work with Bob Dylan, The Band, and many other artists, he has released six studio albums under his own name.
Recommended Albums: “Music From Big Pink” – The Band, “The Band” – The Band
David Garibaldi is the drummer for Tower of Power, and he is known as one of the greatest funk drummers of all time. By the age of 17, he was playing the drums professionally. His recording credits include work with Natalie Cole, Jermaine Jackson, Boz Scaggs, Wishful Thinking, and the Yellowjackets, to name a few. The drumming community admires Garibaldi for his intricate and complex grooves, his musicality, and his overall drum sound. David Garibaldi’s complexity and musicality raised the bar worldwide for drummers approaching funk music.
Recommended Albums: “Tower of Power” – Tower of Power, “Back to Oakland” – Tower of Power
Bill Bruford was the original drummer for the progressive rock band Yes. When he was young, his greatest influences included Max Roach, Joe Morello, Art Blakey, and Ginger Baker. His jazz influences had a significant impact on the way he played throughout his career. Bruford has received recognition for his use of complex sticking patterns, rhythmic displacement, metric modulation, and odd meters. Bruford’s innovation in the world of progressive rock drumming has left a legacy that can still be heard in progressive rock drummers today. Bill Bruford also worked with King Crimson, Earthworks, U.K., Bruford, and Genesis.
Recommended Albums: “Close to the Edge” – Yes, “Red” – King Crimson
Joe Morello is known for his work with the Dave Brubeck Quartet. If you’ve ever listened to “Take Five” or “Blue Rondo à la Turk,” then you’ve heard Morello. He appears on more than 120 albums by artists including Dave Brubeck, Gary Burton, Paul Desmond, Dick Schory, Art Pepper, and Hank Garland. The Dave Brubeck Quartet was known specifically for incorporating odd time signatures into jazz music. Morello’s solo in 5/4 on “Take Five” was revolutionary in the world of jazz music. To this day, it is exemplary for demonstrating how to solo in an odd time signature.
Recommended Albums: “Time Out” – The Dave Brubeck Quartet, “Time Further Out” – The Dave Brubeck Quartet
Keith Moon was the drummer for The Who during the 1960s and 1970s. He had a powerful playing style that focused heavily on using the cymbals, the toms, and drum fills in general. He was also known for incorporating his bass drum into many of his drum fills. His drumming style was reflective of his personality; he had a reputation for being wild and unpredictable on and off the stage. In addition to playing with The Who, Keith Moon also worked with Jeff Beck, John Paul Jones, Jimmy Page, Nicky Hopkins, as well as the Plastic Ono Band.
Recommended Albums: “Who’s Next” – The Who, “Quadrophenia” – The Who
Gene Krupa is responsible for the drum set becoming a solo instrument. He was one of the very first drum set soloists in history, his most popular solo appearing on Benny Goodman’s recording of “Sing, Sing, Sing.” His drum solos even incorporated showmanship and stick tricks! Gene Krupa is also responsible for the creation of the modern drum set that we use today. Because of Krupa’s request, Slingerland Drums created the tom-toms with tunable heads. Krupa, with the help of Avedis Zildjian Company, also contributed to the standardization of cymbal names like the ride cymbal, hi-hat cymbals, and crash cymbals.
Recommended Albums: “The Famous 1938 Carnegie Hall Jazz Concert” – Benny Goodman, “Krupa and Rich” – Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich
Phil Collins is known for his work with the progressive rock band Genesis and his work as a solo artist. Collins paved the way for progressive rock drummers that would come after him. His drumming is musical and interactive, yet technical and intricate. Very few bands during the 1970s and 1980s were playing songs in 13/8 (“Turn It On Again”) or alternating between 16th note meters like 13/16 and 15/16 (“Firth of Fifth”). Phil Collins performs on many complicated tracks just like these, continuously demonstrating his musical and technical abilities.
Recommended Albums: “Selling England by the Pound” – Genesis, “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway” – Genesis
Dennis Chambers is best known for his work with artists like The Brecker Brothers, Santana, and Parliament-Funkadelic. Chambers began playing professionally at the age of six, and by age 18, he was playing with Parliament-Funkadelic. In addition to being a significant contributor and innovator in fusion drumming, Chambers would also inspire a new generation of drummers with the concept of “gospel chops.” Over the years, he has also performed with Mike Stern, Steely Dan, George Duke, John Scofield, John McLaughlin, Niacin, and Greg Howe.
Recommended Albums: “Blue Matter” – John Scofield, “Extraction” – Greg Howe, Victor Wooten, and Dennis Chambers
Having appeared on more than 4000 albums, Bernard “Pretty” Purdie is one of, if not the most, recorded drummers of all time. His career began in the late 1950s, and he is known for his innovation in the world of funk, soul, and R&B drumming. Purdie is also the inventor of the legendary half-time shuffle: the “Purdie Shuffle.” Some notable artists he has worked with include Aretha Franklin, Steely Dan, James Brown, Hall & Oates, Dizzy Gillespie, B.B. King, Oliver Nelson, and Joe Cocker.
Recommended Albums: “Aja” – Steely Dan, “Young, Gifted, and Black” – Aretha Franklin
Elvin Jones is one of the most influential and important figures in jazz drumming. He is recognized for his use of triplet-based comping and soloing ideas, his timekeeping ability, his use of timbre and texture, and like Tony Williams, his incorporation of polyrhythms. Jones is most famous for being a member of the John Coltrane Quartet during the early 1960s. In addition to working with Coltrane, he also worked with Wayne Shorter, Joe Henderson, McCoy Tyner, Ornette Coleman, Thad Jones, Charles Mingus, Miles Davis, and Lee Konitz.
Recommended Albums: “A Love Supreme” – John Coltrane, “JuJu” – Wayne Shorter
Having performed on more than 35,000 studio recordings, Hal Blaine is one of the most recorded drummers in history. Some of his career highlights include working with Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, The Beach Boys, The Monkees, Simon & Garfunkel, John Denver, The Supremes, Neil Diamond, and Diana Ross. He was also a member of the famous group, the Wrecking Crew: a group of Los Angeles’ top studio musicians during the 1960s and 1970s. In 2000, Hal Blaine was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Recommended Albums: “Bookends” – Simon & Garfunkel, “Strangers in the Night” – Frank Sinatra
Known for his precision, his creativity, and his reggae-influenced drumming with The Police, Stewart Copeland is one of the most renowned drummers on the planet. Copeland began playing the drums and taking private lessons when he was 12 years old. In 1977, while he was living in England, he founded the rock band The Police. Copeland is known for his recognizable style. His distinct playing often includes intricate but subtle hi-hat work as well as syncopated snare drum patterns. Stewart Copeland also utilized an array of unique sounds with The Police. Octobans, high-pitched snare drums, and effect cymbals allowed him to authentically incorporate sounds associated with other styles of music from around the world.
Recommended Albums: “Ghost in the Machine” – The Police, “Synchronicity” – The Police
During the Swing era in the 1930s, drummers would typically play consistent quarter notes on their bass drum when playing with a big band. Max Roach took this concept and applied it to the ride cymbal. This concept not only allowed drummers to keep time with the ride cymbal, but it also allowed drummers to modify the ride cymbal pattern to accent different parts of the melody and comp for soloists. Roach had a successful career working with many musicians like Chet Baker, Clifford Brown, Sonny Rollins, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, and Dizzy Gillespie.
Recommended Albums: “Clifford Brown & Max Roach” – Clifford Brown & Max Roach, “Saxophone Colossus” – Sonny Rollins
Billy Cobham is an important figure in the development of the modern drum set. He was one of the first drummers to mount the china cymbal “upside down,” and he was one of the first drummers to use a gong bass drum. Cobham also helped popularize the use of two bass drums in a rock and fusion setting. While drummers like Louis Bellson had used two bass drums in the past, they hadn’t used them in such a powerful and aggressive way as Cobham did. This new way of playing would later influence a future generation of rock and metal drummers. Billy Cobham is also known for his melodic approach to playing the drums. His opening solo on “Searching for the Right Door” from his album “Spectrum” demonstrates this approach perfectly.
Recommended Albums: “Spectrum” – Billy Cobham, “Inner Mounting Flame” – Mahavishnu Orchestra
Ringo Starr is known for being the drummer of The Beatles. He was an essential component of The Beatles’ signature sound as he had a way of composing unique and musical drum parts. During the 1960s, this was uncommon in a rock and roll setting. His grooves on songs like “Come Together” and “The End” would not only become recognizable – they would become iconic. His drum parts were unlike anything anyone had ever heard before. The fact that he also played left-handed on a right-handed setup also contributed to his one-of-a-kind drum sound.
Recommended Albums: “Abbey Road” – The Beatles, “Ringo” – Ringo Starr
For more than 40 years, Steve Gadd has been one of the most in-demand drummers in the world. He began playing the drums when he was seven years old. Some of his early influences were Elvin Jones, Buddy Rich, Tony Williams, and Rick Marotta. Steve Gadd has appeared on hundreds of albums throughout his career. Some of his most famous grooves appear on songs like “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” and “Late in the Evening” by Paul Simon. Some other artists he has recorded with include Chick Corea, Weather Report, Steve Khan, Paul McCartney, Frank Sinatra, Jaco Pastorius, and Steely Dan.
Recommended Albums: “Friends” – Chick Corea, “Aja” – Steely Dan
Tony Williams began playing the drums and studying with Alan Dawson when he was eight years old. By the age of 17, Williams was performing with Miles Davis’ Second Great Quintet. He had a unique and experimental way of playing the drums that incorporated polyrhythms and metric modulation. Williams was one of the first drum set players to apply these rhythmic concepts to jazz music. He, along with his trio, The Tony Williams Lifetime, is known for being a pioneer of the fusion genre. Tony Williams also performed with Chet Baker, Stanley Clarke, Herbie Hancock, Wynton Marsalis, Eric Dolphy, Ron Carter, and Sonny Rollins.
Recommended Albums: “Four & More” – Miles Davis, “Emergency!” – The Tony Williams Lifetime
Some refer to Vinnie Colaiuta as a chameleon in the music industry. From recording in the studio with Norah Jones and Megadeth to touring the world with Sting and Chick Corea, Vinnie Colaiuta truly does it all. After attending the Berklee College of Music in Boston in the early 1970s, Colaiuta found his first big break with Frank Zappa. After leaving Zappa’s band in 1981, he went on to record with hundreds of artists including Faith Hill, Joni Mitchell, John Patitucci, Ray Charles, Josh Groban, Steely Dan, Bill Evans, and many others.
Recommended Albums: “Joe’s Garage” – Frank Zappa, “Ten Summoner’s Tales” – Sting
John Bonham was one of the greatest rock drummers ever to live. He was known for being the drummer of the rock band Led Zeppelin. Bonham’s early influences were many of the jazz greats including Max Roach, Gene Krupa, and Buddy Rich. His jazz influences had a significant impact on the way he played with Led Zeppelin, as many of their compositions featured a swing feel. He continues to receive recognition for his feel and groove, his right foot speed with a single bass drum pedal, and his power behind the drum set. John Bonham appeared on every album that Led Zeppelin released.
Recommended Albums: “Led Zeppelin II” – Led Zeppelin, “Physical Graffiti” – Led Zeppelin
Neil Peart was the drummer for the progressive rock band Rush. During his career, he became one of the most recognized faces in the drumming world. Peart pushed the musical boundaries of rock music aside and paved the way for the future generation of rock drummers. Peart was acknowledged and praised for many aspects of his drumming including his composed drum parts and his live in-concert drum solos. Neil Peart’s legendary playing appears on 19 of Rush’s studio albums. His legendary grooves heard in songs like “Tom Sawyer” and “2112” have become air drumming anthems across the world.
Recommended Albums: “Hemispheres” – Rush, “Permanent Waves” – Rush
Known for his power, energy, flawless technique, and his incredible hand speed, Buddy Rich is widely considered one of, if not the most, influential drummers of all time. Rich began playing the drums when he was 18 months old in vaudeville, and he became an official bandleader when he was 11 years old. Buddy Rich performed with some of the most acclaimed musicians of the 20th century including Charlie Parker, Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie, Harry James, and many other musicians and bandleaders. Buddy Rich is also known for his incredible drum solos that showcased not only his speed and technique but also his showmanship through the use of various stick tricks!
Recommended Albums: “Big Swing Face” – Buddy Rich Big Band, “Swingin’ New Big Band” – Buddy Rich Big Band
That concludes our picks for the top 100 drummers of all time! It’s an evolving list and, of course, very subjective. Hopefully you saw some of your favorites on our list and also discovered some new drummers to check out as well. Do you agree with our selections? Were you surprised by any them? Who else would you have included?
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