The Best Drummers In The World Ever! Now that's a tough one to narrow down. With so many great players and different styles it's almost impossible. But, we're going to give it a try.
Here we have 10 of the finest players in the world, past and present, across all genres of music. They have been picked based on a combination of factors including their technique, style, impact, creativity, originality, and contribution to the world of drumming.
It's not easy to pick the top 10 best ever, and it's even harder to rank them from 1 - 10, but we've tried to do it logically. The list starts at 10th and works down to 1st. Lets go...
Born - 05/1944 | Nationality - Panamainian | Genre - Rock/Fusion
Billy Cobham became known in the drum world in the late 60's and early 70's playing with Miles Davis and with the Mahavishnu Orchestra, a jazz-rock fusion group. He is widely seen as the best fusion drummer in the world, and one of the top players in any genre of music.
Some of the things that make Billy one of the best include his technique which is superb, he also plays open handed which isn't all that common. This combines with his explosive power to produce a style that's precise and and full of energy. The amount of passion that he puts into his playing is clear to see and it comes across in his music.
Creativley, he puts a lot of other drummers to shame with his driving tom and snare rolls, and his cymbal work. But, at the other end of the spectrum, he's just as good at coming up with delicate little phrases and ride cymbal patterns too.
The top things that make Billy a true great are his style and influence. His diverse style is unique to him and he has influenced the playing of drummers in jazz, rock, funk, and fusion. He's the best fusion drummer ever, and he helped to develop drum set playing and take it a new directions.
Top 5 tracks: 1. Celestial Terrestrial Commuters (Mahavishnu Orchestra), 2. Noonward Race (Mahavishnu Orchestra), 3. Right Off (Miles Davis), 4. Quadrant 4 (Billy Cobham), 5. Stratus (Billy Cobham)
Born - 08/1939 | Nationality - British | Genre - Rock, Jazz
Ginger Baker has been in many successful bands playing both jazz and rock, but is best known for his work in rock super-group Cream. He pioneered the use of double bass drums in rock drumming, and laid the foundation for today's rock drummers even though his roots are in jazz.
His style is similar to Keith Moon's - often ferocious and intense, but perhaps a little more controlled. With Cream, he played loud and he played creatively using some of his jazz drumming skills including off beats and syncopation. Effectivley, he was the first jazz-rock fusion drummer, and that's one of his big contributions to the world of drums and partly what makes him one of the best drummers ever.
Ginger's technique and creativity were also top draw, as was his big drum sound. He even went as far as to build his own drums out of perspex to get the sound he wanted. How about that!
Ginger isn't always given the credit he deserves by the general public, but drummers and musicians still hail him as one of the world's top and most important jazz-rock drummers ever. His influence and impact have been far reaching and he planted the seed for fusion drummers everywhere.
Top 5 tracks: 1. Toad (Cream), 2. Sunshine Of Your love (Cream), 3. Politician (Cream), 4. Crossroads (Cream), 5. Do What You like (Blind Faith)
Born - 08/1946 | Nationality - British | Genre - Pop/Rock
Keith Moon is often thought of as the wild man of rock drums, and I guess that's actually true. But, that's not all there is to remember about Keith.
With The Who he pushed the boundaries of rock drumming by throwing conventional playing out of the window (along with a few tv's might I add).
He stopped using hi-hats altogether and placed tom rolls and double bass drum parts in some unusual but amazingly effective gaps in the music. It was a very original, perhaps even sloppy sounding style, but it worked brilliantly in the Who's music.
One of the reasons Keith was so unique was that he wasn't afraid to do or try anything when he was sat behind the kit. He played off of the guitar parts and vocals by Who band mates Townsend and Daltry, where other drummers would just play a straight safe beat.
He was integral to the band's sound, and showed that a rock drummer doesn't have to be restrained to keeping time and playing a fill at the end of every 8 bars. A fill can be played anywhere, a beat can be more inventive, lively, and impulsive. If it sounds good and works, do it! This is why he was one of the greatest drummers ever.
Some people see him as being a nut who just thrashed around the kit, but those who take a closer look at his playing realise just how remarkable it was. His technique wasn't the best, but his originality, style, feel, and contribution to drumming more than make up for that. One of the top rockers for sure.
Top 5 tracks: 1. My Generation (The Who), 2. The Kids Are Alright (The Who), 3. I Can See For Miles (The Who), 4. Young Man Blues (The Who), 5. Won't Get Fooed Again (The Who)
Born - 04/1945 | Nationality - American | Genre - Jazz, Pop, Fusions, Latin, Sessions
Steve Gadd is perhaps one of the lesser known drummers in this list, primarily because he didn't achieve widespread fame in a band, he was a session legend. His ability to create an iressitable groove and sit right in the pocket is simply extraordinary.
One of the reasons he has been so successful and has played on countless records (including big names like Paul Simon and Steely Dan) is his ability to turn a good song into a great song by coming up with the perfect drum part.
Some of the best drum set grooves ever written, such as '50 Ways To Leave Your Lover' and 'Late In The Evening', were coined by Steve. His technique and touch on the drums can be light and graceful, hard and piercing, or anyway in between but it's always hugely tasteful and sprinkled with his special brand of drumming magic.
The attributes that make Steve one of the best drummers ever are probably his creativity, feel, and technique. He may not be as well known or as influential on such a large scale as some of the other drummers, but those who are aware of his playing recognise him for the amazing talent he is.
Top 5 tracks: 1. Late In The Evening (Paul Simon), 2. Aja (Steely Dan), 3. Sicily (Chick Corea), 4. The Trial (Chick Corea), 5. Silly Putty (Stanley Clarke)
Born - 03/1950 | Nationality - British | Genre - Prog Rock
Carl Palmer is unquestionably one of rock's legendary players. He's a brilliant technician and showman who also has super speed and dynamics in abundance. Starting drums at age 11, he never looked back and was already a well respected working drummer by age 16.
Initially he was influenced by jazz drumming legends like Buddy Rich, Joe Morello, and Art Blakey among others, but Carl developed his own technique and feel which he has used with great success in many different bands.
Argueably, Carl's best work was with rock group Emerson, Lake, & Palmer in the 1970's. The group's mixture of art rock, jazz, electronica, pop, and rock 'n' roll allowed Carl to use his wide range of drumming skills to the full. He combined showmanship, inventiveness, and good old rock intensity to produce a style that was to-the-point and interesting, but never predictable. His drum solos were also explosive and full of creative ideas and touches.
It's not suprising that the features of Carl's playing that make him one of the best are his technique and creativity. His influence isn't as far reaching as some other drummers, but it should be. He's a real drummer's drummer.
Top 5 tracks: 1. Jerusalem (ELP), 2. Toccata (ELP), 3. Tank (ELP), 4. Fanfare For The Common Man (ELP), 5. Bullfrog (The Carl Palmer Band)
Born - 01/1924 | Nationality - American | Genre - Jazz
Max Roach was the most precise and musical jazz drummer in the bebop era. In fact, he was a pioneer of bebop, but also worked in other styles later in his career. He helped drummers gain respect as true musicians, and was big influence on the pulse being transferred to the ride cymbal.
Like many of the best drummers he started playing at a young age, and went on to play with many great jazz musicians such as Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, and more.
His technique was excellent producing a sharp, crisp sound and he could play at previously unheard of tempos. Max's four-limb independence was amazingly good too, and was put to use in his drum solos.
Max pushed drumming boundaries further by writing some very succesful drum compositions such as The Drum Also Waltzes and Drums Unlimted that showed off the drum set as a solo instrument capable of creating structure, themes, and phrases.
His contruibution to the world of drums is massive. He was an innovator, he changed the way the drum set was played, showed what the drum set alone was capable of, and was a driving force behind a new type of jazz. Combine that with his style, technique, and creativity, and there's no doubt he was one of the most awesome players and deserves to be in the top 10.
Top 5 tracks: 1. Salt Peanuts (Dizzy Gillespie & Charlie Parker), 2. Money Jungle (Ellington, Mingus, Roach), 3. Birth Of The Cool (Miles Davis), 4. The Drum Also Waltzes (Max Roach), 5. Drums Unlimited (Max Roach)
Born - 09/1927 | Nationality - American | Genre - Jazz
Elvin Jones was one of the hottest jazz drummers around in his day. He started drumming from an early age and built up amazing technique, speed, and feel. He is quite probably the most innovative and passionate drummer ever.
He had a relentless, driving style that made full use of his fantastic limb independence. With tumbling triplets and polyrhythmic beats, he seemed to treat every drum and cymbal in the set as equally important. Sometimes, he could look very chaotic when he played, but he was always in control, and always knew what he was doing.
Elvin played with some of the biggest names in jazz including Charles Mingus, Miles Davis, and John Coltrane. But, it's his 6 years with Coltrane that are often seen to have produced his best recordings, espcially the iconic album A Love Supreme.
Elvin's contribution to drumming is perhaps the biggest reason he's one of the best drummers ever. But, his original style, impact, technicality and intense passion when playing are also big reasons. He was an innovator who took jazz drums in a new, bombastic, exciting direction.
Top 5 tracks: 1. A Love Supreme, Part 1: Acknowledgment (John Coltrane), 2. Afro-Blue (John Coltrane), 3. Chasin' The Trane (John Coltrane Quartet), 4. Beau-ty (philly Joe and Elvin Jones), 5. Monk's Dream (Larry Young)
Born - 05/1948 | Nationality - British | Genre - Rock
Led Zeppelin sticksman, John Bonham, is the father of hard rock drumming and is one of rock's most loved beatsmiths by far. He paved the way for all the hard hitting, powerful rock drummers that have followed. His style has been emulated and copied by countless thousands of players, but his essence and feel is still unique to him.
John's bass drum technique, broken triplets, and wide open drum sound are some of the great aspects of his drumming. But, what really tied it all together was the passion and intensity that he played with, he always gave it 110% which is exactly what Zeppelin's music needed.
Never one to shy away from the limelight, John would often play his famous 'Moby Dick' drum solo live which could last anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes. His use of hand percussion, cymbals (including a large gong), and sometimes timpani set him apart from other drummers, not that he wasn't already a cut above the rest!
Perhaps the two biggest factors that made John one of the greatest were his originality and style. Before him nobody really got stuck into the drums hard, and that combined with his great feel to make him a groovin' powerhouse. He's an absolute rock god.
Top 5 tracks: 1. Good Times, Bad Times (Led Zeppelin), 2. Rock And Roll (Led Zeppelin), 3. When The Levee Breaks (Led Zeppelin), 4. Kashmir (Led Zeppelin), 5. Fool In The Rain (Led Zeppelin)
Born - 09/1952 | Nationality - Canadian| Genre - Rock
As long time drummer for rock group Rush, Neil Peart has spent more than 30 years demonstrating his drumming talent. He is a master at creating meticulously detailed and complex drum parts that work beautifully.
Another great aspect of Neil's playing is his use of many different percussion instruments including tubular bells, temple blocks, triangles, timpani, and drum machines. They've all helped him to become one of the most musically creative drummers in rock, or in any genre for that matter.
Neil is also a master of the drum solo, producing intricate solos with odd time signatures, ostinatos, which make full use of his outstanding limb independance. He concentrates on creating something musical, not self indulgent and that's why his solos on Rush's albums work so well. He's a true student of drumming excellence and always pushes himself to develop and get as close to perfection as possible.
Neil is to the world of rock drumming, what Buddy Rich is to the world of jazz drumming - a true icon. He continues to contribute and inspire players all over the world and is an example of what hard work and constant development can do for your playing. Undoubtably one of the best drummers ever.
Top 5 tracks: 1. Cygnus X-1 (Rush), 2. Spirit Of Radio (Rush), 3. Tom Sawyer (Rush), 4. Leave That Thing Alone (Rush), 5. One Little Victory (Rush)
Born - 19/1917 | Nationality - American | Genre - Jazz/Swing
Buddy Rich is thought by many to be the best jazz drummer ever, and many more consider him to be the best in any genre. Period. Starting at a very young age, Buddy performed with some of the best swing and jazz groups in the world including his own group The Buddy Rich Orchestra.
His technique was impeccable and his speed and one handed roll were simply out of this world. He could play some of the cleanest, crispest rolls i've ever heard, and he made it look easy.
Suprisingly, Buddy never practiced outside of live performances and never took any formal drum lessons. But, that didn't stop him from developing extraordinary creativity, flair, and becoming a master of improvised drum solos. In drum battles he would often overshadow even great players like Gene Krupa who went as far to say that Buddy was "The greatest drummer ever to have drawn breath."
His contribution to the drumming world and his influence on new generations of players is huge. He is definately one of the most incredible drummers we've ever seen, and he's a worthy No.1 on our best drummers in the world ever list.
Top 5 tracks: 1. West Side Storey Medley (Buddy Rich Orchestra), 2. Channel One Suite (Buddy Rich Orchestra), 3. New Blues (Buddy Rich Orchestra), 4. Brainwashed (Buddy Rich), 5. The Monster (Buddy Rich)
So, that's the end of our The Best Drummers In The World Ever!. You might not agree with it, or might have changed a few things around. That's cool, everyone has their own opinion, this is just one.
Here are some of the excellent drummers that didn't quite make the top 10: Louie Bellson, Roy Haynes, Tony Willaims, Art Blakey, Terry Bozzio, Bill Bruford, Hal Blaine.
Have your own top 10 list? Who do you think should be in the top 10 best ever and why? Write a page below and submit it to us!
Here's what other visitors to this page have written.
Jimmy "the Rev" Sullivan! Not rated yet
I have seen a post that had him number 2 under Travis Barker? I have listened to drummers for over 40 years and have heard most of them including "The …
Jazz Messenger Not rated yet
Art Blakey was one of the most influential jazz pioneers in the world of progressive jazz whose influence on the many musicians who played at different …