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Buddy Rich
Neil Peart
John Bonham
Steve Gadd
Ringo Starr
Keith Moon
Carl Palmer
Gene Krupa
Max Roach
Elvin Jones
Ginger Baker
Billy Cobham
Stewart Copeland
Dennis Chambers
Jaki Leibezeit
Terry Bozzio
Bill Bruford
Hal Blaine
Mike Portnoy

Rock & Progressive Drummers

by Ian Pasio
(Glendale, Californiz)

Barriemore Barlow

Barriemore Barlow

Barriemore Barlow Carl Palmer John Henry Bonham Phil Collins

Trying to narrow this down to 10 is like trying to pick your favorite string of spaghetti on a plate!

I tried to mix in progressive, and pure rock drummers on the same list. When you get drummers of this caliber, it really becomes more an issue of preference, than actually, who is better. Admittedly there are MANY Great drummers, but I had to chose 10.

Sorry for the great one's I didn't mention. My list of my favorite, greatest drummers.

Oh, these are not necessarily in a particular order. That would be impossible.

Barriemore Barlow (Jethro Tull): As a drummer myself, I can play many of the songs, by many of the drummers below. There are times I listen to Barriemore Barlow, and I don't even know what he's playing. Kind of like putting Vinnie Caliuta in a rock band.

No one has mastered technique, time, setting a pocket, and yet playing out his mind, but within the song like Barriemore Barlow, in my humble opinion.
Tracks: Hunting Girl, Passion Play, Thick As A Brick, Conundrum.

Carl Palmer (ELP): Have you ever seen Carl Palmer play? Not just listened, but tried to watch? He is a god. There is, or has never been a better progressive drummer than Carl Palmer. Buddy Rich said, he is the most technically sound drummer he has ever seen. That's quite an endorsement. So why below Barlow? Have you heard his work with Asia? Stiff, robotic, predictable. "Blasphemy," you may say. Hey, who would you rather have heard in Asia, Palmer, or Cozy Powell?
Tracks: Tarkus, 1st Impression, Pirates, Works, hell, anything ELP!

Phil Collins (Genesis): Phil Collins? "Misunderstanding Phil Collins?" No. And I really hate it when someone says, "Oh, In The Air Tonight!?" Ha...hell no! I mean, "Suppers Ready," "Firth of Fifth," "Watcher of the Skies," "Dancing Out With a Moonlit Night," "The Knife," need I go on. Some of the most genius drum tracks ever written. That Phil Collins. It was a shame, and a waste to watch him drum to crap like, "Turn it on Again."

Mark Portnoy (Dream Theater): Like Palmer, one of the greatest technicians to ever put an ass on a drum throne, and like Barlow, some true, WTF is he playing...moments! If you haven't heard Mark Portnoy play, you really owe it to yourself to listen to the polish, precision, and genius that is Mark Portnoy. After seeing him in concert, during his drum solo, the crowd was actually becoming silent, so they could better watch him work, while making it look effortless.
Tracks: Metropolis, Lie, Metropolis Pt. 2, anything else he plays.

Neil Peart (Rush): Like I said, when you get this caliber of drummer, it comes down to preference. No one is technically better than Neil Peart. BUT, personally, and I know most of you will disagree with me; sometimes, (Now ducking), I think he overplays. I know he's there, ripping off stuff I only dream of playing, but unlike some of the others, (Again ducking) SOMETIMES I wish he'd actually take it down a notch, so I can hear the rest of the my humble opinion.
Tracks: La Villa Strangiato, YYZ, Red Barchetta....

Bill Bruford: (Yes/Genesis): He can play any style, his time and feel for what should go where, without OVERPLAYING, and ability to change time, and mood on a dime, is un-matched. He has a smoothness to his playing. He is extremely innovative in his playing, and not in a drummer way, but like, he's another melodic instrument, not the rhythm section, drumming way. Powerful, smooth, effortless, watching him life is like watching poetry in motion.
Tracks: Close To The Edge, Yours is No Disgrace, Suppers Ready, Roundabout...

Jimmy Sullivan: One of the "New guys," who could actually play. God rest his soul, he was a virtuoso in the making. His idol was Mark Portnoy, and it showed. There is no one better on double bass, and his chops were not quite Portnoy precise yet, but, if he could have been with us longer, he might have been the best of all time.
Tracks: Nightmare, Welcome to the Family....

Alex Van Halen: O.k., now the more pure rock guys. Alex heads the list because I could see him playing in Rush, or Yes, as easily as he plays in Van Halen. He went from an average drummer on the first two albums, to doing jaw dropping solos, and adding a more progressive feel to Van Halen. One of the most under rated, and greatest Rock drummers of our time.
Tracks: Hot For Teacher, Can't Get This Stuff, Out of Love Again...

Tommy Aldredge: Tommy was the first rock drummer I saw blow me away with the double bass, way back in the, "Black Oak Arkansas" days. His solos are monster good, and like Alex Van Halen, he has the chops to make Sabbath ballsy, but can also play progressive like Bozzio. I saw him in concert in a little club here in L.A. with some progressive experimental band in the 70's. Rarely does a drummer play with such power, and energy, and can than switch to laying down a beat to an Ozzy Osbourne song just as easily.
Tracks: Watch his solo's on U-Tube. They will make you either better, or make you quit drumming altogether.

Ian Paice (Deep Purple): The thing about Paice, and the drummers on this list is, they were playing Slipknot chops, fills, and with their energy, but in the 70's...and Ian was a single bass drum player back than. He is also one of the most innovative rock drummers of all time. Like Bonham, he never played the same beat twice, and could play faster than just about anyone in his time. The song, "Burn" is a great example of how fast and clean he can play. Burn came out in 1974, and holds up today as one of the most masterful drumming performances in a rock song ever recorded. His live work and cymbal choking technique on songs like, "Space Trucking," and "Highway Star," was unheard of in rock and roll. Sounds stupid, but, remember, he was doing things almost 40 years ago, that guys are now taking credit for. A Rock and Roll Master.
Tracks: Burn, The Mule, Space Truckin (Live), Hold On, High Ball Shooter...

John Bonham: One of the reasons most of us play the drums. NO ONE was more..I'll use the word again, innovative than John Henry Bonham. Without Bonham, Zeppelin, as great as they were, would have been...well, a rock band. The song, "Good Times, Bad Times" is a good song, Bonham made it f-ing great, with his single bass triplet roll. Like Paice, he NEVER played the same beat twice, nor did he really play the same time twice. There were cleaner, and faster drummers than John Bonham, but no one, not even Keith Moon was better at making a rock song really f-ing rock. His style is as recognizable as a Ferrari. When you hear the opening to, "When the Levee Breaks," or "Rock and Roll," you KNOW it's John Bonham. I don't think ANY drummer, not even Barlow can make that claim of instant recognition. Who would think to put a samba beat to, "Fool in the Rain?" His work on, "Song Remains The Same," "The Ocean," "Night Flight," "Wanton Song," "Out on the Tiles," my gawd, how many can you drummers out there name? No one has, or ever will have a signature sound like him...ever.

For these reasons, though I listed him last, I think he is the greatest, and most influential drummer in the history of Rock n Roll. God rest his soul!

"My gawd," you're thinking. Where are the drummers for Gentle Giant, King Crimson, Cozy Powell, Danny Carey, and the like?

This list is incomplete at best. I had room for 10 of the guys who influenced me the most as a drummer myself, and represented different styles.

So many GREAT drummers, so little time!

Comments for Rock & Progressive Drummers

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Oct 21, 2015
Great comment NEW
by: We have qualified writers and superiorpapers for your writing help.

Student need some basic tips for write assignment work because it is much important for complete the course study and getting high marks.

May 29, 2015
You're using my sample photo without so much as permission NEW
by: Philip Buonpastore

Didn't you think it was even appropriate to ask to use the photo of Phil Collins before publishing it on your website? And what's more, you don't even credit me as the photographer. This is copyright infringement, in case you do not know. I make a living selling my work, not giving it away. You have no permission, and no right to use it. Phil Buonpastore,, photographer.

Dec 30, 2014
Nice Write up!! NEW
by: Mike

WOW. Nice write up. Very insightful & nice breakdown of each player.I'm a drummer too & A lot of your favorites are on my list as well (Plamer, Peart, Collins, Portnoy) Good Post!!

Dec 30, 2014
Nice Write up!! NEW
by: Mike

WOW. Nice write up. Very insightful & nice breakdown of each player.I'm a drummer too & A lot of your favorites are on my list as well (Plamer, Peart, Collins, Portnoy) Good Post!!

Sep 20, 2012
right on NEW
by: Andre L

i do so much agree with you. after reading your article i thought to myself, i would have written the same thing. the choice ofvdrummers and comments made on each of them are totally in sync with me. there are also many examplesvofvasongs wherevphil colllins showed his great talent and innovation. the best exemple is cinema show. phil also was at his best around 1975-1978 when he played with Brand X. Just listen to And so to F... pure magic.

thanks for a great list.

Dec 30, 2011
Thanks NEW
by: Frank McC

I truly appreciate you including Carl Palmer and ranking him so highly, as lately he seems to be excluded from or lowly rated on so many other lists. And yes, seeing him (many a dozen times) IS BELIEVING!!!

Two drummers I do wish you were able to include though, are Billy Cobham (Mahavishnu Orchestra), and Alan White from his Yes days. Still, you were exceedingly fair and on the money with your work.

Much thanks,

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