The Top 10 Best Drummers Throughout History

From grunge to thrash metal, drumming has been an iconic component spanning across all genres. The best drummers have honed their skills and inspired drummers across the world for generations.

These are the top ten influential and talented drummers who have made a huge impact in the music industry.

1. Neil Peart

The gifted and heavily awarded drummer for Rush has long been one of the best rock drummers of all time. 

At fourteen, Peart received a drum kit for his birthday. From then on, he pursued his interest and joined Rush in 1974.

His drumming style was highly technical and unique. He was also known for switching the position of his drumsticks and drumming with the heavy end. While he only switched his drumsticks around when they snapped, he eventually got used to this playing style because it gave him a solid impact against the drum.

Peart’s innovation, hard-hitting style, and technical skills make him one of the most revered drummers in history.

2. John Bonham

John Bonham, the drummer for Led Zeppelin, maintained a fast bass drumming style. His incredible speed, paired with his impeccable timing skills, has influenced modern drummers for decades.

Despite never taking formal lessons, Bonham practiced drumming and joined several bands before forming Led Zeppelin with Jimmy Page and Robert Plant.

Bonhams influence continues to live on after his untimely death. His drumming style was “bombastic” and full of rhythmic sophistication. With his loud groovy drumming tuned to perfection, his style remains instantly recognizable.

3. Keith Moon

Keith Moon banged his drums with a unique ferociousness that makes him influential to this day. As the drummer for the rock band The Who, Keith Moon made a name for himself with his eccentric drumming style.

Moon took up drumming at age twelve and learned to play at a local music studio in England. After saving up enough money to buy his own drum kit, his playing style started to evolve from various personal influences, such as Jazz and Motown.

Once he joined The Who, Moon exhibited passion and skill while carving out a unique sound. His drumming style resembled his youthful, explosive personality, which led to a number of broken instruments throughout his career.

4. Ginger Baker

Ginger Baker drummed and co-founded the rock band Cream. The English drummer cited Jazz and African rhythms as his prime influence.

He began drumming at fifteen and took lessons from an English Jazz drummer. Baker joined forces with Jack Bruce, the bassist of his previous band, and Eric Clapton to create the first supergroup: Cream. Their style fusion consisted of blues and psychedelic rock until their early breakup.

Baker continued his career as the drummer for several other bands, including Blind Faith. As he continued, his style became known as unpredictable but technical. He was also considered one of the early users of double bass drumming, which is a difficult skill to master.

Beyond his playstyle, Baker pioneered drum solos. His drum solo style and length are still influential to modern drummers today.

5. Mitch Mitchell

Mitch Mitchell drummed the Jimi Hendrix Experience. The English drummer started his career working at a drum shop while in school. Gaining experience as a touring drummer, Mitchell worked his way through multiple bands before settling with the Jimi Hendrix Experience.

The band released several albums in the late ’60s and portrayed a Jazz-influenced style. Today, he’s widely regarded as a role model for many famous drummers.

6. Buddy Rich

Buddy Rich, an American snare drummer, is a Jazz legend active in the 1920s. Known for his speed and technique, Buddy Rich influenced modern drummers with his energetic tricks during performances. He believed the path towards drumming greatness happened with performing on stage, rather than practicing alone.

Rich didn’t memorize sheet music, which made him an unconventional musician. Instead, he memorized the rhythms of each song and played by ear. Despite this method, he’s still regarded as a drumming pioneer.

7. Gene Hoglan

Gene Hoglan is known for his creative expression during performances, as well as his technique. Hoglan taught himself how to drum at a young age and earned his fame in the band Testament.

His impeccable timing got him the nickname “the human drum machine,” as he keeps up with difficult tempos without missing a beat. 

Hoglan is also known for his double bass drumming techniques. Double bass drumming is a difficult feat, and Hoglan masters it while maintaining complex rhythms.

8. Al Jackson Jr.

Al Jackson Jr. was the drummer and founder of Booker T. & the M.G, an instrumental funk band. Like Gene Hoglan, Al Jackson Jr. was known for his timekeeping skills, which dubbed him “the human timekeeper.”

After they disbanded, Jackson Jr. found himself collaborating with other iconic musicians, including Eric Clapton. His steady and complex drum beats remain recognizable and iconic to modern drummers.

9. Steve Smith

Journey member Steve Smith started drumming at the young age of two. As he got older, he honed his skills in several small garage bands until he moved onto his career-making role in Journey.

Smith’s Jazz and fusion techniques are highly technical and influential. He performs complex solos and diversifies his style by blending several styles at once.

10. Gene Krupa

Gene Krupa is one of the best jazz drummers of all time. His career spanned several decades and bands. In the ’60s, Krupa and Buddy Rich teamed up and performed elaborate drum duets that tested their skills.

Krupa was the first to modernize solos and put a spotlight on drumming. He made history with his frenetic drumming style, a style many modern drummers cite as an influence.

Becoming One of the Best Drummers

This list proves that the best drummers come from different backgrounds and experiences. By staying the path and looking up to these drumming icons, you might see your name on this list in the future.

If you love drumming or are looking to start, check out our drum buying guide. We’ll help you find the best drum set for your experience level.

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