Top 10 Greatest Drummers Of All Time

In one of our biggest polls ever,UG readers helped us find the best drummers in history. So who came first? Check out this awesome video playlist to find out.

Top 10 Greatest Drummers Of All Time
People like to joke about drummers being dumb, but rock would be a poorer world without them. A good drummer keeps the band together, and can build on those simple backbeats with a flair and style of their own - but only if they're good enough. The entrants on this list are a perfect example of that. We asked Ultimate Guitar readers to nominate and vote for their favorite drummers of all time, and as usual the results were world class. We've counted up thousands of votes, and the results are in - let's find out who the best drummers of all time are.

10. Dave Lombardo (Slayer)

Slayer's fast-paced thrash put them among the all-time great metal acts, and plenty of credit for that is due to Lombardo's insanely tight drumming. Drummer World magazine calls him "the Godfather of double bass," and besides playing with Slayer since the 80s he's been in the lineup for Fantomas, Philm, Testament and other great metal bands.

9. Bill Ward (Black Sabbath)

If Black Sabbath were the founders of metal, Bill Ward is the father of metal drumming. Others on this list might outshine him from a technical standpoint, but they probably wouldn't even be on this list if he hadn't inspired them to pick up a pair of sticks in the first place. It's a real shame the newly reformed Black Sabbath couldn't find a way to get him involved in the current (and potentially final) reunion.

8. Jimmy "The Rev" Sullivan (Avenged Sevenfold)

Jimmy died in 2009 after accidentally overdosing on prescription drugs, but his legacy lives on. Raised on a diet of metal and progressive rock, the Rev made his name as a multi-talented songwriter for Avenged Sevenfold. This video shows his school music teacher talking about how the young prodigy was playing and transcribing Metallica drums by the age of 13 - and how she later learned he had been doing it all on a toy drum kit.

7. Keith Moon (The Who)

Keith Moon was insane, in every sense of the word. As a person, people would call him a walking asylum, and it fed straight into his performance. Where other drummers would play a solid backbeat, Moon would explode with an unpredictable style that made the Who one of the most compelling and energetic live acts of their era. He overdosed on an alchohol-withdrawal drug in 1978.

6. Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater, Adrenaline Mob, Avenged Sevenfold)

Mike Portnoy was a founding and key member of progressive rock titans Dream Theater from the mid-80s to 2010, writing many of their lyrics and concepts. To many prog fans, he's a beacon of musicianship, and it's true that his precision through so many different styles and tempo changes are something to marvel at.

5. Dave Grohl (Nirvana, Queens Of The Stone Age)

This one is pretty simple: the dude played drums for Nirvana. Yeah, the band that flipped the music world on its head in the 90s. You might know him better for his equally stellar career fronting the Foo Fighters, but his dynamic drumming style (inspired by artists like the Pixies, and perhaps Kurt Cobain himself) was an influence on a whole generation sick of the long tail of 80s hair metal drummers. His work on QOTSA's "Songs For The Deaf" could be one of the best drum recordings of the 2000s, but did you know that on this particular album recorded all the cymbals separately from the other drums? Now THAT takes some skill. If you're wondering why, it's because it helps the engineer make all the drums sound louder in the mix.

4. Danny Carey (Tool)

Danny Carey saw that two drummers for his neighbor's band never showed up, so he stepped in. Little did he know that it would lead to him becoming one of the best metal drummers in history. Inspired by geometry, mathematics and the occult, Carey's style is complex but somehow rounded with a hard-hitting grace that few can match. With his help, Tool albums are a feast of polyrhythms. He's featured on albums by Skinny Puppy, King Crimson and the Melvins, among others.

3. Chad Smith (Red Hot Chili Peppers)

Chad Smith is one of the most sought-after session drummers in the world - and probably one of the loudest. In the late 80s, he blew away the newly-formed Red Hot Chilli Peppers lineup, though his hard rock and hell's angels style appearance looked out of place, so singer Anthony Kiedis told him to ditch the bandana and come back the next day. Smith kept it on, but they admired his persistence. Today he's also touring with the supergroup Chickenfoot, when he gets a chance.

2. John Bonham (Led Zeppelin)

Whether he was drumming or drinking, John Bonham liked to do everything as hard as possible. He liked to use the longest, heaviest sticks available, and Led Zeppelin recordings famously have one of the biggest drums sounds of the analogue recording era - much to the chagrin of modern engineers, who are often asked to emulate Bonham's big kit sound, which can be hard to manage amid modern distorted guitars. Bonham died age 32 after drinking more than 40 shots of Vodka and vomiting in his sleep.

1. Neil Peart (Rush)

As with many drummers from his era, Peart was inspired by hard rock drummers like John Bonham and Keith Moon to pick up the stick, but over time he came to admire older jazz legends like Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich who taught him to introducing jazz and swing to his rock style. Combine that with decades worth of practice with Rush, one of the most respected prog rock acts in the world, and his talent knows no limits. He retired for a while in 1997 after both his wife and only daughter died within a year of each other in the 90s, but after 88,000km of travelling on the road he decided to return to Rush and kickstart their career again.
Who was your favorite drummer? Can you find other great videos of these great musicians?

386 comments sorted by best / new / date

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    I recall this guy getting a shit-ton of votes.
    Steve Moore Specifically, he played with my guitar teacher. theres some videos of them in their metal band from the 80's, goiogling "the Mad Drummer" finds it well. plus.. this
    #3: You've spelled Will Ferrell wrong.
    Chad Smith gets number three and Brann Dailor is nowhere to be found? People don't know their drummers, man.
    Chad Smith 3rd "Best Drummer of All Time" LOL
    Battery Chicken
    80% of the list is way off the mark, but chad in 3rd is the worst of the lot. I'm really baffled that Ginger Baker didn't make it. John Densmore is always my number 1, but he's generally the most under appreciated drummer in rock history so I'm not surprised he didn't make it.
    Good list. I know this is based on up-/downvotes, but personally I think Dave Lombardo and Mike Portnoy are placed too low, and Buddy Rich and Thomas Haake should have been on there as well; both are fantastic drummers.
    Jaki should have been on this list as well, that guy is both an amazing drummer who's technical ability overshadows most drummers on this list and and influential drummer.
    Can rule, well at least the Monster Movie til Future Days era, they are very hit and miss after that. I'm in the mood to listen to Tago Mago now dammit!
    There's nothing sadder than hearing the cry of a troll after he has realized that he has failed.
    WTF are you talking about dude? That's what it sounds like the dude is singing at the end
    Yes, but he only made that comment because he thought that it would get upvoted. So far it hasn't.
    Yes! Jaki is just one of the best drummers ever, definitely deserved a place on the list!
    If this is just greatest drummers of all time, more than half of these people shouldn't be on this list. People like Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich, and Joe Morrello should be topping the list. Now if it were greatest ROCK drummers of all time, I could agree a little more with this list, but I'd put Keith Moon higher on the list, but that's because I'm biased. haha
    I've never seen another drummer play as fast and as long as Buddy Rich. Louie Bellson, Joe morello, Ed Shaunessy blow most of these guys away...
    I think Buddy Rich should have been placed pretty high as well. It's a surprise he's not on the list really.
    It's an absolute disgrace that Gavin Harrison is not on this list. I'm not saying the drummers on this list are not good, but I think anyone who's ever heard Porcupine Tree would know the skill of that man. If you haven't heard him play, I recommend you listen to 'Way Out Of Here' and 'The Start Of Something Beautiful'.
    I saw Gavin Harrison do one of his drum clinics. The way he plays is so effortless looking. He even showed us an improvised drum solo, which was fantastic. I think one of the coolest drum parts are in Bonnie the Cat. Even though its in 4/4 he moves it up and down a 16th of a note. Its amazing what that man can do!
    The Rev, Dave Grohl and Chad Smith are all great drummers, but not among the ten best in my opinion. There are drummers like Haake, Rich, Nicko McBrain, Terry Bozzio, Chris Adler, Ian Paice, Brann Dailor, etc. who would much more deserve a place on the list.
    Agreed. I would add Buddy Rich, Ian Paice and Cozy Powell to the list.
    As a drummer, I knew what to expect and I saw everyone on this list coming. Not that it's a bad thing cause I love every drummer on this list, but when you have a list entitled Top 10 Greatest Drummers, I think it's impossible not to include guys like Buddy Rich, Virgil Donati, and JoJo Mayer. If you haven't heard them.. PLEASE look them up. Now.
    preach, without buddy rich these guys wouldnt even have had their own styles. not a bad list i thought though, bill ward gets well deserved recognition
    Heres more preaching. I agree 110% brother. Again I love every drummer on this list but Dennis Chambers, Dave Weckl, Gavin Harrison, Gene Krupa, Mike Mangini, Benny Greb, Vinnie Coulaiuta... those guys are the greatest. Honestly I would still have Neil and Portnoy on my list and possibly John Bonham. No disrespect to the others.
    Hyacinth House
    I was seriously one of the few people to even mention Jojo Mayer, he's definitely deserves a listen
    Jojo Mayer, Tony Royster Jr and Gavin Harrison should've topped this list in my opinion