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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Who was your favorite drummer? Can you find other great videos of these great musicians?

386 comments sorted by best / new / date

    IAmCool123
    rocklee1431
    I recall this guy getting a shit-ton of votes.
    Tsunami3000
    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
    kcmoon5150
    #3: You've spelled Will Ferrell wrong.
    Voodoochile711
    Chad Smith gets number three and Brann Dailor is nowhere to be found? People don't know their drummers, man.
    goremetal22
    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.
    Braykah
    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.
    GhostPlayground
    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.
    kmitchell74
    YOU JUST DON'T CARE BOUT YOUR BALLS!!
    GhostPlayground
    There's nothing sadder than hearing the cry of a troll after he has realized that he has failed.
    Metaliccca
    WTF are you talking about dude? That's what it sounds like the dude is singing at the end
    GhostPlayground
    Yes, but he only made that comment because he thought that it would get upvoted. So far it hasn't.
    xplosive59
    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!
    Freebass101
    Yes! Jaki is just one of the best drummers ever, definitely deserved a place on the list!
    MJRuiz710
    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
    dan.wing.9083
    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...
    Noreee
    I think Buddy Rich should have been placed pretty high as well. It's a surprise he's not on the list really.
    metallimaiden90
    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'.
    munday_
    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!
    Braykah
    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.
    ZWH
    Agreed. I would add Buddy Rich, Ian Paice and Cozy Powell to the list.
    Maiden95
    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.
    bifteksupernova
    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
    Maiden95
    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
    Niiko
    Jojo Mayer, Tony Royster Jr and Gavin Harrison should've topped this list in my opinion
    link no1
    I think these lists should be split up a little more. A top 10 Greatest in terms of technical ability and 10 influential. Yea sure, Bill Ward is very influential but he has nothing on Gene Hoglan for example. Having 2 lists would probably be more beneficial considering a top 10 of technical ability would likely have some drummers I haven't heard of before and will likely find a new band I like rather than most of the list consisting of bands everybody and their dog has heard and not showing anything new at all.
    badfish_lewis
    I know it's based on opinions and that's fine but seriously Chad Smith at #3, never saw the coming
    goochmaster15
    I think Louie Belson should have at least been SOMEWHERE on this list... he practically invented the double bass pedal technique.
    bluesman6885
    Hmm...there's Buddy Rich, Gene Krupa, Levon Helm, Roger Taylor, Ginger Baker, Levon Helm, Dennis Chambers, Benny Benjamin, Billy Cobham, BJ Wilson, Nigel Olsson.
    Rebel1222
    NO way Dave Grohl, and Chad Smith is ion the top five.... Really?? joke of a list
    third(-)eye
    Exactly my thoughts. I love both, but to say they're in the same league as Peart, Carey, and Moon is frankly dumbfounding. Welp, that's popularity contests for you.
    RylanThePotato
    They both carry legacies that have inspired many people to pick up the sticks, and they both have a very recognizable style. I don't see any problem with them being here.
    hotdogs585
    Dave Lombardo should be higher up. Anyone that can keep up with Fantomas is a hell of a drummer. Also Chris Pennie outshines Danny Carey in my book.
    RockrMattGeorge
    Chad Smith, maybe not. But Dave Grohl, he desrves a top five position with Moon, Peart and Bonham above him. He is cut from the smae cloth. his performance with Zepplin and TCV , QOTSA are off the hook. Technically he is gifted. Not to metion Nirvana...
    Mahoru
    All of them great drummers, but any "best drummers list" without Gavin Harrison is pointless.
    Dimarzio45
    Exactly! I specifically checked out the list to see if he was on there. As soon as I saw Dave Grohl, I knew the list was a heap of shit.
    sk8board3r
    And to 'coldtones' did you actually say Chad Smith has almost not drumming technique? Are you serious? That dude is a monster. And maybe learn how to spell as well.
    third(-)eye
    He has drumming technique, sure. But is he in the same league as Carey, Peart, Bonham, etc.? Fuck no. I can literally think of at least 10 drummers off the top of my head who could have easily taken that slot. Same goes for Dave Grohl; even though he's one of my favorites, to say that he's up there with the same crowd is absolutely ****ing stupid. And I don't use that term lightly.
    coldtones
    The list would be serious if it would be done by professional music historians like me, and not from a bunch of brainless guitarists of this poll, that are being educated by caring drummers. Really, the list has to be built with L. Belson, G. Kruppa, B. Rich, D. Weckl, G. Harrison, V. Colaiutta, Tim Alexander, Portnoy and others, Neil Peart too, and the greatest, virtuos, speediest and most influential of all, Billy Cobham, who invented progressive drumming. Be the best drummer it has to be with provoking an evolution. Something that never happened, and not with to be part of a famous band. Because of that nobody would dare to mention here Ringo Starr, Charlie Watts or Lars Ulrich. chad smith is a good drummer, it has swing, time precision, and good base studies of funk, but nothing more. The thing is, here are a lot of stupid f***s that wants to post the ultimate comment and nobody gets serious to face the fact that there are 2 lists. One is made by stupid F***s guitarist that only care about being famous and famous drummers. The other is built by soul musician drummers that do know all details that take years to master such an incredible instrument.
    Ryanluvsdrums
    i literally just created a file just to say thank you to you, because your comment is so true, when i didnt see any of those drummers up on the list, i knew there was just no ****ing way that the people who voted on this were mature or experienced drummers, i mean sure, some of those guys have talent and their music is good, but they completely overlooked like, all jazz drummers, look im a metal fan and i still have come to appreciate jazz drummers, why?, cuz they are hands down the most talented drummers around, any drummer who knows what they are talking about would agree hands down that even if you arent a huge fan of it, which i do like some of it, you have to appreciate the raw talent and skill that jazz drummers show that far exceeds metal drummers in most cases at least 10 fold, and they dont have to make it explosive either to be good. For jazz, it is a true art form, metal drumming is more a showcase, modern and past, its only ment to appeal the common ear, not the matured one, jazz has a special sound that must be first appreciated and understood for the common ear to even comprehend, i know this because when i was a very immature drummer, and i still partially am, but when all i listened too was metal, i had come to hate all other genres, but then my drum teacher showed me jazz from dave weckl and buddy rich and a few others and some prog rock like neil peart and mike portnoy and it didnt take to long for me to realize that metal isnt the alpha genre, rather a weaker genre and jazz and prog rock and many many other genres exceed metal, so i guess you could say metal is the gate way drug and once you've grown a tolerance too it, you want to go to the next one that achieves that same high you had on music,so you keep going more and more along the line until jazz is your cocaine. well thats if you start with metal and most people dont go past the gateway way drug, same with musicians who start with metal, theyll spend their whole life breaking sticks, heads, and even cymbals, well i guess its their loss, because jazz is harder and you dont break anything, maybe a new pair of sticks like every 3 months or so, its just the way we were meant to play, youd think if cymbals were meant to be thrashed they wouldnt break, when "art" breaks things you know something's gone terribly wrong.
    The Rev19
    I would have liked to see Mangini make the list
    His one handed drum roll is absolutely NUTS
    GenerationKILL
    Once again, WAYYYY too many hard drummers... Wheres Ginger Baker from Cream? he should be right up there alongside John Bonham and Bill Ward... Is this website biased against Jazz because you can't play it on your pointy BC Rich?! Any "best drummer list" shouldn't be taken seriously if Gene Krupa or the immortal Buddy Rich aren't on it. To put things into perspective, there would be no "Jimmy the Rev Sullivan" along with most of the other entries WITHOUT Jazz drummers. #pointlesstop10s
    OBPVinny18
    Couldn't find someone better than Dave Lombardo for the 10th spot???? I mean there are far better drummers than him. Also, The Rev shouldn't be top 10 as well for the fact that there are better drummers than him, not saying he is terrible.
    NIN1993
    Josh Freese imo is way better then Chad Smith but besides that Chad does not belong in top 10.
    Niamorg
    I like Avenged Sevenfold myself, but to see the Rev on this list but not Thomas Haake or Gene Hoglan makes it quite irrelevant.
    afranke
    Carter Beauford, Stanton Moore and Morgan gren have not been mentionned yet so here they are. Gavin Harrison and Marco Minneman have been mentionned in the comments but here's my +1 for them.
    Greged
    Marco Minneman Travis Smith Matt Halpern Carter Beauford Mike Mangini Gene Hoglan Where are these guys? RHCP? Nirvana? This isn't a "top 10 drummers from famous bands" list. We're talking ability and overall musicianship.
    AlecBeretz
    I'm glad Travis Barker isn't on this list but he gets a shout out. He does write really unique beats.
    AngelEyesRipper
    LARS haha
    Braykah
    Back in the 80s, he would have deserved a spot. Not so much now, he's still a solid drummer though.
    third(-)eye
    "Solid drummer"? He can't even keep a straight 4 beat:
    You'd have to catch me drunk to play that sloppily.
    JadenCaruso
    Can you please point out the moments where he's being overtly sloppy for me? I'm sorry I might just be sleepy but he doesn't seem to mess up in an obvious way. I mean I'm not following him with a metronome but it doesn't feel like he's having trouble recovering on time from fills.
    SergioA20
    I'm a big Peppers fan and I also love Chikenfoot - I love Chad but I think he's definitely not that good to be on #3
    pb15994
    Benny Greb!!! Not many people know him, but he's amazingly skilled and can keep a really, really nice groove although he's doing a complex drum solo at the same time.
    lemmyisgod97
    I think Brian Downey from Thin Lizzy is one of the best and one of the most underated drummers of all time.
    paulohd2
    Dave Grohl? Really? Nice joke UG, made me laugh a lot. Dave is a great guy and all but he is definitely not one of the top 10 greatest drummers.