Top 10 Rhythm Sections in Rock

Check out 10 best groove makers in the history of rock and metal.

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Ultimate Guitar
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Rock magic simply cannot be fully delivered without the proper foundation laid by the groove-making machine called the rhythm section.

Consisting of a bassist and a drummer, the section has an important task of making sure that the tune's in time and grooving like it should be. So this week, by readers' request, we decided to delve into the matter of the best rhythm section in the history of rock and metal. You guys came up with some quite interesting answers, check out the final result below.

10. Meshuggah

Being a steaming groove factory, Meshuggah reached the list with drummer Tomas Hakke and not one, or two, but each of the four bassist featured in the band's lineup so far, including axeman Fredrik Thordendal at one point.

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9. Keith Moon and John Entwistle (The Who)

Both rocking out in heaven, drummer Keith Moon and bassist John Entwistle of the Who changed the way their respective instruments are perceived almost five decades ago. Moon's hectic skin bashing and Entwistle's frantic strumming were truly a sight to see. The clip below doesn't feature Mr. Moon, but might as well be one of the greatest bass solos of all time.

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8. Primus

Fully based on groove, Primus made the list mostly thanks to Les Claypool's dizzying bass skills. However, the rest of the band isn't that far behind.

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7. Danny Carey and Justin Chancellor (Tool)

Tool's rhythm section is possibly the most technically advanced and unique groove duo in the history of rock, so Danny Carey and Justin Chancellor pretty much had a guaranteed spot on the list.

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6. Neil Peart and Geddy Lee (Rush)

Another progressive duo, wall-crushing Neil Peart and high-pitched, slightly overdriven Geddy Lee make up a big chunk of that magic needed to create the signature Rush vibe.

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5. Steve Harris and Nicko McBrain (Iron Maiden)

Iron Maiden might feature three guitarists in their lineup, but the groove Steve Harris and Nicko McBrain deliver will somehow always be on par with what the guitar leads are doing at the moment.

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4. Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk (Rage Against the Machine)

RATM's Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk bring us a step closer to the big Top 3 with some of the tightest performances rock has ever seen.

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3. Bill Ward and Geezer Butler (Black Sabbath)

We're in the giants domain now, delving into the work of unpredictable Bill Ward and possibly the greatest bassist in the history of metal - Mr. Geezer Butler. Add Tony Iommi's monster riffs and you've got yourself quite a mixture.

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2. Flea and Chad Smith (Red Hot Chili Peppers)

RHCP is all about the groove, and hearing Chad Smith and Flea doing their thing is simply bound to get your head bopping, whether you like it or not.

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1. John Bonham and John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin)

Finally, the true greats, the one and only John Bonham and equally crucial John Paul Jones. Led Zeppelin's rhythm section changed the game for good back in the day, earning them the title of the best rhythm section of all time.

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That about wraps it up for this week, let us know what do you think of the list in the comments. Think somebody might be missing? Myung and Portnoy? Rex and Vinnie? Yes? No?

154 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Kavabangac
    Holy sh*t, that RHCP video, newfound respect for those guys. They just "fly" with the groove, and it is fantastic to see just how fast does Chad adapt to Flea.Great list!
    bangbang!!
    I tried that bit about the bass pedal despite Chad's warning. I'm writing this from the hospital.
    SilentReaction
    I will always respect bands such as rush, the who, black sabbath, etc. These guys are in their 60's nearly still manage to perform to such a high standard. great muscians.
    finallife6
    I think if there was album you should check out it should be One Hot Minute, the bass and drum work is amazing.
    eclecticragnar
    that truly was a thing of beauty! I'm still not sure if that is Chad Smith or Will Ferrell...
    rip3149
    ...Nicko McBrain didn't play on "Run to the Hills"
    Scarface88
    Good point, though I still reckon he fully merits a place on this list. Unreal when witnessed live. Up the Irons!
    olidooley
    No one but Entwistle could play something that spectacular whilst looking so mind numbingly bored.
    Bigdubb
    You haven't seen later Zeppelin gigs. Watch JPJ play keyboards or even bass at points. He doesn't even seem like he wants to be there.
    kspoth08
    I know Hendrix overshadowed these guys but I think they should be mentioned Noel Redding/Billie Cox and Mitch Mitchell/Buddy Miles. Maybe not top ten but atleast honorable mention
    surginweirdo
    I'm upset to see no Rex Brown and Vinnie Paul
    markyj666
    All of those drummers probably count John Bonham as a major influence on them, so he is rightfully at the top of the list with, in my opinion the greatest bassist ever.
    third(-)eye
    Coming first =/= best. Being the most popular =/= best. Being in Led Zeppelin =/= best. Having a funny nickname ("Bonzo") =/= best. Should they be on the list? Definitely. #1? Debatable.
    buddy1991
    None of those reasons are why they are considered one of the best rhythm sections of all time. Listen to their music and then decide for yourself. Its hilarious how butt hurt people on this site get over Led Zeppelin.
    third(-)eye
    I'm not "butthurt". Just voicing my opinion. I have listened to their music quite a bit, and I have made my decision based on that. My decision is that they are a tad too high.
    Democrab
    Agreed. They're a great rhythm section but I certainly can think of better that weren't included or better on the list. (eg. Malcolm Young and Phil Rudd)
    Holoogamooga
    I thought about nominating Portnoy by himself since his drumming dominated DT so much for so long, with Myung barely audible in the background.
    Kueller917
    Would've liked to see a Radiohead mention but I can live with the list.
    primus182
    Colin is a fantastis bass aplayed but Phil's lack of feeling in his drums play is obvious. I think that Clive Deamer should replace him
    Kueller917
    Sure he's not the most emotive drummer but matched with Colin they do a fantastic job at keeping the grooves of the band.
    iommi600
    "9. Keith Moon and John Entwistle" They deserve to be in the top 3. But... 9th place. Mother****ing 9th.
    mop10893
    I would have liked to see Portnoy and Myung on here, but I honestly cannot complain that they aren't because this is a truly fantastic list.
    victor420
    Surprising that Double Trouble isn't on here, they are an excellent rhythm section.
    K33nbl4d3
    I don't think it's surprising, really, but I do think they ought to be on there.
    randymeeks81
    Awesome list, best troll ever - put Gene Simmons and Peter Criss in it, send it to Simmons and Criss, watch the ensuing shoving match, haha.
    Ben2k9
    this is even funnier when you consider KISS arnt really a technically gifted band.
    randymeeks81
    I think I wouldn't dislike KISS as much if they didn't seem like jerks. Gene Simmons loves money and attention, Paul Stanley loves attention, Peter Criss too, and Ace Frehley's off in the corner getting drunk muttering "I hate you guys so much", while Tommy Thayer and the replacement drummer stand in the background watching moths flutter out of their empty wallets.
    frodestornes
    In my opinion, the greatest drummer and the greatest bassist of all time. They deserve the No. 1 spot in this list. How amazing to have both in one band along with Jimmy Page and Robert Plant.
    guitarist5477
    JPJ is great, but he can't touch Entwistle.
    Velcro Man
    As a musicians, JPJ wins all day, but bass vs bass, he can't hold a candle to Entwistle and as a locked in rhythm section, The Who faaaar surpass Led Zeppelin. I also think RUSH don't quite deserve to be on this list, they're all talented, but Geddy Lee and Neal Peart aren't exactly a locked in groove machine, they both play lead type stuff, never just working to support the song.
    theclassicrock
    The Who definately should have been number one. Anyway everyone on this list deserves to be if not in that particular order.
    MichaelScarn
    idk about Maiden, I think theyre just on here because theyre in Iron Maiden
    AlexRibeiro333
    No, man, Steve and Nicko are realy great, but honestly I think that Rush should have been at least 4th in general aspects, beacuse Neil and Geddy are my favorite drummer and bassist respectively.
    UniformRecon
    I know that this is for bass-drum combinations, but as for rhythm guitar players, shout out to Malcolm Young of AC/DC, James Hetfield, and Dave Mustaine.
    JAHellraiser
    I've never heard anyone try to throw the guitar in the rhythm section until this wednesday question.
    kratos379
    It's typical of many bands in rock and metal to have one guitarist focus on rhythm while the other does lead. Dave Mustaine for instance is the rhythm guitarist in Megadeth even if he does do some guitar solos. His guitar playing is with the bass and the drums in the background as Chris Broderick takes the leads. There's really no reason for UniformRecon to be downvoted, as all three of those guys play rhythm guitar and quite well.
    JAHellraiser
    Yeah, I know there's a rhythm guitarist in a majority of bands, but never heard anyone include the guitarist in the rhythm section.
    MaggaraMarine
    Maybe not in rock bands but in bigger bands (big bands, funk bands, reggae bands, etc) I would say guitar is part of the rhythm section.
    third(-)eye
    Think of the Melvins. Wouldn't you call that guitar part of the rhythm section? It's certainly not melodic.
    TheGroundZero
    I would consider Malcolm Young part of the rhythm section. That guy is THE definition of a rhythm guitarist. 40 years and not a single solo.
    AC/DCnut
    You do not think rhythm guitar is part of the rhythm section? Really?
    kiba56
    I'm positive rythym sections include guitar and piano to. Not just the bass and drums...
    kratos379
    They do. It depends on how the musicians in each band divide up lead and rhythm. Most bands today have bass and drums focus specifically on rhythm while rhythm guitarists and pianists aren't in every band. I think the question would be better worded in this case "what is the best bass and drum combination in music?", since very few people focused on the other instruments that can provide rhythm.
    miahdoll
    I'll tell ya what, Godsmack's rhythm section is tight! And I'm not much of a fan, but they're pretty damn good!
    kratos379
    I feel like there are so many great rhythm sections out there that this was a really hard list to come up with accurately. Whether or not one band is really number one isn't of great importance, because whether or not it's Led Zeppelin or RHCP or Meshuggah at number one they're all incredible in very different ways and can't be perfectly compared to each other. This is definitely a great list packed with talent.
    madscientistjai
    I thought Burton/Newsted/Trujillo would be enough to pull Ulrich up to the top 10 at least. Guess not. Good list.
    WowSuchGuitar
    oh, classic UG, with Led Zeppelin winning every top 10 undeservedly
    !..!_Rock_!..!
    So why does almost everyone in rock and roll respect Led Zeppelin if they don't deserve it?
    theclassicrock
    Led Zeppelin does deserve a lot of respect but they don't need to be number one on every damn list. They definately deserve to neon this list but a few other bands should of been ahead of them.
    buddy1991
    Thats only YOUR opinion. The reason they are always number 1 is because people vote it that way. UG doesn't just throw them up there.
    JAHellraiser
    if this was "10 best bands that feature rappers" or "10 best bands that use samples in their music" I'd agree. but Zeppelin are considered the best for a reason.
    Kueller917
    They're great, and deserve the list, but I'd still put some of the other bands ahead of them regardless of what they were at the time. Also their borrowing of other early musician's ideas in their early days is one of the closest you can get from the rock world to what sample culture was in its prime.
    robo37
    90% of Zeppelin's riffs are essentially samples from other songs...
    JAHellraiser
    you say that like it was common for blues and early rock songs to do the same thing. breaking news: eric clapton's crossroad is not an original song.
    Bigdubb
    If only you understood what Zeppelin brought to the table in a time where they were desperately needed.
    Everlong729
    Grohl and Noveselic
    milanio
    I don't see why you've been downvoted really, Krist's basswork is melodic and holds every song together while Dave's drums work against the bass to provide the hard hitting edge of Nirvana. They deserve a lot of praise.
    Everlong729
    Yeah, I cant see why either.. I got upvoted for it in the nominations. They've done a couple pretty solid jams during some lives shows, its awesome.
    third(-)eye
    I think they're ALMOST deserving of a spot, I can't see which band I'd take off the list for them. But way underrated, yeah.
    Crunge92
    Damn good list. The majority of my favorite bands are on here. I guess I must be a rhythm guy--but then again who isn't?
    cRACk mONKEyTTU
    This is actually a pretty good list. Well done UG community, I may have put them in a different order myself, but these are all great choices for a top 10.
    oakn
    As someone mentioned, Lynott and Downey (Thin Lizzy) really should be on this list.
    mod59dc
    I gotta go old school John & Keith, Bill & Geezer, then the boys from Little Feat. Like the Allmans an nice three way.
    erichzann
    Dan Maines/JP Gaster from Clutch George Hurley/MIke Watt from The Minutemen Eric Wilson/Bud Gaugh from Sublime Phil Lesh/Kreutzman/hart from the Grateful dead
    JonathonMayes
    Bonham / JPJ and Flea / Chad Smith was toooootally predictable - but they definitely belong in their respective places.
    Blackdog71
    Watts and Wymann Downey and Lynott Coghlan and Lancaster The Big Figure and J B Sparkes