Top Ten Drummers Of All Time

A music website has listen the top drummers of all time. But did they get it right? See the run down and video drum solos here to decide.

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Music news_backup website Gigwise recently came up with their list of the top 50 drummers of all time - but did they get it right? Here, we'll be rounding up their top ten. Let's see if UG readers think they pulled it off.

First, a little on the history of modern rock drumming.

Traditionally, the bass drum, snare drum, cymbals and various percussion instruments were played by hand by individual people, just like you see in a military setting. It wasn't till around 1890 that experimentation with foot pedals began. In 1909, the Ludwig family started a drum company and patented the drum pedal system.

By the 1930s, the beginning of the modern rock drum kit were visible with four piece kits being put into production, comprised of a bass, snare, and two tom-toms.

You might think a double-bass setup was a relatively recent development, but this was first attempted in the 1940s by Louie Bellson - though it's unlikely the pedals allowed for Joey Jordison style machine gun speeds.

The real turning point for drums in the eyes of music fans was when Ringo Starr played his Ludwig kit in front of millions on television, inspiring a generation to pick up the sticks themselves.

By the 1980s, extravagant kits with a huge number of drums and cymbals arrived, some including electronic pads which triggered sample sounds, before a return in the 1990s to simpler drum set ups when independent bands came to prominence.

That's the history - but who are the best of all time, in the opinion of Gigwise?

Terry Bozzio (Frank Zappa, UK, Missing Persons, HoBoLeMa, Jeff Beck, Korn, Fantmas, Debbie Harry)

Best known for performing with Frank Zappa, Terry is an example of one of those who were inspired by Ringo Starr to learn how to play when he was 13. Since then he's worked with a dizzying number of bands, even stepping in for Korn's 8th studio album. Today he plays in HoBoLeMa.

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Phil Collins (Genesis, Brand X, Flaming Youth, Philip Bailey, Eric Clapton, The Phil Collins Big Band)

Phil played one of the most iconic drum beats of all time for "In The Air Tonight", but the classic room sound was a complete accident. At the time, the talkback mic on the mixing desk (which lets engineers speak through the glass to musicians) picked up the drum sound and by chance, sounded great. The engineers wired it up to record, and "gated drums" became a popular production technique throughout the 80s.

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Gene Krupa (Eddie Condon, Benny Goodman, Louie Bellson, Anita O'Day)

Born in 1909, Gene was one of the first drummers to influence a further generation thanks to his fast performance abilities, with both John Bonham (Led Zeppelin) and Keith Moon (The Who) citing him as an influence.

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Carl Palmer (Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Asia)

One of the most respected drummers to emerge from the 1960s, Palmer was among the first truely progressive drummers and became one of the first to be inducted into the Modern Drummer Magazine hall of fame.

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Rick Allen (Def Leppard)

Rick famously continued drumming after having his arm amputated following a car accident, but he stuck to his craft and made a comeback in 1986 with an impressive performance at the Donington "Monsters Of Rock" show.

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Buddy Rich (Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra)

Buddy was the second-best paid entertainer of his time, and kept time for some of the biggest jazz stars of the day. He's also known for being one of the first drummers to perfect the one-handed drum roll on both hands.

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Jimmy Chamberlin (Smashing Pumpkins, Zwan, Skysaw)

He might have started as a jazz drummer, but when he joined the 90s metal outfit Smashing Pumpkins he certainly learned to hit hard. He was part of the reformed Smashing Pumpkins lineup when they regrouped in 2005, but left again in 2009. He now plays with the band Skysaw.

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Neil Peart (Rush, Buddy Rich Big Band)

Neil joined Rush in 1974, having been inspired by British rock drummers such as Keith Moon and John Bonham, before learning about older big band and jazz drummers like Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa. He famously built a respectable "360" drum kit, and enjoys a travel writing hobby.

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Danny Carey (Tool)

Yet another pro who began as a jazz drummer in his youth. By the time he was at university, Danny took an interest in the occult and began to apply the rules of geometry to his drum beats - a technique which still features with Tool today. The album "Lateralus", for example, centres around use of the Fibonacci sequence.

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Keith Moon (The Who)

Keith was one of the drummer to give rock music a hedonistic name. A wild party guy and drummer, Keith and his band were one of the first to smash up their instruments on stage - a "technique" emulated by generations of musicians since. He had a hobby of flushing explosives down toilets, leaving him banned by a score of hotel chains around the world.

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John Bonham (Led Zeppelin)

It'll be hard to argue with this one. John often tops "best drummer of all time" lists, and it's well earned. One paragraph wouldn't do justice to his ability or history, but it was certainly a tragic day when he drank more than fourty shots of vodka and choked to death on his own vomit. John inspired an entire era of rock drumming, and his son Jason followed his footsteps when he performed for Led Zeppelin during their reunion show in 2007.

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Not a bad list by any means - but can UG readers do better? Share your reaction in the comments.

498 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Pagan_Poetry
    I came here expecting a big upset. I left feeling satisfied. I have personal favorites not on this list, but I actually wouldn't take any of the drummers off the list to replace them. Well done.
    MoonWise
    Bmguy wrote: what group is he from (Copeland)
    The Police. Any best-drummers list without Deep Purple's Ian Paice is a throwaway.
    ctfod
    Got to say it's better to see a list with drummers worth their own salt rather than a list of drummers from the most popular bands (which would have included Ringo, Lars, etc).
    Like I Is
    Really, really happy to see Jimmy Chamberlin on the list. It's a shame more people haven't heard of him. He was the thundering backbone of the Smashing Pumpkins, and every Pumpkins fan out there misses him like hell. A very good list overall.
    GenerationKILL
    JoeJon16 wrote: i think brann dailor, joey jordison, dave lombardo, mike protnoy, travis barker and *flameshield up* jimmy the rev sullivan should be up there somewhere
    The only one of those who deserves to be up there is Dave Lombardo. He is the measuring stick to which ALL other metal drummers are compared to. Mike Portnoy isn't listed because progressively Terry Bozio and Neal Pert are LEAGUES ahead of him. Travis Barker isn't listed because Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa are LEAGUES ahead of him. You've chosen drummers that are emmulators of real innovators. The Rev was a good drummer, but not worthy of being in a Top Ten... The only ones that are missing in my opinion are Dave Lombardo - for the sake of Metal Neal Pert - for the sake of Prog Rock Dave Grohl - for the sake of MODERN Rock Ginger Baker - for the sake of Classic Rock. (Yes I know Bonham AND Keith Moon are listed... Overrated!) Anything other than these and whoever is already on the list are merely emmulators of a sound already pioneered or perfected by these drummers. And for what its worth, Dylan Elise from New Zealand can run rings around Travis Barker any day. Look up his youtube page. His skills will floor you.
    stonepriest
    diablo9333 wrote: No Steven Adler?
    although he did drum on the greatest song for song album ever. Beating out 4/4 time and doing alot of coke dont make you the best drummer ever.
    stonepriest
    diablo9333 wrote: No Steven Adler?
    although he drummed on the greatest song for song album ever. beatin the hell out of the drums in standard 4/4 time and lots of cocaine dont make you the best of all time.
    jurnag12
    Good list, could've used more Bill Ward, though.
    mysticguitar77 wrote: Korgull wrote: alestorm666 wrote: chiefmegadeth wrote: Just happy Lars from metallica is not on that list... Lars should be on top 10 worst drummers. What? Just...no. Even the majority of Metallica fans realize Lars is a horrible drummer. You'd have to be the blindest of the blind fanboys to not see it yourself. He's definitely not horrible since he definitely has an understanding of what he is doing on the kit. It's not like he's flailing randomly with no sense of rhythm. He has his style, even if it is just basic beats at varied tempos, that is what fits for Metallica. He's not the phenomenal drummer like many fans make him out to be, but I hate to see when people scrutinize him for playing his style.
    This. Although it would be nice if he were able to hold a decent double-bass rhythm to truly do songs like Dyers Eve and One justice live.
    Coexistence
    Damn right Danny Carey deserves some recognition. After doing all that DMT he can still have total control over his motor skills. That's superior genetics right there.
    bush_slayer_07
    Like it all except rick allen, its cool that he kept playing after losing an arm but he's still not that good of a drummer :/
    MT in Austin
    I would have chosen Stewart Copeland (The Police) or Ginger Baker (Cream) over Rick Allen or Keith Moon.
    h3nriqu3
    GunsNSnakepits wrote: No Lars Ulrich? Weird...
    LOL. Metallica is one of my favorite bands but Lars is so overrated as far as drumming ability goes. No mention of Portnoy though? hmm Personally think he is better than Danny Carey
    Cobalt Blue
    White_Fly_U2 wrote: None of these people are good except for Moon or Bonham. This is a typical UG list. Seriously bad. Totally forgot Darren King or Carter Beauford. Guys who are way more inventive and better than anyone on this list. This list is bollocks
    if you don't think Buddy Rich is good, I'm questioning if you know what drumming is. ***** Rick Allen on the list made me think of when Travis Barker broke his arm and was playing 1 handed on a tour, almost seemed like he was almost rubbing it in Rick Allen's face. also Stanton Moore is a great drummer
    FlamingForce
    A top 10 on UG that actually makes sense? Wow, I am impressed UG, I am very impressed. The Rev would've been a good honorable mention tho
    White_Fly_U2
    None of these people are good except for Moon or Bonham. This is a typical UG list. Seriously bad. Totally forgot Darren King or Carter Beauford. Guys who are way more inventive and better than anyone on this list. This list is bollocks
    TomWhaley
    JoeJon16 wrote: i think brann dailor, joey jordison, dave lombardo, mike protnoy, travis barker and *flameshield up* jimmy the rev sullivan should be up there somewhere
    Jordison is too one-dimensional. Barker just flat out isn't very good. Portnoy, Lombardo, The Rev and Dailor are all great though.
    coheed_kyle08
    Could have easily substituted the dude from Def Leppard with Mike Portnoy. Glad to see Danny from Tool up there. He totally deserves it. The man is a beast. Awesome list.
    JoeJon16
    i think brann dailor, joey jordison, dave lombardo, mike protnoy, travis barker and *flameshield up* jimmy the rev sullivan should be up there somewhere
    Gobears5456
    Ur all haters. Lars Ulrich is a beast. Ur just mad that his band makes more money and fans than ur favorite band
    PorcupineThief
    Gavin Harrison didn't even make it into the top 50 on Gigwise's site. I think Gigwise needs to actually listen to music... There's no way Ringo Starr is better than Harrison.
    ToolCreedence
    My honorable mentions: Nick Mason of Pink Floyd Ginger Baker of Cream Gavin Harrison of Porcupine Tree Bill Bruford of Yes and King Crimson Brann Dailor of Mastodon Zach Hill of Hella Just a few...
    nacurrier
    Thank you so very very much for including Danny Carey from tool. I believe him to be one of the greatest drummers of his time just because he adds so much feel and beat to the band. Tool in itself is such a amazing band, with Maynard James Keenan describing scenes in his head to the audience in such detail and depth that only some storytellers can only dream of. but, Danny Carey brings such a devout musical ability to the band that i dont believe tool would be the same without him.
    Armed_Homeless
    Yeah seriously where is the Rev?? He had legendary musicanship??? And what about matt cameron? Travis Barker
    metalhed0294
    Where's Joey Jordison, The Rev, and Charlie Benante? Best 3 drummers ever, and they're not on this list!
    StillSoundRG
    ErnestoFidel wrote: Now lets just wait for someone complaining that Lars Ulrich didnt make it on the list
    I'm glad it's acknowledged that he's not on the list. I love the music he writes, he's a great songwriter, but he's one of the laziest drummers of all time in a live setting.
    Iommianity
    bladerunner110 wrote: I find it humorous that most people think this should be a "metal drummer only" list, and they also think Chamberlin isn't a very good drummer. Those comments are priceless. The only one of those who deserves to be up there is Dave Lombardo. He is the measuring stick to which ALL other metal drummers are compared to. You've chosen drummers that are emmulators of real innovators. The Rev was a good drummer, but not worthy of being in a Top Ten... Those seem like conflicting ideas. Bill Ward was the drummer all metal drummers were compared to until people like Anthony Gray (of Venom), Dave Holland (of Judas Priest), Clive Burr (of Iron Maiden) influenced drummers of bands like Slayer, Metallica, Megadeth, Testament, etc. So Bill Ward should be listed for the reasons you noted, not Lombardo. Lombardo's good, but a lot of bands around at the time like Bathory, Death, Kreator also had drummers who were doing what Lombardo was doing.. and in my opinion, better.
    What? The drumming on the contemporary Bathory albums is a complete joke in comparison. I love those albums, I'm just not sure at what point the drumming on Under the Sign of the Black Moon is 'better' than anything Lombardo was doing. But that's just me. As far as Death went, I love Chris Reifert's playing on the first album and in Autopsy. His replacement was Bill Andrews, who had the honor of playing on the two least interesting albums drum wise. He was an extremely boring drummer, and no where close to Dave Lombardo. The new remaster of Human features rehearsal tracks of the band playing Human songs with the Leprosy/Spiritual Healing lineup, and the drumming absolutely kills the ideas.
    bladerunner110
    I find it humorous that most people think this should be a "metal drummer only" list, and they also think Chamberlin isn't a very good drummer. Those comments are priceless.
    The only one of those who deserves to be up there is Dave Lombardo. He is the measuring stick to which ALL other metal drummers are compared to. You've chosen drummers that are emmulators of real innovators. The Rev was a good drummer, but not worthy of being in a Top Ten...
    Those seem like conflicting ideas. Bill Ward was the drummer all metal drummers were compared to until people like Anthony Gray (of Venom), Dave Holland (of Judas Priest), Clive Burr (of Iron Maiden) influenced drummers of bands like Slayer, Metallica, Megadeth, Testament, etc. So Bill Ward should be listed for the reasons you noted, not Lombardo. Lombardo's good, but a lot of bands around at the time like Bathory, Death, Kreator also had drummers who were doing what Lombardo was doing.. and in my opinion, better.
    KerNeL_KLuTcH
    kind of funny no comments about the lack of Dave Grohl Nevermind when the drums kick in on Teen Spirit godly.
    The_Rising_Tide
    I had really hoped to see Jean-Paul Gaster (the drummer for Clutch) on this list. Seriously overlooked drummer and band for that matter. Otherwise a very good list.
    bladerunner110
    DimeLvR wrote: I would replace moon with portnoy, and collins with Vinnie Paul
    DimeLvR wrote: I would replace moon with portnoy, and collins with Vinnie Paul
    Why and why? Moon is fantastic, as is Collins.
    bladerunner110
    rmr024 wrote: I totally agree with Jimmy Chamberlin being on the list, but what's the deal with this line: "He might have started as a jazz drummer,"...? What an idiotic phrase. That makes it sound as if jazz drummers are dismissible. There are tons of jazz drummers who would put anyone on this list to shame.
    Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa come to mind.
    rmr024
    I totally agree with Jimmy Chamberlin being on the list, but what's the deal with this line: "He might have started as a jazz drummer,"...? What an idiotic phrase. That makes it sound as if jazz drummers are dismissible. There are tons of jazz drummers who would put anyone on this list to shame.
    MidniteHaze
    With the amount of critisicm that Lars gets from this site for no reason, I wasnt expecting him to be on the list.
    bladerunner110
    bladerunner110 wrote: KerNeL_KLuTcH wrote: Dave Lombardo (Slayer) the guy pretty much invented the blast beat best double bass drummer ever. Negatory. The original drummer of Napalm Death had the first recorded blast beat. And then Mike Smith perfected it. You could also argue that blast beats have been being used since hardcore punk was huge. Beastie Boys when they were hardcore punk utilized a LOT of blast beats. As far as double bass... meh. Who cares?
    I should actually clarify here.. I didn't mean to imply Napalm Death had the FIRST RECORDED blast beat... but the drummer at the time (198..3, I believe?) was the first person to use the term: "Blast beat".
    bladerunner110
    KerNeL_KLuTcH wrote: Dave Lombardo (Slayer) the guy pretty much invented the blast beat best double bass drummer ever.
    Negatory. The original drummer of Napalm Death had the first recorded blast beat. And then Mike Smith perfected it. You could also argue that blast beats have been being used since hardcore punk was huge. Beastie Boys when they were hardcore punk utilized a LOT of blast beats. As far as double bass... meh. Who cares?
    KerNeL_KLuTcH
    Geiger89 wrote: Danny Carey, Rick Allen? You serious.....? -.-
    Rick Allen Plays Drums with one arm get off his jock! Danny Carey is the Greatest drummer of our time.
    trent22o
    Kinda bogus Rick Allen was added because of 1 arm and Bozzio because he has a huge drumkit... Drop them 2, add Grohl and Stewart Copeland, and the list is pretty good!