Anyone who has ever taken face-to-face or online drum lessons in Melbourne has probably dreamt of becoming a great drummer–maybe even one of the greatest drummers of all time. How great would it be to influence young jazz drummers just as they were influenced by the bands of their youth and really make a mark on a young musicians life?

Drumming is an incredibly versatile instrument and there is so much to learn from the some of the greatest drummers of all time. There are so many incredible drummers in the world, each with their own unique style. Whether it's their technique, improvisation, minimalism, drum solos or their ability to blend a number of styles, there are many aspects to what makes a drummer one of the greats. Superprof is here with a list of famous drummers to provide great inspiration to aspiring and emerging musicians.

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Famous Jazz Drummers

Let’s start with the music that first truly brought musicians to fame. In classical music, drums were generally part of an orchestra, though for a time flute and drum ensembles were fairly popular. In the smaller, more percussion-oriented ragtime and dixieland bands and the invention of the drum kit in jazz music, drummers could finally shine, allowing one musician to play with different tones, pitches and beats to create a more dynamic sound. Drummers started to get recognition for their work on the kit, and were no longer seen as just the backbone of a performance.

Gene Krupa

Gene Krupa was the godfather of show drumming, turning even the most simple piece into a huge performance. Whether he was simply providing the rhythm or improvising a drum solo with Benny Goodman’s band, drumming in styles like big band, jazz or swing, Krupa wasn’t just playing the drums. Krupa was a showman, and his craft influenced many contemporary drummers from jazz-rock to speed-metal.

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Gene Krupa practically invented show drumming.
Gene Krupa was one of the inventors of the modern drum kit. Photo credit: flickr4jazz on Visual hunt

And if that wasn't enough, Gene helped settle the drum kit into the form most commonly used today.

Identify the parts of a drum kit used in music today.

Buddy Rich

Buddy Rich was a self-taught musician and is regarded as one of the fastest drummers around. Best known for his jazz drumming, he played with the likes of Frank Sinatra, Phil Collins, encouraged John Bonham as well as Bill Ward in performing improvised pieces.

He was one of the first to do longer drum solos which then became a staple with rock bands.

He has been referred to as the best drummer in history–he was definitely a performer, bringing energy and intensity wherever he played.

Max Roach

Well-known for his expert use of drumsticks, Roach also revolutionised the bebop scene in the 1940s by playing the standard 4/4 time signature, using the ride cymbal in the place of the bass drum, to develop a flowing, flexible rhythmic pattern that allowed soloist the freedom to play with.

He is known for his instinct in finding the perfect rhythm and is considered one of the best jazz drummers of all time.

Jack DeJohnette

Amazingly adaptable, DeJohnette could play virtually any jazz style there is, although he had his heyday during the fusion era.

He recorded a number of solo albums, but is also known for his drumming with the Miles Davis band.

What drew Miles Davis to DeJohnette was his ability to combine rock and roll drumming with aspects of improvisational jazz.

He is still active, performing with his own band the DeJohnette Group and appears in a number of other groups.

Top Rock Drummers of All Time

Rock music originally started out in 1940s and 50s and has now developed into a wide range of different styles.

In modern times, it's a broad genre, but is recognised by the tradition 4/4 time signature and song structure of verse-chorus.

The genre now is so diverse, that there are no real rules and there are a huge range of sub genres that fit into 'rock'.

With that in mind, here are some of the most classic and famous rock drummers of all time. 

John Bonham

When Led Zeppelin’s first album came out in 1969, the concept of rock drumming was changed forever.

Bonham, using a single bass drum, had created sound and drum effects that most percussionists could not imitate with two.

Bonzo, as he was referred to, was so integral to the band’s unique sound and atmosphere that they disbanded after he passed in 1980, only reuniting for concerts sporadically since.

Bonham and Zeppelin were pushing rock music to new frontiers, mixing and trialling elements of jazz, blues and even folk music, and are generally viewed to have helped establish the hard sound that would eventually be known as heavy metal.

You can also learn easy drum licks played by the best rock drummers!

Keith Moon

Keith Moon, the Who's drummer, was known for not doing drum solos.

He didn't view the drum set as a background instrument or something to keep a beat.

Moon believed the drum the first instrument of the Who.

He more than made up for his lack of precision and consideration for the score with his incredible showmanship and inventive use of drum rolls.

Moon actually got the job in the Who by approaching them after a live set, claiming that he was a better drummer than their drummer–and now he is one of the most renowned drummers in the world.

Famously, the Who trashed their instruments.

Guitarist and songwriter, Pete Townsand, accidentally destroyed his guitar during a show.

With Keith Moon not wanting to be upstaged, he purposely trashed his kit too. The trend of trashing instruments on stage was followed by renowned bands such as Nirvana and Sonic Youth.

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Neil Peart

What attracted the band Rush to Peart were Keith Moon's influence which could be seen in Neil Peart.

Though his energy certainly drove his music, what took it a step further was his precision and craft, both technically sound in every aspect, as well as willingness to experiment.

Rush has accompanied his songs with orchestra timpani, temple blocks and electronic drums–Peart chose instruments to suit the mood of each piece.

Peart had a number of influences, many on this list, such as John Bonham, Ginger Baker, Keith Moon, Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa, and the Who were the band that inspired him to pursue drumming and songwriting.

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Neil Peart is known for his technical expertise.
Neil Peart was hired because he has the energy of Keith Moon, but added precision. Photo credit: photo_grafitti on VisualHunt

Ringo Starr

Because of his more relaxed style, opinions vary about Ringo Starr’s place among the best drummers in the world.

Less flamboyant than Keith Moon, the Beatles drummer invested his playing with a lot of feeling and a wonderful sense of just the right flourish of the cymbals or fillip of the drums to make each of their songs memorable.

He was also eminently reliable so that each performance was the same as the last.

He tended to not be showy or flamboyant but played for the band.

Starr's consistency earned him a reputable place as one of the most famous drummers in the world.

Carmine Appice

Appice first made a splash with the late 1960s psychedelic band Vanilla Fudge.

Apart from writing The Realistic Rock Drum Method, still used as a textbook for learning drums since it came out in 1972.

Carmine also drummed a blues-rock rhythm with the band Cactus and Beck, Bogert & Appice and then with Rod Stewart.

His younger brother Vinny played with Dio and Black Sabbath.

Ian Paice

Paice is the one member of Deep Purple who has been with them from the start.

He plays hard and fast and full of energy and is known for hits such as 'Smoke on the Water' and 'Hush'.

He is currently the only remaining original member of Deep Purple.

Phil Collins

Though Phil Collins also played jazz, he is best known for being the lead drummer in the Prog-Rock band Genesis.

He is widely considered to have been the best drummer of the 1970s, often coming into the studio to support other well-known names.

He is known for his 'gated snare' drum sound, a popular sound in the 80s. Nerve damage forced him to retire as a drummer in 2007, but his legacy lives on.

Learn which drums make up a traditional drum set.

Dave Grohl

From playing on pillows with snare sticks to contributing to Nirvana’s hard, uncompromising sound, Grohl has had a big career.

He started out playing the drums for quintessential 90s grunge band Nirvana, up until Kurt Cobain's death.

He secluded himself after his bandmates passing and is now is the lead guitarist and main songwriter for the Foo Fighters and still drums for Them Crooked Vultures.

Nirvana's drummer Dave Grohl is legendary.
Dave Grohl, drummer for Nirvana, Foo Fighters and Them Crooked Vultures. Photo credit: Giarc80HC on Visualhunt.com

Ginger Baker

Trained in jazz, Baker started with the band Cream.

He’s known for his powerful style, complicated rhythms, energy and showmanship.

Ginger spent several years in Nigeria to study African drumming, and his rhythmic style reflects it.

He incorporates jazz and African rhythms into his style, and in his early career would perform lengthy drum solos.

Travis Barker

Travis Barker is best known for his drumming in punk-rock band Blink-182. After their first album 'Enema of the State' in 1999, Blink-182 quickly rose to fame and Barker became one of the most idolised drummers, known for his fierce, animalistic style and incredible drum fills.

Hal Blaine

Hal Blaine was a session musician, and is estimated to have recorded the most music as a session drummer, with a repertoire of over 35,000 sessions and 6,000 singles. He has collaborated with names such as as Sam Cooke, John Lennon, Paul Simon and Aretha Franklin.

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Famous Female Drummers

Female drummers have not always been quite as visible as male drummers in rock bands, but that is changing.

A huge number of women have made their mark in the music world as some of the best drummers around, and for good reason.

This is a section dedicated to some of the most famous and talented female drummers.

Sheila E.

Sheila Escovedo is a well-known drummer, singer and songwriter who had her big break during the eighties. B

y her early twenties, Sheila E. had already worked with big names such as Diana Ross, Lionel Richie, Marvin Gaye and Herbie Hancock. She is best known for her work with Prince.

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Sheila E., the Queen of Percussion, played drums for Prince.
Sheila E., is often referred to as the Queen of Percussion. Photo credit: raymondclarkeimages on VisualHunt

Cindy Santana-Blackman

Cindy Santana-Blackman is versatile drummer who has worked in jazz drumming and rock.

She first rose to prominence drumming for Lenny Kravitz.

She has drummed with a variety of bands including Spectrum Road, Sam Rivers and her husband Carlos Santana and recorded several solo jazz albums.

Meg White

The percussionist for the blues-rock duo, The White Stripes, White has a minimalist, flowing style that set a powerful stage for their music. She often sang as well.

White's drumming career started on a whim, when she started to play with her bandmate and ex-husband Jack White and his praise for her stripped back, minimal beats, which complement and make The White Stripes what they are.

Meg White was the drummer of rock duo The White Stripes
Meg White's minimalist drumming was iconic to The White Stripes. Photo credit: mosesxan on VisualHunt

Karen Carpenter

Though her career tragically ended by her struggle with anorexia, Carpenter was known as a drummer before she was famous as the lead singer of The Carpenters.

She was especially admired for her ability to drum and sing at the same time, something that is not easy to do.

In the early 1970s, Carpenter started to sing more and drum less in performances, and soon became the face of the band.

Before then, she felt more comfortable behind the drum kit, and her brother and bandmate stated she would "speedily maneuver the sticks as if she had been born in a drum factory", giving light to her incredible talent.

Janet Weiss

Considered as one of the top fifty best drummers in the world, Weiss has played with bands such as The Furies, after only one drum lessons and about two weeks of practice.

She then got taken on with Sleater-Kinney after an impromptu jam session after one of their shows. She also played for Quasi, the Jicks and Wild Flag.

Bobbye Hall

A session musician not affiliated with any one rock band, Bobbye Hall has played with many of the greats, including Stevie Wonder, Bob Dylan, Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Doors and Pink Floyd. She plays a dizzying array of percussion instruments, from congos to congas to tabla to the güiro.

 

Bobbye Hall and her assistant.
Bobbye Hall is a session musician who has worked with all the greats, with a large number of percussion instruments. Photo credit: Sunkissis, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=40881344

 

Georgia Hubley

The drummer of Yo La Tengo, Georgia Hubley was first known as a similar drummer to Moe Tucker of The Velvet Underground, with a simple and minimalist style. Through the longevity of Yo La Tengo, Hubley developed a subtle jazz flexibility that has coined her a brilliant drummer, perfect for the sounds of Yo La Tengo's groove.

Sandy West

As a co-founder of the The Runaways at the young age of 15 with Joan Jett, West's powerful drumming style coined them as the renowned rock band they are today. The Runaways were the first teenage all-girl hard rock band to achieve great success and record in 1970s.

Moe Tucker

Moe Tucker had incredible precision and timing which complemented her minimal style and was an integral part the sound of The Velvet Underground.  Tucker even played drums standing up and kept up a perfect beat.

Discover also the history of playing drums through the ages!

Famous Australian Drummers

There are a bunch of vastly talented drummers in Australia that may not be as visible as American drummers or those from the United Kingdom. Here's a list of just a few big Australian drummers to inspire you.

Alex Carapetis

Alex Carapetis is known for his drumming in Australia rock band Wolfmother and Julian Casablancas' of the Strokes band, The Voidz.

He is also known for drumming in bands Nine Inch Nails and Phoenix.

His style brings together the lo-fi, bizarre and other-worldly sounds of the Voidz and brings an energy well-suited to Casablancas' animated vocals.

Ben Gillies

At just age 12, Ben Gillies and Silverchair frontman Daniel Johns and bassist Chris Joannou formed a grunge band called Innocent Criminals, before Silverchair formed in 1992 when Gillies was just 15.

Silverchair succeeded at a young age and was a worldwide multi-platinum certified early on in their career.

Nicky Bomba

Nicky Bomba, born in Malta, is well-known for leading the ARIA award-winning Melbourne Ska Orchestra, fronting his band Bomba and for being the former drummer and percussionist of John Butler Trio.

Bomba's integration of the kit and percussion and his ska style gives him an edge amongst Australian rock drummers.

His animated character makes his performances stand out–he is a talented musician and performer.

Australian and Maltese drummer and percussionist Nicky Bomba
Nicky Bomba played drums and percussion for John Butler Trio and is the frontman of the Melbourne Ska Orchestra. Photo credit: F. M. Abreu on VisualHunt

Learning from your Favourite Drummers

Researching your favourite drummers is a great way to get inspired; what style do they play and how did they start out?

Pay close attention to the drumming you're drawn to and you can start to replicate it, and cultivate your own unique style.

Learning from the live performances of star drummers is also a great way to progress in your drumming craft.

You could watch music videos or YouTube videos of concerts and pay close attention to the drummer's technique on the snare drum, their trick for double bass rolls, how they hold their sticks or hit the cymbals.

Of course, part of finding yourself as a musician is knowing what style you want to play, and doing what is most comfortable for you, but if you try to imitate other drummers, you will get a feel for what works best for you, and what doesn't.

It will give you ideas for different techniques and drum fills and is a good starting point for developing your own, unique style.

It's also worth looking at drummers outside of your own music style.

You can learn a lot from other genres and styles of drumming and pick up techniques you can integrate into your own style, which will help you stand out as a drummer. Sometimes certain trends in a genre can lead to bad habits, so it's helpful to have a wide knowledge of drumming styles and techniques.

For instance, if you stick to a genre such as rock, incorporating some jazz techniques and classic rhythms will give you and your music an edge, and you'll create something beautifully unique.

Reflecting on what you liked or didn’t like in a live performance will help you fine-tune your own style. You can try recording yourself or having a friend make a movie as you play the drums so you can analyse your own performance, the way you would while closely watching a drummer during a performance.

This is a great way to practice as you'll notice things you may have missed while playing. For instance, you may have been rushing the beat a little or hitting the snare a little too hard. These things are easy to miss while you're in the moment.

If you are taking drum lessons in Australia, our Superprof drum tutors can teach you how to emulate your drumming heroes and become the best drummer you can be.

You can find drum lessons for kids and adults, whatever level you're at. Have a browse through our teachers to find the best tutor for you.

Check out some more facts about the drums here!

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Daniel

A student by trade, Daniel spends most of his time working on that essay that's due in a couple of days' time. When he's not working, he can be found working on his salsa steps, or in bed.