Top 10 Best Rock Drummers of All Time

Rock and roll music has been shaped and defined by some of the most iconic musicians in history, and among them are the drummers. The driving force behind some of the biggest hits and live performances in rock history, these percussionists have brought energy, power, and creativity to the stage, making them an essential part of the rock music scene.

From the hard-hitting rhythms of John Bonham to the technical finesse of Neil Peart, these drummers have influenced generations of musicians and fans alike. They have not only elevated the role of the drummer in rock music but also demonstrated the limitless possibilities of what can be achieved with a pair of drumsticks and a drum kit.
The Top Ten
1 Neil Peart Neil Ellwood Peart, (September 12, 1952 - January 7, 2020) was a Canadian musician and writer best known as the drummer and primary lyricist of the rock band Rush. Peart received numerous awards for his musical performances, including an induction into the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame in 1983, making... read more

Neil Peart is a unique drummer in many ways. Something I notice about him that few other drummers do is put his actual talent, his creativity, into his band's music. To most people, it would be the end of the world if you asked them to listen to Rush (Peart's band). However, each song Peart does is like they are all drum solos. They are always changing. There is no end to the riffs. And oh, he is fond of using odd time signatures. Since when does Travis Barker do 7/8 time and then suddenly change it to 3/4? I could go on, but I won't.

Neil Peart will always be at the top of my list no matter what. And I hope that someday everyone else will see it from my point of view too.

2 John Bonham John Henry Bonham was born on May 31, 1948 in Redditch, United Kingdom. Bonham (nicknamed Bonzo) was a professional hard rock drummer who was best known for being the drummer in the band Led Zeppelin. Bonham was also one of the background singers in the band. His drumming is mainly displayed on the... read more

Kept scrolling thinking, "Well surely Bonham's next..." Sixth? Really? I'm about to give up on humanity. It should be Bonham and Neil Peart battling for first, and Keith Moon being satisfied with third. And by "satisfied," I mean smashing his drums in disappointment.

I've got bad news for everyone who thinks the top four are even the best drummers today. They aren't. Mastodon's drummer makes them all look slow. 32nd notes on one hand? Yeah, he's that good. He was trained as a jazz drummer too, so his technical precision is ridiculous. His hands are as fast as Bonham's right foot.

No one can touch Bonzo though.

3 Keith Moon Keith John Moon was an English drummer for the rock band the Who. He was noted for his unique style and his eccentric, often self-destructive behaviour. His drumming continues to be praised by critics and musicians.

Yeah, Keith may not be the most complex drummer ever, but what he lacks in complexity, he more than makes up for in power and endurance. Keith's drums needed to be buffered so as not to diminish his bandmates. He played with drumsticks so thick they called them trees. When playing in concert, he couldn't be controlled. He was just the kind of drummer whose riffs ran together so much on recordings that it would seem like one long drum solo.

Unless I'm mistaken, Animal from the Muppets was portrayed to be Keith Moon. Do I need to mention how powerful and long his drum solo was in the song "My Generation"? You must remember, rock represents power and emotion first and foremost, not over-rehearsed songs like the band from Canada. Rock shouldn't have poise. It's raw, that's the way it was, and that's the way it should always be.

If you want something complicated, call on Buddy Rich. He would put Neil Peart to shame. Keith Moon first, followed by Ian Paice, John Bonham, and Mitch Mitchell.

4 Dave Grohl David Eric "Dave" Grohl is an American rock musician, multi-instrumentalist, singer, songwriter, producer and film director. He is best known as the former drummer of the hugely popular 90s grunge band Nirvana and the vocalist/guitarist for the alternative rock band Foo Fighters. He has sat behind the... read more

Dave Grohl isn't only one of the nicest guys in the industry, he's also one of rock's greatest when it comes to drumming. His power and presence are huge on almost every song he plays, but he never tries to upstage his bandmates. He can play extremely complicated fills with ease, and he never misses a beat. He's the best drummer after Bonzo, in my opinion, and should be higher than guys like Ulrich. For the Ulrich fans who disagree, check out Grohl's work on Probot and Nirvana songs like "Scentless Apprentice". Otherwise, listening to Them Crooked Vultures (best live) is the perfect way to see Grohl's greatness.

5 Ginger Baker Peter Edward "Ginger" Baker (19 August 1939 – 6 October 2019) was an English drummer, best known as the founder of the rock band Cream. His work in the 1960s earned him the reputation of "rock's first superstar drummer," while his individual style melds a jazz background with African rhythms.

I can hardly believe the positions of these two in this list (Bonham 8, Baker 52?). Drumming is very peculiar, to say the least. Some sound very rehearsed and predictable, while others sound very much on target timing-wise as we think they "should sound" - well-timed, pronounced, and profound at exactly the anticipated moment, with creative impulse that is conspicuous and impressive.

All of these aspects deserve credit for the hard work and effort expended to get on this list. But none compare to the unreasonable creativity of these two rock drummers. They are always a millisecond off the expected tempo. They paint beats the way Van Gogh painted "Starry Night" - they decide the next moment, and we arrive. These guys determine things that the other guys realize but only worship in their quiet moments. These two are truly the different drummers that most of us will never march to because our ears are closed. They never do what is expected. They create the greatness that "is" the sound of Led Zeppelin and Cream, and forever more, what should be worshipped in the art of percussion, if such things exist.

6 Mike Portnoy Michael Portnoy is an American drummer primarily known as the former drummer, backing vocalist, and a co-founder of the progressive metal/rock band Dream Theater. Known for his technical skill as a drummer, Portnoy has won 30 awards from the Modern Drummer magazine.

Considering he made Progressive Drummer of the Year 13 consecutive years straight, he should at least be in the top ten. There have been drummers such as Mike Mangini, also known as the fastest drummer in the world, who told the media that there is no way he could compare to Portnoy. Portnoy consistently elevated the level of difficulty for progressive metal.

But as the poster before me mentioned, it's obvious that there are some who comment only on the drummer in their favorite band. There are so many genres out there that it would only be safe to have a "progressive" top ten or "metal" top ten or "thrash" top ten, since Portnoy would be classified as the obvious choice, Lars Ulrich would be classified under thrash (his words), etc. I mean, come on. What about Chris from Lamb of God? At this point in time, he's listed as 43... that's shameful. He's much better than that. I am quite fond of the voting system you've got going on here.

7 Buddy Rich Bernard "Buddy" Rich was an American jazz drummer and bandleader. Widely considered one of the most influential drummers of all time and known for his virtuoso technique, power, and speed, Rich was billed as "the world's greatest drummer" during his career.

Buddy is by far better than any of these drummers. Travis Barker 5? Really? Just because he can play an average snare solo doesn't mean he can measure up to the career of a man who has been playing the drums his whole life without lessons.

Let's start off by saying he has more technique, style, and flair than any of these drummers. Sure, he didn't have an enormous drum kit like Neil Peart, but Buddy could make it sound like a whole coliseum of drum kits. Buddy not only played with technique, but he also played with speed, which almost all the drummers above him on this list couldn't do.

Buddy was also a genius, being able to invent technical beats on the fly. I mean, come on, even Neil Peart said it himself that Buddy is the best. I think that's enough said.

8 Alex Van Halen Alexander Arthur "Alex" Van Halen is a Dutch-born American musician, best known as the drummer and co-founder of the hard rock band Van Halen.

I saw Alex in concert in 1980. His speed was incredible. He keeps a cup of drumsticks in the center of his set in case he loses one. He did lose one or tossed it to a fan and quickly grabbed another one and did not lose a beat. That was at the Cape Cod Coliseum in 1980.

A monster can play slow, fast, heavy, or with jazz improvisation, and does it all with feel. Always overshadowed by playing in a band with the greatest guitarist, also his brother, check out his work on a great track called "Out of Love." Perfect.

9 Danny Carey Daniel Edwin "Danny" Carey, born May 10, 1961 in Lawrence, Kansas, is an American drummer and instrumentalist best known for his work in American Grammy Award-winning progressive rock band Tool. He has also contributed to albums by and played with such artists as Zaum, Green Jellÿ, Pigface, Skinny... read more

This guy deserves the name of possibly the best drummer in history, maybe even ahead of Neil Peart, who's incredibly overrated. And Travis Barker?! No competition there. Danny has incredible speed and creativity, especially in The Pot, Sober, Schism, and Lateralus, but also the craziest time signatures, far better than Mike Portnoy.

It's difficult to compare all these drummers because their genres differ from alternative metal to deathcore to progressive rock. But there's no question that Danny's playing is incredibly more versatile than several of today's metal drummers. Obviously better than Joey Jordison and whoever those Japanese guys are. Best drummer hands down. None of you guys know drums at all!

10 Lars Ulrich Lars Ulrich is a Danish drummer and one of the founding members of the American thrash metal band Metallica.

Some might not approve of his manic style (just see this profile picture of him), but it suits me (and every Metallica fan ever). It might not look like it, but his drumming, though as fast as heck, is highly technical, yet still retains a musical quality that puts Metallica as one of the best metal bands of all time.

I am astounded that Ulrich is not higher on this list. Few drummers can cope with 200 bpm. I know I can't (yet). For a masterclass in concert drumming from Ulrich, check out the film Metallica: Through The Never, which will not disappoint. If you just want a taster, Ulrich's drumming is fully displayed in all its glory in the song "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)," with a gentle, clean guitar groove and drum backbeat that builds up to a fast, yet melodic section filled with riffs, fast fills, and half-time changes to boot. Lars Ulrich is the best, and everyone should at least respect him as an outstanding, almost unparalleled drummer.

The Contenders
11 Bill Ward William Thomas "Bill" Ward is an English musician and visual artist, best known as the original drummer for the British heavy metal band Black Sabbath.

Amazing, he cuts loose, gets aggressive, and hits hard, but with a positive, jazzy motion and feel to it. The interaction and chemistry he has with the whole band just makes the Sabbath sound dark, dirty, and ass-kicking. I have his drumstick, and I will never let it go!

Blues, jazz, and rock infused into one great sound. Always one of my favorites. I could not believe spiteful little Ozzy squeezed him out of their "reunion" tour. What a joke and travesty, but Ozzy has always been below board. I believe it's due to his wife.

12 Stewart Copeland Stewart Armstrong Copeland is an American musician, multi-instrumentalist and composer best known as the drummer for the English-American rock band The Police and for his film and video game soundtracks.

It's notable that Copeland has a very tasteful, yet masterful approach to the drums, much in the way that jazz drummers play. His technique is grounded in jazz, and as such, he drums in a way that is technically very difficult to play but is not flashy, adding to the music in which he's playing instead of mugging for attention. He worked tremendously well as a counterpoint to Sting's bass playing, as well as actually contributing to the reggae stunning style as opposed to just conforming to it. One of Copeland's greatest strengths, though, was knowing when to take a backseat and let the other musicians do their thing.

13 Dave Lombardo David "Dave" Lombardo is a Cuban American drummer, best known as a co-founding member of the American thrash metal band Slayer.

Only 38th? What?

Dave Lombardo is the undisputed king of double bass. He should be higher than most of the drummers on this list! In fact, he should have been at the top of the leaderboard. Shannon Leto is simply in the wrong genre. Tre Cool doesn't have flashy fill-ins, and Lars Ulrich, while good at composing music, is not what you would say is the best drummer.

Only The Rev and Dave Mackintosh might come close, but Rev is dead and gets a lot of sympathy votes here, while Mackintosh's fill-ins get a bit repetitive after a while.

14 Ringo Starr Richard Starkey known professionally as Ringo Starr, is an English musician, singer, songwriter and actor who gained worldwide fame as the drummer for the Beatles.

Ringo is the best drummer ever, period. People say he isn't technically proficient, which isn't true. He isn't the most technically proficient, he's more unorthodox than untechnical, being a lefty using a righty kit. But what really shines is his creativity. He's probably the most creative drummer ever with his fills.

His versatility is unmatched as he drums every Beatles song perfectly. He serves the song well instead of himself. Even when he does a drum solo, it's one of the best ever, like he did in The End. Just because he isn't flashy doesn't mean he isn't good. Also, the three other Beatles and George Martin all thought he was the best drummer ever. The other Beatles wouldn't compliment each other like that, but they knew that Ringo was the best.

15 Joey Jordison Joey Jordison, was an American musician, songwriter, and record producer, best known for his work as the former drummer and co-songwriter for the heavy metal band Slipknot as well as guitarist in the Horror-punk band Murderdolls. He is the co-founder and drummer for the Blackened Death Metal band Sinsaenum... read more

I can't believe that only 4% of people have voted for Joey. He is an amazing drummer with unbelievable speed and power. Without Joey, Slipknot wouldn't be half the band they are and nowhere near as successful. It's just a combination of everything that makes Joey the best drummer to ever live. Although, he is closely followed by Bullet For My Valentine's Michael "Moose" Thomas.

This list is a joke. Neil Peart, John Bonham, and Keith Moon are all great players, some of the best of all time. But Jordison stands atop the foundations they built and adds his own great style. It's sad that he's so underrated because he definitely is the best drummer of all time. And he gets the number 9 spot? No, Jordison is number 1, the best of them all.

16 Jimmy The Rev Sullivan James Owen Sullivan, professionally known by his stage name The Rev, was an American musician, composer and songwriter, best known as the drummer, composer, songwriter, co-lead vocalist and founding member for the American alternative metal/ metalcore band Avenged Sevenfold.

I have been looking at a number of "Best Drummer" lists, and sadly, the Rev isn't listed on any of them. This is a tragedy! His drumming, in my humble opinion, is pure genius, easily as good as Neil Peart (who is usually listed as the number one best drummer). I feel that is only because of the Rev's untimely death that his talent and genius will never be fully appreciated, particularly by those who have no taste for A7X's music.

The Rev is indeed one of the best, if not THE best drummer I have ever heard. Listening to his rhythms, solos, and the complexity of his playing is music in itself, even without the rest of the band's accompaniment.


17 Ian Paice Ian Anderson Paice (born 29 June 1948) is an English musician, best known as the drummer of the English rock band Deep Purple. He has been the band's only constant member since its foundation.

He can be a top ten drummer, one of my favorites. Watch his drum solo "Live in California." He has even played a drum solo with the London Philharmonic Orchestra in the early 1980s. But one funny thing is that when you look at "Animal," who plays the drums in the "Muppet Show," he has the same style as Ian Paice.

Ian can do more with his small kit than most drummers with their outrageous kits. Ian Paice should definitely be in the top ten. Lars shouldn't even be near the top ten. Most people that vote just like certain bands and have no idea about playing drums. These lists are always ridiculous!

18 Mitch Mitchell John Graham "Mitch" Mitchell was an English drummer who was best known for his work in the Jimi Hendrix Experience.

Mitch is my number 4 pick. He had a great style. I loved the Experience, one of the most creative bands ever, and so was his drumming. As my choice, he falls just under John Bonham, Keith Moon, and Ginger Baker. All of these guys were great.

I saw the Experience live on their first tour at Kansas City Municipal Auditorium. It was sold out to 10,000 people in 1970.

Mitch Mitchell is very underrated. That probably has to do with the fact that he played with Jimi Hendrix, which is understandable, but still. His drumming was very good on songs like Fire, Little Wing, and many more. He was one of the most iconic and influential drummers that ever lived.

19 Phil Collins Philip David Charles "Phil" Collins is an English singer-songwriter and musician, who has also worked as a record producer and actor.

Without a doubt, one of the most underestimated drummers in the world. Just listen to the early Genesis albums. He is incredible on every single song, always bringing something new to the table. He is not only an amazing drummer technically, being able to play songs in the weirdest time signatures, not to mention his incredible speed, but he also has so much feeling in his playing that it's almost disgusting.

I am confident that this man is able to play just about anything. I am very disappointed to see him this far down on the list. I recommend everyone who doubts me to check out the early Genesis albums or just the song "Nuclear Burn" with Brand-X. I am 100% confident that no one can disagree with how much of a monster drummer this man is.

And oh yeah, when he started singing in Genesis instead of drumming, he had both Bill Bruford and Chester Thompson playing drums when they toured instead of him. If that doesn't tell people anything... I don't know what will.

20 Tré Cool Frank Edwin Wright III, known professionally as Tré Cool, is a German-born American drummer, best known as the drummer for the American punk rock/pop punk band Green Day. He replaced the band's former drummer John Kiffmeyer in 1990.

Tré Cool is the epitome of a drummer: he's funny, he's energetic, and he sure as hell can crank out some major beats! He is the most talented drummer out there, and I believe that he deserves the title of Best Rock Drummer a whole lot more than Shannon Leto does. As for people like Neil Peart and John Bonham, I agree that they are amazing drummers, but let's face it: their place in music history has been established. They were the best of their time, and today is a new day in a new time. So, let the drummers of this time establish their place in history and not let the dug-up spirits of the past hinder them from their rightful place. Long live Tré Cool and long live Green Day!

21 Bill Bruford William Scott "Bill" Bruford is an English retired drummer, percussionist, composer, producer, and record label owner.

A shame how such a great drummer can be this far down on this list. I love drummers like Dave Grohl, Danny Carey, etc., but they have nothing on this man. He is a genius. Very few drummers have impressed me as much as Bruford. Maybe one of the best drummers in the world technically, and he has so much feeling in his playing. Always coming up with new things and sounds. Not to mention, how many drummers can say that they have played on all the good albums with artists such as Yes and King Crimson? Unbelievable.

22 Nicko McBrain Michael Henry "Nicko" McBrain is an English musician, best known as the drummer of the British heavy metal band Iron Maiden, which he joined in 1982.

Absolutely wrong.

Nicko McBrain is one of the greatest drummers in metal. I'm not sure about other genres taken into account in this list, but Nicko McBrain is easily one of, if not the greatest, metal drummer. He should be at least in the top five. McBrain is a god of drums. Listen to the albums Piece of Mind, Brave New World, and A Matter of Life and Death. If you know much about drumming, you'll realize Nicko is unbelievable.

I'm very disappointed he's below Joey Jordison and even Lars Ulrich. Nicko blows those two out of the water. There's no competition for him at all.

23 Chad Smith Chadwick "Chad" Smith is an American musician and current drummer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, which he joined in 1988 and is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

When Chad first auditioned for a spot within the legendary RHCP, his agent promptly noted to the likes of Anthony Kiedis and John Frusciante that his client "ate drums for breakfast." After much doubt regarding such a lofty claim, I think it's safe to say that Chad has proven to both his band and to millions of fans that he does indeed eat drums for breakfast.

Chad is my inspiration for my drumming. Ever since I heard the Chili Peppers songs, I instantly loved them. As my taste in music matured and I began to actually listen to the drums, I researched the name of the drummer, have done some research, and realized he inspires me and is my favorite drummer of all time so far.

24 Rick Allen Richard John Cyril "Rick" Allen is an English drummer who has played for the hard rock band Def Leppard since 1978. He overcame the amputation of his left arm in 1985 and continued to play with the band, which subsequently went on to its most commercially successful phase.

He was a great drummer before he lost his arm and inspirational after the accident! I saw him play live at his first one-armed show at Wembley. It was incredible to see how he used both feet to make up for the lost arm. Anyone who's tried to drum will know how difficult that would be. My number 1!

Are you kidding me? This guy rocked hard, with one arm? Give the guy some props. 41 is a joke. Show Rick Allen some love for perseverance and the love for music he had to continue, at least. Who else would have felt sorry for themselves and quit music? Not this guy. He was a boss. Top 10, if not top 5 material.

25 Alan White

It is shameful to be adding this guy's name at the bottom of this list, but he cannot go unmentioned. He most certainly should be in the top ten.

Check out the drumming to Sound Chaser by Yes, it's phenomenal. Then there's the likes of Instant Karma where the drumming makes the song.

Great drummer, fabulous rhythm. I don't know why he's not up there when drummers like Ulrich are up there. Why?

8Load More
PSearch List