A lot of people identify drumming with rock music, and that’s why there have been so many rock drumming heroes throughout the years of drum kit popularity.
For this list, we’re going to show you ten of the best rock drummers of all time. We’ll explain why they’re regarded so highly and break down all the various projects that they’ve played on.
Here’s a disclaimer, though. Musical skill is very subjective, so this may not be a list that everyone agrees with. With that being said, these are drummers that everyone agrees should be on some sort of best drummer list.
So, check out all the names we’re about to mention, and don’t hate us if your favorite drummer isn’t here! That doesn’t mean that they’re not an amazing rock drummer.
Let’s get to the list.
John Bonham is an easy pick to be first on most people’s list of best overall drummers. Not only was he an incredible player, but he changed drumming as an art when he came onto the scene.
He was just a teenager when joining Led Zeppelin, and everything he played over the next decade influenced thousands of drummers around the world.
Bonzo’s only musical project was with Led Zeppelin, and he was such a critical member that the band decided to disband after he tragically died in his late 20s.
He had an iconic set of gear that made him easily recognizable as well. He was always playing oversized Ludwig drums with rock cymbals from Paiste. His cymbals were typically from the 2002 line. He also typically played on an acrylic kit.
To this day, people still refer to John Bonham as one of the heaviest influential drummers to ever play the instrument, and it’s hard to argue with that.
Stewart Copeland gets most of his recognition for being the drummer for The Police in the 80s and for a short stint in 2007. However, he has a massive musical career apart from that shaped him to be another one of the most successful drummers of all time.
He’s a highly accomplished composer as well as a drummer, and you can hear how that affects the musicality of his playing. He’s worked on countless soundtracks for various film and TV projects, and he’s been the main drummer for several different bands.
The thing that made Stewart Copeland’s drumming stand out so much was that he brought influences from other styles into the rock genre. You’d often hear him referencing reggae, Latin, and other world music grooves in songs.
He’s been a longtime player of Tama drums and Paiste cymbals.
Danny Carey is another highly regarded drummer in the rock world. His main claim to fame is being the drummer for the progressive rock band, Tool. While the drummers we’ve looked at so far have been creative and hard-hitting, Danny Carey makes this list due to how technically proficient he is.
Almost every Tool song is extremely complicated, involving constantly changing odd time signatures, unique phrasing, and arbitrary musical choices. Somehow, Danny Carey writes drum parts for the songs that always fit like a glove.
Most people who watch Danny Carey play are bewildered at just how creative and diverse he is behind the kit. He constantly uses world percussion sounds to spice things up, so he doesn’t often play with just a standard kit.
He’s yet another famous rock drummer who uses Paiste cymbals. He currently plays Sonor drums.
Ginger Baker was one of the first noteworthy drummers to switch from playing jazz to playing rock. He then became one of the best rock drummers on the scene, mostly playing with Eric Clapton, who is one of the best guitarists to ever live.
Since Ginger Baker came from a jazz background, he had an amazing ability to play drum solos that demonstrated immense musicality and improvisational ability.
He was also one of the first few drummers to use two bass drums in his setup. That wasn’t a big thing before he started doing it, meaning he single-handedly influenced thousands of drummers around the world to do the same.
He regularly used Ludwig drums and Zildjian cymbals.
One thing to note about Ginger Baker is that he had a bit of a reputation for being an awful person. Most drummers are amazing people, but you won’t hear too many people say that about him. That doesn’t detract from how good his drumming was, though!
Chad Smith is a funk rock legend (and is a household name to the point he was featured heavily in the drumming doc Count Me In). He joined The Red Hot Chili Peppers a few years after the formation of the band, and he’s played an integral part in the group ever since. He’s also played with several other music projects over his long and successful career, including playing drums for Ozzy Osbourne and Joe Satriani.
The strong point of Chad Smith’s playing is his grooving ability. He’s a hard groover, and every beat he plays on the drums makes you want to pull a stank face.
Chad Smith was one of Pearl and Sabian’s biggest artists for years, but he recently switched to playing DW drums and Paiste cymbals.
Neil Peart is another drummer who would easily make it to many people’s number one spot on the best drummers of all time list. It’s heavily debated, but Neil Peart did a lot to shape progressive rock drumming, and he’s been a major influence on thousands of drummers who look up to him.
He’s certainly one of the most famous drummers to ever play the instrument. He had such a huge reach that we’ve heard that he often half-emptied DW’s artist budget whenever he needed a new kit to be made for a tour.
Neil Peart’s drumming with Rush will go down in music history as some of the finest drumming ever.
Near the end of his life, Neil Peart was playing DW drums and Sabian cymbals.
Speaking of famous drummers, the most well-known one on this list is none other than Ringo Starr. When you play drums for The Beatles, fame follows, and Ringo Starr is undoubtedly one of the biggest names in the music world.
Ringo Starr was never the most technically proficient drummer. Most of the other drummers on this list could easily outplay him. However, he makes this list due to how much influence he had on rock drumming, as well as his ability to create the perfect drum parts for all The Beatles songs.
Out of all the drummers we’ve listed, it was Ringo Starr who caused the most people to pick up a pair of sticks and start learning how to play.
He always played Ludwig drums and Zildjian cymbals.
Roger Taylor is one of those drummers that influenced other famous drummers. His main gig was with Queen, and he had a hand in writing a lot of the songs that the band performed. Since Freddie Mercury died, Roger Taylor has done work with countless other artists. He’s also had a solo singing career where he hasn’t been the drummer.
All of Roger Taylor’s accolades show you how good of a musician he is, but it’s his drumming that most people love him for. He has a musical drumming style, often incorporating classical influences into his playing.
He plays Ludwig drums and Zildjian cymbals.
Gavin Harrison’s drumming goes under a lot of people’s radars purely because he hasn’t played with bands that are as big as the other ones that we’ve mentioned on this list. However, we’d say that Gavin Harrison’s playing ability firmly places him on this list, as he’s one of the best progressive rock drummers out there.
His main three bands are Porcupine Tree, King Crimson, and The Pineapple Thief. All of them have him playing intricate drum parts that are highly impressive to listen to.
Gavin Harrison plays Sonor drums and Zildjian cymbals.
Todd Sucherman is our final drummer for this list. While he has an incredible career behind him, it feels as though he’s just getting started. He’s been named the top rock drummer in the world by several reputable publications, and he continues to impress people with his live drumming abilities.
While he’s not as well-known as most of the other drummers on this list, he undoubtedly will be in decades to come.
He plays Pearl drums and Sabian cymbals.
Final Thoughts on the Best Rock Drummers of All Time
It’s amazing to see how much influence all these drummers have. Some of them pioneered certain drumming techniques, while others played beats that were never heard before. If you want to listen to rock music history, go check out all the early albums that they all tracked drum parts for.
Again, these drummers made this list mostly due to how well-regarded they are. If you didn’t see someone you expected, we’re not saying that they’re not one of the greatest rock drummers. Just keep that in mind!