There’s nothing better than hearing a good drum solo within a song. While standalone drum solos are very attractive to drummers, it’s the built-in drum solos that everyone loves. It’s one of the few times where the drummer gets the spotlight, and there have been some amazing solos recorded for albums over the years.
As part of our series on the best drumming songs, here’s a list of 15 of the best songs that include drum solos. Most of them are from rock, metal, and jazz artists and bands, as these are the styles where the drums often take the lead.
Some of the songs may have slightly different versions, but the main idea is that each song included here has a planned slot where the drummer takes a solo.
- 1 Hot for Teacher – Van Halen
- 2 YYZ – Rush
- 3 What About Me? – Snarky Puppy
- 4 Funky Drummer – James Brown
- 5 Black Betty – Ram Jam
- 6 Moby Dick – Led Zeppelin
- 7 In The Air Tonight – Phil Collins
- 8 Wipeout – The Surfaris
- 9 Take Five – Dave Brubeck
- 10 Toad – Cream
- 11 Night in Tunisia – Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers
- 12 Aja – Steely Dan
- 13 Painkiller – Judas Priest
- 14 Song for the Dead – Queens of the Stone Age
- 15 We’re an American Band – Grand Funk Railroad
- 16 Final Thoughts on the Best Songs with Drum Solos
Hot for Teacher – Van Halen
Hot for Teacher is one of Van Halen’s most loved songs, and it’s the best song to listen to from a drummer’s standpoint. It starts with an incredible drum solo that involves a double bass drum and floor tom.
The idea behind the solo is that it’s meant to sound like a motorbike that is starting up. The original song had multiple drum parts being layered, but Alex van Halen still managed to nail this drum part every time they played live.
From there, it kicks into a driving double bass drum shuffle. This intro solo became an iconic part of Van Halen’s history, and drummers love learning how to play it.
YYZ – Rush
YYZ was one of Rush’s most impressive tracks regarding the musicality of all the band members. It’s a full instrumental tune, and they always let Neil Peart play an extended drum solo when they performed it live.
You won’t hear a big drum solo on the original track, so you’ll need to listen to live versions of the song.
Neil Peart is often regarded as one of the best progressive drummers, and you’ll be able to hear just how good he is when listening to all the YYZ solos that he played over the years.
What About Me? – Snarky Puppy
This was the song that put Larnell Lewis on the map for many people. He stood in for Robert “Sput” Searight on this Snarky Puppy recording, and he nailed every single song on the album.
This particular track is where he shined the most out of all the recordings. All the drum parts in the song are seriously tasteful, but it’s his solo at the end of the track that will blow your mind.
There’s one part where he uses a single kick drum pedal to play quick consecutive notes. It comes out of nowhere, and it makes you appreciate his epic foot speed.
Funky Drummer – James Brown
Clyde Stubblefield was the drummer for this track, and he plays an epic groove drum solo in the middle of it. The amazing thing about this solo is that he just plays the same 16th note groove over and over, but it’s so tasty that it makes you want to listen to it on repeat.
It’s known as the Funky Drummer groove, and it’s an essential groove for drummers who love funk music to learn. The tricky aspect of it is opening the hi-hats to play chokes while also keeping the 16th note rhythms going.
Black Betty – Ram Jam
Here’s a song that everyone loves. It also helps that there’s an exciting drum solo near the end of the tune. David Fleeman plays a few tasty fills between electric guitar hits, and they get heavier each time he plays around the kit.
Moby Dick – Led Zeppelin
Moby Dick was John Bonham’s song. The band basically played this song at gigs purely to let Bonham rip a solo for as long as he wanted. The original album recording has him playing a solo for a few minutes, but he’d often play 20 to 30-minute solos at their live shows.
Whenever someone gets into analyzing John Bonham’s playing, his Moby Dick solos are often the first thing that gets brought up. He’s one of the greatest rock drummers of all time, and you can hear a lot of his iconic drumming ideas in the solo here.
In The Air Tonight – Phil Collins
While you wouldn’t typically consider the drum break as a solo for this track, it’s one of the most famous drum fills to ever be recorded, and that plants this song firmly on this list.
The In The Air Tonight fill has Phil Collins playing syncopated notes down his toms to build up to a huge groove of the chorus of the track. It’s incredibly simple, but it’s so effective.
You also need to listen to the whole track from the beginning to feel the impact of the drum fill when it comes. It’s quite possibly the most air-drummed fill ever.
Wipeout – The Surfaris
Here’s another tune with an incredibly famous drum kit part. Most of the song is a full-on drum solo with a bit of music layered over it.
It’s all 16th notes on the toms, and Ron Wilson is playing accents to tastefully create phrases to keep things interesting. Whenever he’s not playing tom fills, he’s playing a driving 4/4 groove with open hi-hats to keep the song sounding heavy.
If you want to learn to play a song with an iconic drum solo that always sounds the same, this is a great one to start with.
Take Five – Dave Brubeck
Take Five is the most famous track that Joe Morello played drums on. The song has a time signature of 5/4, and it’s incredible to hear how natural Joe Morello makes that odd time feel.
He plays an extensive drum solo in the original recording. Morello was well-known for being able to play amazing solos in odd time, and this was the track that got the most recognition.
Toad – Cream
Toad is Cream’s version of Moby Dick. It was a song written purely to place a huge drum solo in it, and Ginger Baker played some incredible solos every time they performed this tune.
Ginger Baker had a unique drumming style where he blended jazz ideas with rock drumming, and he often played Afro Cuban rhythms in his solos for this song.
He takes you on a journey, and it always feels so satisfying when listening to the things that he could play on the kit.
Night in Tunisia – Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers
Art Blakey and his band were huge in the jazz world. He was one of the most influential jazz drummers of his time, and he regularly played intricate solos.
One of the best tunes to listen to for hearing one of these solos is Night in Tunisia. Blakey starts the song off with a tasteful solo, and he gets his band members to add a few percussion parts as well.
Aja – Steely Dan
Steve Gadd has never been a drummer known for playing hectic solos. In fact, he’s most well-known for his solid groove skills and tasteful drum part playing. However, he rips a short solo in this track that just shows how much he typically holds back.
He pulls out slick 32nd note patterns that sound amazing.
Painkiller – Judas Priest
Painkiller was one of the heaviest songs to be released at the time when it came out in 1990. It starts with a massive drum solo that involves heavy cymbal and double bass hits.
While the drum solo isn’t particularly long, it’s the way that it was mixed that makes it sound so punchy and heavy.
If you love metal and thrash music, you’ll love the intro part to this tune.
Song for the Dead – Queens of the Stone Age
This track starts with Dave Grohl playing a few juicy drum fills. It’s a small drum solo that kickstarts the track as it’s being played over a repeating guitar riff.
It’s fantastic to hear Dave Grohl playing drums like this, as he hasn’t played all too much while mainly being the frontman for The Foo Fighters.
We’re an American Band – Grand Funk Railroad
This is also a track that has a tasty drum solo that kickstarts the track. It’s very short, but the song wouldn’t be the same without it.
Don Brewer is the drummer here, and the combination of his drumming and the driving cowbell makes the whole tune sound very exciting.
Final Thoughts on the Best Songs with Drum Solos
There are plenty more songs with top-tier drum solos, but all the ones that we’ve mentioned above have ranked high on charts and become hits from the bands that created them.
It’s important to remember how special drum solos can be, but it’s also good that they’re rare. If they were common, songs like the ones we mentioned above wouldn’t be as effective. It’s better to have one song in an album with drums at the center than it is to have all of them with drum solos.