PAL's Top Drummers of Rock

Although Animal is clearly one of the best - not to
mention wildest - drummers the world has ever seen,
this list is dedicated to humans only. Next time.  

How’s it going, music fans? You know, in the world of music, it seems as though guitarists get all of the attention. When we think about the world’s most signature rock stars, we almost always think of the guitarist – especially if they also take the roll as the singing, ax-wielding frontman. You have Clapton, Hendrix, Page, Van Halen and tons more. And it makes sense in a way; there’s just something about an electric guitar that just oozes cool and is the very instrument that got several musicians – including myself – into the huge world of music. I mean, how many of us haven’t cranked out a wicked air guitar solo or two in front of their mirror as a kid. Well, I might be the only one but my point remains the same – guitarists just win in the cool department. But there is a member of the band that is just as important but doesn’t seem to get nearly as much attention. I’m talking of course about the rock and roll drummer.

Designated with holding down that very important back beat, drummers are assuredly as important to rock and roll music as the guitarists themselves which is why we here at PAL would like to take some time today to showcase that very important band member by listing a few of who we feel are some of the best rock and roll drummers of all time. Well, or at least some of our favorites! Not only that, we will also be checking out some of our previous drum kit related articles that you might have missed that are sure to send you in the right direction next time you’re in the recording studio ready to lay down some beats. Before anyone gets mad, I should just say right now that The Who's Keith Moon is not on this list. He definitely is one of the best, no doubts there, but I needed to keep this one with ten, in no specific order. Alright, let’s get started!


PAL’s Top Rock Drummers 


The Drummer


The Legacy

Travis Barker

Associated Bands: Blink-182, The Transplants, The Aquabats, +44, Box Car Racer


Possibly one of the most famous and lauded modern drummers around, Travis Barker made a name for himself as the mega-prolific baron of the back beat for pop punk outfit Blink-182 during the band’s peak in the ‘90s. He has since played with some of the top names in music including Rancid frontman Tim Armstrong and the late DJ AM.

Mike Portnoy

Associated Bands: Dream Theater


If you have yet to check out Portnoy’s prowess on the drum kit, you have no idea what you’re missing! One of the best prog rock drummers in town, he is the recipient of over 25 Modern Drummer magazine awards and the youngest percussionist to enter the Modern Drummers Hall of Fame at the age of 37 after one Neil Peart. 

Phil Collins

Associated Bands: Solo, Genesis


Few drummers are as responsible for penning as many hits as Mr. Phil Collins. While many out there will point to Collin’s “In The Air Tonight” as the perfect example of his dual threat as a songwriter and drummer – thanks in part to that particular song’s signature drum tone and solo – there’s a bigger reason why he has sold over 150 million records worldwide: the man can jam!

Rick Allen

Associated Bands: Def Leppard


Known by his fans as “Thunder God,” Rick Allen is famous for overcoming an injury most drummer – most musicians even – couldn’t even imagine battling: the complete amputation of his left arm. But that didn’t stop Allen who continued with the band after the accident and subsequently led them in achieving the pinnacle of their worldwide success. Now this is a guy who can rock out with the best of them, regardless of his handicap.

Danny Carey

Associated Bands: Tool


There aren’t too many prog drummers out there who can claim the honor of being Grammy Award winners but Carey is just that – and more! Best known as the man behind the kit of Tool, Carey is also well-known for his contributions to several other artists and groups including Carole King, ZAUM, Green Jellÿ, Pigface, Skinny Puppy, Adrian Belew of King Crimson, Collide, The Wild Blue Yonder, Lusk, and the Melvins.

Dave Grohl

Associated Bands: Nirvana, Queens of the Stone Age, Them Crooked Vultures


The current renaissance man of rock; few musicians can claim as much prowess on so many different levels as Dave can. First hitting it big as the drummer for Nirvana, Dave proved that he was much more than a simply a one trick pony when he decided to swap the kit for an electric and the rest is rock and roll history. If you still have any doubts on just how well respected this man is in the music biz, simply take a look at some of his bandmates: Kurt Cobain, Lemmy, John Paul Jones, Josh Homme and plenty more!

Ringo Starr

Associated Bands: The Beatles, Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band, Plastic Ono Band, Rory Storm and the Hurricanes


While his skills behind the kit may not be the most technically impressive, his beats remain one of the most well known in rock history. While his songwriting skills might not have been on par with the rest of his mop-top bandmates, he still managed to churn out some hits of his own such as “It Don’t Come Easy,” albeit with a little help from his friends!

Buddy Rich

Associated Bands: Solo, Bandleader, Various


Widely considered one of the greatest jazz drummers of all time, Buddy Rich played with Tommy Dorsey, Benny Carter, Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. He continued to play until shortly before his death in 1987, and his skills were fully intact until the end - as evidenced by any of the many memorable drum solos that can be seen online, such as his epic drum battle with Animal in the video below!

John Bonham

Associated Bands: Led Zeppelin


One of the most influential – but sadly short lived – drummers in all of rock is none other than the great John Bonham. With the exception of Keith Moon, few other drummers could play with such wild ambition and skill as Bonham. Known for his speed, power, fast right foot, distinctive sound, and "feel" for the groove, it’s no wonder why he is widely considered to be one of the greatest drummers in the history of rock.

Neil Peart

Associated Bands: Rush


How can this guy not be included on the list! Known as the back beat behind one of rock’s most beloved power trios, Neil Peart has received so many awards and recognitions for his skills behind the kit that it would just be to exhaustive to name! While his stamina, skills and mastery of the drums might be what he’s best known for, he is also the main lyricists for Rush, responsible for penning the words to such classic hits as “Tom Sawyer,” “2012” and “Lime Light,” among tons more.



What you might have missed…

Check out some of our past articles dedicated to the mighty drum kit! We have tips on mic placement, different recording techniques and even a guide on tuning!


Recording Drums: 3-Mic and Full Set Techniques

Tuning Your Drum Kit: Part One & Two

Mixing Drums Part One: Balance

Mixing Drums Part Two: EQ

Mixing Drums Part Three: Compression



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