This article will discuss the best drummers today, drummers who were able to stand out with:
- Incredible to technique
- Unique Style
- Recognizable sound
Before we jump in to talk about each drummer individually, here is a complete list:
60 Best Drummers Today
- Keith Carlock
- Chad Smith
- Harvey Maison
- Tommy Aldridge
- John Jr. Robinson
- Tomas Haake
- Chris Coleman
- Peter Erskine
- Terry Bozio
- Mike Portnoy
- Bernard Prudie
- Simon Phillips
- Virgil Donati
- Dennis Chambers
- Billy Cobham
- Ash Soan
- Thomas Lang
- Jojo Mayer
- Gergo Borlai
- Ronald Brunner Jr.
- Steve Jordan
- Eric Moore
- Matt Gartska
- Tony Royster Jr
- Dave Lombardo
- Jim Keltner
- Ian Paice
- Benny Grebb
- Calvin Rodgers
- Thomas Pridgen
- Todd Sucherman
- Mike Mitchell
- Mike Mangini
- Danney Carrey
- Omar Hakim
- Larnell Lewis
- George Kollias
- Eloy Casagrande
- Chis Dave
- Annika Niles
- Antonio Sanchez
- Horacio Hernandez
- Gavin Harison
- Nate Smith
- Marco Minnemann
- Nicolas Viccaro
- Aaron Spears
- Stewart Copeland
- Billy Kilson
- Mark Guiliana
- JD Beck
- Sarah Thawer
- Volkan Oktem
- Robert Searight
- Steve Smith
- Stanley Randolph
- David Garibaldi
- Dave Weckl
- Steve Gadd
- Vinnie Colaiuta
60. Keith Carlock
Keith is known as a drummer with a distinctive and recognizable style. He is on the speed dial of many producers of both rock and jazz. Many considered him an all-around drummer due to his versatility and ability to adapt to any genre.
He played and recorded for some of the biggest names in the business, like Chris Botti, John Mayer, Sting, Steely Dan, Toto, and others. Keith is credited on more than 67 studio releases.
Carlock’s ability to smoothly transition between various patterns and tempos, his use of detailed and precise playing, and his use of complex rhythms all define his drumming style. He is also renowned for utilizing cymbals in inventive ways to add a variety of sounds and textures to his performance.
In the drumming world, he is known for his DVD “The Big Picture: Phrasing, Improvisation, Style, and Technique.”
DVD is divided into several sections, each focusing on a specific aspect of drumming, such as technique, fills, solos, listening and responding to the music, developing a sense of musicality, etc.
59. Chad Smith
Chad Smith is the power engine behind the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and he might be the most famous drummer of the funk rock style.
Born and raised in Saint Paul, Minnesota, he started drumming at the age of 7 and continued his career as a self-taught drummer.
In his playing style, you can hear the influence of drummers like John Bonham, Buddy Rich, Neil Peart, and Ian Paice. Although these are all rock drummers (except Buddy Rich), Smith “funkified” his energetic beats and fills and made them different.
That suggests he listened and tried to “steal” tricks from James Brown drummers such as Clyde Stubblefield and Jabo Starks.
If you want to get more into Chad Smith’s beats, I suggest you listen to tracks like:
- By the Way
- Scar Tissue
- Suck my kiss
- Mellowship Slinky in B major
The sound you can hear in these songs is achieved thanks to Smith’s superb control of the ghost notes. Also, he always bounces the left foot slightly towards the middle of the hi-hat pedal, which causes the hi hat to stay more open.
58. Harvey Maison
Harvey is a legendary smooth jazz drummer known for his work with the Foreplay. Foreplay is a band combined with extraordinary musicians such as Bob James, Nathan East and guitarists Chuck Loeb, Lee Ritenour, and Larry Carlton, who changed over the years.
Due to his incredible sound and dynamic, Mason deserved his place amongst the top drummers today. If Foreplay is the most iconic representative of smooth jazz, then Harvey is the best drummer of this genre.
Besides Fourplay, Harvey recorded many studio tracks with Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, George Benson, Miles Davis, and others.
If you have ever heard “Chameleon” by Herbie Hancock, you have listened to extraordinary musicianship by Harvey Mason on drums. Harvey Maison is a go-to source for all drummers into passion, dynamic, feel, and pocket.
57. Tommy Aldridge
Tommy – the hard rock powerhouse behind Whitesnake, Black Oak Arkansas, and Ozzy Osbourne. It’s safe to say Tommy falls into the category of the greatest rock drummers of all time.
Many young drummers know Tommy for his iconic drum solos, which are just the tip of the iceberg. Inspired by jazz drummers such as Louie Bellson, Tommy started using two-kick drums and is considered one of the pioneers of this kind of setup in rock music.
Although he played on blues records such as Dirty fingers by Gary Moore, Tommy’s unique style is captured on albums like “Bark at the Moon” by Ozzy Osbourne and “Slip of the Tongue” by Whitesnake.
To dig more into the rock royalty that Tommy is, I suggest you listen to tracks like:
- Crazy Train by Ozzy Osbourne
- Here I go again, Crying in the Rain and Fool For Your Loving by Whitesnake
56. John Jr. Robinson
Have you ever heard “Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough” by Michael Jackson or “Ain’t Nobody” by Chaka Khan? Well, that’s the creativity of Jr. Robinson captured right there.
According to a database on allmusic.com, Robinson recorded over 546 albums, singles, and movie scores. This incredible amount of music he recorded in the studio placed him in the top 10 most recorded drummers of all time.
John was a go-to drummer for famous producer Quincy Jones and thanks to him, he had the opportunity to play on albums by Michael Jackson, Madonna, Seal, Rod Stewart, and many more.
He started his career as a funk/dance drummer, but his incredible ability to adapt to any genre brought him far more.
55. Tomas Haake
If you are a metal drummer, you must have heard the song “Bleed” by Meshuggah. This incredible polyrhythmic beat was created by none other than Thomas Haake.
Bleed is not lonely when it comes to polyrhythmic grooves. As a matter of fact, his whole playing style is based on heavy polyrhythmic beats and fills.
The beat from “Bleed” put him on the map of best metal drummers today. As Tomas says, this beat completely transformed his bass drum technique. After all, it is one of the most challenging beats in metal music.
To be able to play some of Tomas’s rhythms, you must first master counting, independence, and odd time signatures. For instance, the rhythm in “Bleed is four against three.
54. Chris Coleman
Chris Coleman enjoys tremendous respect among drummers since he is one of a kind. His ability to amaze continues over the years. Chris is a combination of a drummer who has everything from fast shops to excellent stick control and dynamic.
He became known widely in the drumming community after winning a “Guitar Centre Drum Off” in 2001.
As a touring drummer, he played with gospel bands, such as Israel and New Breed, but as time went by, Chris joined more prominent names, such as Chaka Khan and Rachelle Ferrell.
His drumming style is imbued with complex beats, fast singles, and linear fills. Chris stated that he started playing drums at the age of 2. Although I wonder if that is possible, he sounds like it is.
53. Peter Erskine
Peter is a jazz and studio legend who played on over 479 albums, singles, and movie scores. He is credited for helping Dave Weckl to make a name for himself.
When fusion jazz was at its peak, Peter Erskine was a member of a supergroup that conquered the scene. The group name was Weather Report.
Besides playing with legendary bassist Jaco Pastorius and Joe Zawinul in the Weather Report, Erskine recorded and toured with many jazz legends such as Chick Corea, Diane Krall, Michael Brecker, Chris Botti, John Patitucci, John Scofield, Mike Stern, and the list goes on.
Amongst drummers, he is known for groovy solos, triplet licks, fast, clean doubles, and for introducing time and space into jazz beats.
His most famous quote is: “It’s a good thing to have enough confidence in yourself to play simple.”
52. Terry Bozio
Young drummers probably have heard about Terry through his gigantic drum set. However, that is just one piece of the puzzle called Terry Bozio.
He became known as the drummer for Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention. Have you ever heard about the Frank Zappa composition “The Black Page”?
Frank wrote a composition to challenge Terry’s impeccable sheet reading skills. It’s so full of notes that it almost looks completely black on the page, and that’s why it’s called “The Black Page.”
That all aside, drummers often geek out over Terry’s “sneaky” way of injecting complex beats and fills into the synthpop/new wave genre with the group Missing Persons.
Terry claims his approach to drumming is melodic, and the reason for having an enormous drum set is having access to more sounds.
51. Mike Portnoy
As a member of Dream Theater, Mike influenced many of the young metal drummers.
He incorporated different drumming styles from his favorite drummers into his unique style.
In his playing, you can hear the influence of Neil Peart, Terry Bozzio, Ringo Star, John Bonham, and others.
The famous linear patterns he plays in the songs like “Paradigm Shift, “”Dance of Eternity,” and others are probably influenced by Bozio. While some of his creative grooves are influenced by Ringo Star and Neil Peart.
Portnoy is known for long and complex compositions that include various time signatures and complex phrases.
For advanced drummers, his drum parts can be easy to learn but hard to remember.
50. Bernard Purdie
Have you ever heard of “The Purdie Shuffle”?
Well, that’s a rhythm Bernard Purdie came up with. Before Jeff Porcaro introduced “the Purdie Shuffle” to a broader audience through the song “Rosana,” Bernard Purdie played this beat on various records.
Purdie shuffle is a distinct halftime shuffle with syncopated ghost notes played on the snare drum. Although it’s most often on blues records, drummers such as John Bonham and Stewart Copeland created variations of this beat in rock music.
Those variations became known as “Fool in the rain” by Led Zeppelin and “Walking on the Moon” by the Police.
As a studio musician, he played on almost 400 records and singles. This list of names he recorded for it’s scary, to name a few: James Brown, Aretha Franklin, B.B. King, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Steely Dan, Herbie Hancock, and many more.
49. Simon Phillips
Simon is one of the drummers with the most distinctive sound. His unique sound and incredible technique launched him into the orbit of the best studio drummers.
Many know Philips as a Toto drummer, but you may not know that he is one of the busiest session drummers who collaborated with artists such as Whitesnake, Judas Priest, Jeff Beck, Mick Jagger, Mike Oldfield, Jon Lord, The Who, and many others.
Philips is known as a pioneer of Open-Handed drumming. Instead of crossing his hands and playing hi-hat with his right hand, he plays it “open-handedly” with his left hand and often leads with his left hand.
Although not a “lefty,” he developed ambidexterity to make his toms look good. Seeing Billy Cobham and Lenny White live, who both play open-handed, inspired him to start using this approach.
48. Virgil Donati
Virgil is one of the technically most skilled drummers in the world. His independence and ability to switch between the most challenging odd-time signatures make him one of the best drummers today.
Donatti is a student of Philly Joe Jones, Muray Spivak, and Rob Carson. Although many know Virgil from the now-famous Dream Theater drummer’s audition, he was widely known in music circles long before.
He toured with Tommy Emmanuel, Alan Holdsworth, Steve Vai, Derek Sherinian, Planet X, and many more.
Besides being a studio and tour drummer, Virgil is also a clinician and drum teacher.
You can find many of his drum lessons on Drumchannel.com.
Donati is constantly growing, evolving, and pushing the limits of progressive drumming.
47. Dennis Chambers
Dennis is a legendary funk/jazz drummer with incredible drumming skills. For many aspiring drummers, Dennis is a role model and an inspiration.
Widely known as a drummer for Parliament Funkadelic, Carlos Santana, Mike Stern, John Scofield, Steely Dan, and many others. He’s been a touring and recording artist for more than 40 years.
Driven by the influence of signature Jabo Stark and Clyde Stubblefield grooves (both drummers for James Brown) and Tony Williams’s approach to drumming, Chambers shaped his style.
This style includes fast single strokes, funk breaks, and grooves, but underneath, mastering the time. Although he is known for his crossovers and fast chops, he always pushes drummers to “keep it in the pocket.”
Actually, “In the pocket” is his legendary video school that I suggest you check out.
46. Billy Cobham
When fusion jazz was a thing, Billy Cobham was a go-to drummer for many musicians, such as Miles Davis, Brecker Brothers, John McLaughlin, and Jack Bruce.
His recordings and appearances with the Mahavishnu Orchestra built his reputation as one of the best fusion jazz drummers ever.
He is known for his ability to play fast, clean, and precise, but he is even more known for his album from 1973, “Spectrum,” and the famous song “Stratus.”
You may not know that “Stratus” was sampled by Massive Attack, covered by Jeff Beck, and appeared in the video game GTA 4. A fun fact for all of you drummers is that on this album, Billy laid his wallet on a snare drum to dampen it. As you may know, this trick is used often nowadays.
45. Ash Soan
It’s safe to say that Ash Soan recorded half of the music in the UK from the 90s forward. He’s been among the most recorded UK drummers ever, with over 137 appearances on albums and singles.
You may hear his drumming on albums by Adele, Seal, Robbie Williams, Alicia Keys, Sam Smith, Dua Lipa, and Rod Stewart or in movies such as the Lion King, Mission Impossible, Boss Baby, and many more.
Ash is an excellent example of a modern studio drummer who is always chasing new sounds. His fills include displaced notes in grooves like shuffle or Steve Gadd’s type of linear fills.
He turned the 18th-century windmill in Norfolk, UK, into a modern high-end recording studio where he does most of his recordings nowadays. Some of which have been nominated for Grammy. In one of his interviews, Ash said friendship with bassist Dinno Paladino meant much to his career.
44. Thomas Lang
Discussing modern drummers without mentioning the great Thomas Lang is almost impossible. Thomas become known to the public after playing for Gianna Nannini, Paul Gilbert, Bonnie Tyler, John Wetton, and others.
But, most drummers remember Thomas’s 2003 “Creative control.” With this DVD, he created a name for himself in the drumming world. In recent years Lang established even more respect with his appearance at a Dream Theater’s drummer audition.
Thomas is known as a drummer who’s been able to use all four limbs “almost” equally. That’s the exact approach he teaches in his clinics and masterclasses.
He is widely known for using multiple pedals and playing ostinato grooves with his feet while playing various rhythms on top with his hands.
Thomas should be your go-to source if you are new to drumming and want to learn proper technique.
43. Jojo Mayer
Jojo is one of the most advanced and innovative drummers of today. To the public, he has known through his band, the Nerve, one of the rare live bands in the Drum n Bass genre.
Thanks to his technical abilities and unique approach to drumming, he can combine traditional drumming techniques with drum and bass music.
With his DVD “Secret weapons for a modern drummer,” he pushed the boundaries of modern drummer’s technique. Many of the exercises from these DVDs are in wide use today.
Mayer moved from Switzerland to the US to pursue his drumming career inspired by drummers such as Buddy Rich and Tony Williams. He continues to push their technique approach to this day,
Modern Drummer Magazine named him among the 50 Best Drummers of All Time in 2014.
42. Gergo Borlai
Gergo is one of the most talented and technically proficient drummers today. Gergo’s drumming style is a unique blend of musicality and technical proficiency. His primary “weapons” are precision, speed, and coordination.
These “weapons” allow him to play the most complex patterns and time signatures.
Gergo has appeared on more than 300 albums so far, but besides being busy as a studio drummer, he is also a drum teacher and a clinician.
In 2012, he started working as a jazz drum teacher at Liceu Academy in Barcelona. In his own words, practicing, listening to new music, and being open-minded keeps him awake and up for a task.
To be ready for any session, Borlai finds a solution by practicing different and new things. However, drumming is more than technical proficiency, he says.
41. Ronald Brunner Jr.
If you are a tough person to amaze by somebody’s drumming skills, check out Ronald Brunner Jr.
Ronald is one of the most talented drummers today. Like most gifted musicians, he is known for being a drumming chameleon who can switch between genres easily.
Throughout his career, he played with George Duke (fusion/jazz/funk), Suicidal Tendencies (crossover trash), Kammasi Washington (jazz), and his brother Thundercat who plays anything from jazz to funk.
Overall, Brunner is one of the most impressive drummers with a high ability to play precisely, fast, and easily incorporate all limbs into complex phrasing. He is known for his ability to play powerfully at maximum speed while keeping the groove simple.
40. Steve Jordan
You may know Steve Jordan as a current drummer for the Rolling Stones. It’s a kind of a step up from being a drummer for X-Pensive Winos, Keith Richards’s side project.
Besides playing with Keith, Jordan toured and recorded with many great artists, such as John Mayer, B.B. King, J.J. Kale, Toto, Bruno Mars, Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Beyonce, and others.
Although many young drummers focus on fast chops, Jordan decided a long time ago that he should focus on what really matters, the groove.
His drumming style combines groove, dynamic, musicality, and feel. That’s not it; Steve went far beyond drumming. He is also a music producer and a songwriter for Sheryl Crow, Keith Richards, The Rolling Stones, John Mayer, and others.
39. Eric Moore
Eric doesn’t stop to amaze with his incredible drumming skills. He tinkled the eye of the drumming community by making an appearance in the now legendary video series “the Gospel Chops.” The same video series helped launch Tony Royster and Thomas Pridgen.
One of the most memorable moments in his career was winning the Guitar Center Drum Off in 2013, where he showcased his speed, creativity, and groove.
The general public had the opportunity to see him on tour with Bobby Brown, Sly And The Family Stone, and Suicidal Tendencies. He has come a long way since then, and in recent years he joined Italy’s most famous singer, Eros Ramazzoti, on tour.
In 2022 he started his brand of drumsticks – “Dope Stickz,” characteric by its neon color design. Besides using his own sticks, Eric endorses DW drums, Paiste cymbals, and Aquarian drumheads.
38. Matt Gartska
Matt Gartska is best known for his work with Animals as Leaders, which he joined in 2012. In the drumming community, he became known little before that.
While he attended Berklee College of Music, the video series “Gospel Chops” was released. Matt had noticed appearance in this video and caught the eye of many drummers.
Soon after, many of his live videos from gigs with the “Animals” went viral. Matt became known as a technically advanced drummer who could play complex patterns and perform impeccable rhythmic modulations.
His most famous performances are in the Tooth and Claw”, “Ka$cade“, “The Woven Web” by Animals as Leaders, but also his cover of “Get Ur Freak On” at the Meinl Drum Festival in 2015.
For many, Matt is “the drummer’s drummer,” leading the way into modern drumming.
37. Tony Royster Jr
Tony became famous in the music circles at a very young age, and he went viral when this was not a trend yet.
He appeared at Modern Drummer Festival in 1997 when he was 12. To illustrate how significant this is, appearance on Modern Drummer fest is a major success for adult professional drummers with a long career, but for a child, that’s just over the top.
Later, he appeared on a DVD called “Common Ground: Inspirations, featuring drumming legends Dennis Chambers and Billy Cobham when he was only 14.
For non-drummers, Tony is known as a drummer for Joss Stone, Joe Jonas, Mac Miller, Katy Perry, and many others. In the drumming community, he will always be a prodigy and someone to admire.
36. Dave Lombardo
We must pay tribute to Lombardo, a drummer who set standards in metal music. For many, Lombardo is known as a drummer for Slayer, a band he confounded with guitarists Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman and bass player Tom Araya.
He left the band in 2013 due to financial disputes. Since then, he has toured and recorded with bands such as Suicidal Tendencies, Misfits, and Mr. Bungle.
As a drummer, he is known for his aggressive double bass style and considers to be one of the pioneers of the double bass technique. That’s why many metal drummers like Danel Erlandson from Arch Enemy and Lars Urlich from Metallica look up to Lombardo.
They say his drumming is powerful yet simple because he doesn’t overplay. Due to his ability to play fast, he is known as one of the best metal drummers worldwide.
35. Jim Keltner
Here at drumthat.com, we did research a few years ago to find out who is the most recorded drummer of all time. We ran the allmusic.com database to find out his name is Jim Keltner and that he recorded more than 975 albums, singles, and movie scores.
With this incredible amount of credits, he overruled legends such as Steve Gadd, Al Jackson, Max Roach, and Jeff Porcaro. Up to that moment, many considered Hal Blaine the most recorded drummer of all time, but data on allmusic.com says otherwise.
Besides being known as the leading session drummer in the US, he is known as a drummer who recorded albums for all former Beatles members. In his interview with Dom Famularo, he mentions guys like Hal Blaine, Ben Benjamin, Jim Gordon, and Earl Palmer as his early influences.
As he says, Jim Gordon was an epiphany of a perfect studio drummer he tried to emulate. In the same interview, he mentions his “aha moment” was when he was able to sound unique because when you sound unique, nobody can compare you and say he is not quite as good as someone else.
34. Ian Paice
Paice is a legendary “lefty” drummer from Deep Purple. As drummer for the Purple, he played on tracks like “Burn,” “Smoke on the Water,” Highway Star,” “Child in Time,” and many more.
His unique style and sound made him stand out, as well as playing with the biggest bands in Rock n Roll world, such as Deep Purple, Whitesnake, and Gary Moore.
As a drummer, he is known for his fast rolls on the snare drum, along with a wide range of dynamics and the use of triples and paradiddles. Paice’s trademark is his unique cymbal technique, which shaped his sound, the intricate and energetic cymbal work.
Overall, to this day, Paice is one of the greatest drummers in rock history. His contribution to music and influence on young drummers is for any respect.
33. Benny Grebb
Benny is one of the most influential drummers alive. He has grown and made his grooves and chops unique thanks to his wish to constantly evolve and explore his style and technique.
In a time when there are more and more copycats, Benny can stand out. Many of the “sloppy,” “swamp” grooves plenty of drummers play nowadays are signature Benny Grebb.
His strong influence on the drumming community is showcased through his Masterclasses, DVDs, Books, Albums, and even his app “Gap Click.”
Although he could be a sideman for any larger Pop star in the world, Benny decided to instead play music he likes with his own band, “Grebfruit.” Large drum companies such as Meinl, Sonor, and Vicfirth recognized that, so we now have various signature products in cooperation with Benny.
His book “Effective Practicing for Musicians” is his product I would highly recommend.
32. Calvin Rodgers
Calvin is a highly influential drummer of the gospel community. He played with significant gospel performers like John P. Kee and Fred Hammond and pop stars like R. Kelly.
He gained exposure through playing in church, and after his excursion to Pop music, he decided it was time to go back to the gospel and join Fred Hammond as his lead co-producer and co-writer.
He serves the drumming community well through his clinics and lessons. He influenced a lot of young gospel drummers, and many of the chops they play are signature Calvin Rodgers Chops. Maybe the most famous one is from the intro of James Fortune’s song “Never Again.”
This song starts with James saying, “Calvin, let’s go,” Then, Calvin does his magic with triplet linear chop that should go into school books. I had the opportunity to do an interview with Rodgers. Read the full interview here.
31. Thomas Pridgen
Pridgen shined at the Modern Drummer festival back in 2008, and this appearance ensured that a much broader audience became aware of his existence. He showcased his outstanding drumming skills and his ‘abs”. Not kidding; he appeared at the festival shirtless.
Thomas’s “chaotic” yet systematic and precise drumming was a new thing. Behind the scene, Pridgen spent countless hours building his stamina and practicing rudiments.
In 2015 he appeared on Drumeo YT channel in a lesson on rudiments and how he applies them across the drum set.
We mention guys like Eric Moore, who won the Guitar Center Drum-off, but a widely known fact is that Thomas won the same contest at the age of nine, which guaranteed him an endorsement from Zildjian (the youngest drummer ever to receive this endorsement).
30. Todd Sucherman
Although one way to describe Todd is a “solid rock drummer’, with his abilities, that would be an understatement. His technique and stamina are at a level so high that only a few rock drummers were able to match this.
He has been known to the public as a drummer for the band Styx since 1996 when he replaced John Panozzo, who died. Although he had a lot of bright moments in his long career, one stands out, at least to his drummer fans.
In 2019 Drumeo released a video of Todd playing the song “Wild Horses” by Neil Zaza on top of the mountain. They hauled his drum kit and the audio equipment into two helicopters and flew them into the mountain.
Ask any drummer, and they’ll tell you how hard it is to play in such conditions. With this performance, Todd confirmed his status as one of the best drummers today.
29. Mike Mitchell
Mike may be known to the general public as a drummer who played with Stanley Clarke. But, to all drummers, he is known as one of the most talented and fastest drummers today.
Although highly musical and creative, his advanced technical skills are his trademark. He started playing drums when he was only 2 (if that is even possible). On his official website, there is an interesting number of 16,862 hours he spent practicing.
So for all of you drummers out there, if you ask how he is that good, that’s the answer.
He decided to push his own music and built a name for himself as a drummer and an artist. Mike released the album “Killing Bugs” in 2017, soon after that, “Time Out.” He releases the records under the pseudonym Blaque Dynamite.
28. Mike Mangini
It would be unfair to mention Mike Portnoy or drummers who showed up at Dream Theater’s audition for a drummer without mentioning a guy who officially became their drummer.
Dream Theater had 3 stages of audition:
- Playing their tunes
- Playing various “awkward” riffs
Mangini could “kill” on all three next to monstrous drummers like Thomas Lang, Marco Minneman, Virgil Donati, and others and win the audition. He joined forces with Dream Theater in 2010.
Before that, he played as a session drummer on James LaBrie’s albums (Dream Theater singer). But, overall, before Dream Theater, he was known as a drummer for Steve Vai, Extreme, and was widely known as one of the most skilled drummers worldwide.
27. Danny Carrey
The list of technically skilled drummers is endless. However, the list of drummers with unique style is a lot shorter, and this list is precisely that.
When I decided to make it, one of the first names instantly came to my mind was Mr. Carrey. To an audience worldwide, Danny is familiar as the drummer for the Tool. Among drummers, he is a drummer who can come up with the most complicated patterns played in odd time signatures.
Two of the most famous are in the songs “Schism” and “Pneuma” by Tool. He is known for tracks that include multiple odd time signatures.
Besides strange grooves and odd-time signatures, he is known for his hybrid drum setup that combines acoustic drums with electronic and percussion elements.
26. Omar Hakim
Fusion jazz legend from the late 90s and early 20s, aka Omar Hakim. His distinctive style recognized guys like Herbie Heacock, David Bowie, Sting, Daire Straits, and many more.
He worked as a session musician for major pop stars such as Madona, Celine Dion, and Mariah Carey.
As a drummer, Hakim is known for impeccable timing and a creative approach to drumming. He can perform with delicacy and nuance when necessary and has a sharp sense of dynamics. He also knows how to build a rhythm section that is forceful and driving.
No less famous is his signature snare drum made by Pearl. With the characteristic tone provided by the Mahagony shell and its unique size of 13×5, it is easily one of the best-sounding wooden snare drums out there.
25. Larnell Lewis
There is still a long road ahead of Larnell, but with this amount of talent, his future is safe. The audience had a chance to hear about Larnell when Snarky Puppy became popular.
Their video with tracks like “Shofukan’, “What about me?”, “Lingus” went viral in 2015. When it first came out, it was really something new and groovy. video is recorded in a studio with an audience all wearing their headphones. This “style” is later copied by many.
Larnell soon uprose as one of the most creative drummers of today. He confirmed this fact with his appearance on Drumeo.
Lewis’s drumming style is creative and complex, with intricate drum fills, polyrhythms, and odd time signatures. What sets him apart from other drummers is his ability to equally good play any music genre.
24. George Kollias
Although I decided to write a separate article concerning the best metal drummers in the world, I must mention the great George Kollias.
George is known for fast blast beats and incredible speed of both hands and feet. Hi, technique level is rare, even for a genre as progressive as metal.
His bass drum technique, known as the “swivel technique,” enables drummers to play even faster moving boundaries of double bass drumming.
Metal drummers usually stick to only one genre and try to master it. But George had something different in mind. Since he had already mastered metal, he decided to jump into jazz and funk projects.
23. Eloy Casagrande
Drummer who replace Igor Cavalera in Sepultura. Since then, he doesn’t stop to amaze. Known for his power and endurance, Eloy is easily one of the best metal drummers in the world.
He originates from Brazil, where the most popular music genres, according to statista.com, are Sartanejo, Pop, Gospel, and Samba. It would be ubiquitous to hear a Brazilian drummer playing samba but incorporating Latin grooves in metal, well, that’s new.
Like many on the list, he had a noticeable appearance at Modern Drummer Festival in 2005. He was only 14 years old, and even then, it would be an easy guess that this kid would be one of the best drummers today.
The following year, he won Modern Drummer’s Undiscovered Drummer Contest, and in 2011 he joined Sepultura.
His drumming style is distinguished by using rhythmic patterns on toms while playing double bass underneath.
22. Chis Dave
Although Chris is less technical than other drummers on the list, he fairly deserves his place among the greats. The reason is simple, nobody plays like “Daddy” Dave, and he is one of the pioneers of “sloppy” hip-hop grooves on drums.
The fact he is incomparably justified him being on the list of greatest drummers alive.
As a session drummer, he worked with Justin Bieber, Anderson Paak, Adele, D’Angelo, and others. He recorded several albums as a live act, mostly with his band Drumheads.
His drumming style can be characterized by time shifts, rhythm stretching, and note displacements. He is flawlessly merging jazz and RnB into one genre.
He has collaborated with some of the greatest stars in modern R&B, hip-hop, and jazz music and is frequently referred to as a “neo-soul” musician. All things considered, Chris Dave is regarded as one of the most creative and essential drummers of his age and still pushes the limits with his instrument.
21. Annika Niles
Annika is the first lady on the list and inarguably the best one. Sorry for including only a few female drummers on this list, but I made a separate article on the best female drummers you can check out.
In a world dominated by men, Annika was able to find her own language and place among these amazing drummers. Her drumming style can be described as literate, groove, and dynamic.
It’s a fantastic mix of odd time signatures grooves with displaced notes and creative fills. Interestingly, Annika started playing drums at 26 and released her first viral video after only 4 years of playing. The video is called “Alter Ego,” It was released in 2014 and had over 4M views on YouTube.
She was the last drummer to ever play with legendary guitarist Jeff Beck who died in 2023. Jeff liked to give young and talented musicians a chance to shine. He introduced the world to Tal Wilkenfeld, the bass player, and helped her get her deserved attention.
20. Antonio Sanchez
This Latin groove master had his first significant appearance at Modern Drummer Festival in 2003. Since then, he has played all over the world. The general public knows him as a drummer for Pat Metheny and a guy who played drums for the movie score on “Birdman.”
“Birdman,” with Michael Keaton in the leading role, won many awards, including the Grammy Award for Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media.
Latin drummers are known for being skillful at independence, and Antonio is no different. His drumming solos with his left foot playing clave while soloing are legendary.
Overall, drumming independence is the hardest thing to overcome, but achieving the level of independence Antonio has is quite unique.
19. Horacio Hernandez
A few drummers has independence as Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez.He has been among the most demanding Latin drummers for over a decade.
He worked with Michell Camilo, Carlos Santana, Arturo Sandoval, and many other Latin artists throughout his career. What you may not know is that El negro is a doctor of music. In 2010 Berklee College of Music awarded him a doctorate.
This Latin drummer went beyond just playing classic samba, bossa nova, cascara, and other Latin rhythms. He created a name for himself by injecting “fusion” into Latin.
His beats are all except classic Latin rhythms.
His drumming can be described as a mix of crisp technique, impeccable timing, and virtuosic improvisation skills.
18. Gavin Harison
Gavins is a drummer whose creative mind pushes the boundaries of drumming. Clean, solid, and creative is how we could describe his drumming style.
It’s easy to distinguish his drum set by mini custom bells made by Zildjian on his left. Over the years, these bells have become one of his trademarks, along with his Sonor custom-made snare drum he uses.
Something else is easily noticeable as well. His sound. It’s punchy and clear, and the drums are always perfectly tuned. As a drummer, it’s easy to geek over his unique sound and playing style.
Over the years, Gavin worked with various artists, to name a few: King Crimson, Level 42, Iggy Pop, Eros Ramazzoti, Nathan East, and others.
17. Nate Smith
Nate Smith is an “old cat” that become widely popular over the past few years. Drummers would spot him through his performances with Vulfpeck. A couple of his groove videos went viral, and that was it.
Working with Volfpeck opened doors to other collaborations like the one with Paul Simon. In music circles, however, Smith has been known for years.
He co-wrote and produced “Heaven Can Wait” by Michael Jackson.
Smith is known for his groove; even his solos are groove-based. His timing is firm; he sounds so perfect on many recordings that you can confuse him with a drum loop.
Although he is all about funky grooves, he was able to truly uncover his jazz side in his collaboration with John Pattituci.
16. Marco Minnemann
Marco is also one of the drummers who got a call for Dream Theater’s drummer audition. In the drumming community, Marco was known a lot before Dream Theater released audition footage.
He has been known for playing complex music for more than a decade with guys like Paul Gilbert, Tony Mac Alpine, Joe Satriani, Aristocrats, Jordan Rudess, and Tony Levin.
He is active as a session and live drummer but also as a drum teacher.
He has released 3 books and 3 DVDs so far. One DVD is called “Extreme drumming,” and one book is called “Extreme interdependence.” From there, it’s easy to notice that Marco likes to take drumming to the extreme.
That’s precisely why many consider him one of the best drummers in the world. His drumming mainly relies on a high level of independence, complex grooves and rhythms, and playing odd-time grooves like it is natural.
15. Nicolas Viccaro
He might be one of the most underrated drummers on this list. I started seeing him more often over recent years, but time will show how great a player Viccaro is.
He collaborated with some of the most talented musicians, such as Richard Bona, Bill Evans, John McLaughlin, and others.
In February 2023, he released an announcement that he is starting as a teacher at the High School of Music of Lausanne (Switzerland). Many weren’t surprised cause Nicolas studied at the National Conservatory of Nice.
Although he has mostly played with jazz artists, highly skilled drummers like Viccaro can easily switch between genres. Currently, he endorses Remo, Zildjian, and Yamaha Drums.
14. Aaron Spears
Every drummer must have watched Aaron’s appearance at the Modern Drummer Festival in 2006. He performed “Caught Up” by Usher at this festival, and the rest is history.
With this performance, he stepped into a higher league and stood out from other gospel drummers. Although he is known for “gospel chops,” he goes way beyond that.
That’s how his DVD got the name “Beyond the Chops.” Getting interviewed by Jojo Mayer on DVD shows the level of admiration Aaron enjoys in the drumming community.
With his chops, he can take the listener to a new dimension and then effortlessly return to the initial groove. It takes a lot of work, so you can “end on the one” as Aaron does.
13. Stewart Copeland
This article is not about the most technically skilled drummers but the guys with a unique style who shaped drumming as we know it today. Stewart Copeland is one of those guys and one of the first drummers to start experimenting with a displacement of a backbeat in pop music.
His drumming is tricky. Just listen to songs like “Roxanne,” “Next to you,” and “Every little thing she does is magic.” Stewart is not all about drumming but all about music.
Instead of playing straightforward, his notes are not always where you would expect them to be.
He is known for playing only on a hi-hat or not playing the bass drum when “it supposed to,” or just playing syncopated grooves in the music that before him mainly was led by straight rock beats.
Copeland became widely known for the recognizable cross stick sound in songs like “Wrapped around your finger,” “Reggata de blanc,” and others.
12. Billy Kilson
Billy is one of the most demanding session drummers in jazz right now. You probably spot him on stage with guys like Dave Holland, Chris Botti, Marcus Miller, Bob James, and others.
Billy is known for his dancing skills. Just kidding, but he does dance while he plays the drums. However, he is known for impeccable timing, and dynamic like only an experience session drummer can produce.
Even his drum solos are more about the grove than chops. Although it’s knot uncommon to hear him do various metric modulations while soloing.
Billy studied at the Berklee College of Music, which genuinely shaped his drumming and allowed him to step on stage with Larry Carlton, Spyro Gyra, Andy Mckee, and many more.
11. Mark Guiliana
Mark is a drummer of a new age whose style you cannot compare to anybody before. The main characteristic of his style is minimalistic hand movement. Wise drummers like to say “less is more,” meaning if you play more simply, it will sound better, but Mark was able to apply that to a drum technique.
At first look he’s technique doesn’t look too advanced; however, changing something in a technique that we know and coming up with your own new drumming style is a hard thing to do.
That’s why Mark is one of the most modern drummers of today, and that’s why Mark is a Grammy-nominated drummer.
Mark is praised for his work with Avishai Cohen, Bred Mhldau, David Bowie, Dhaer Youssef, and others.
10. JD Beck
JD Beck is the youngest drummer on the list. Like many other drummers from the list, JD is here thanks to his uniqueness and ability to develop something new.
The new drumming style, new grooves, new chops, impeccable sense of time combined with syncopated patterns, and over-the-barline playing all characterize JD Beck’s drumming style.
JD Beck’s mentors were Roberts “Sput” Searight, Mike Mitchell, and Cleao Edwards. You can instantly see from whom he got such a fantastic and creative way of thinking.
Most of the time, you can see JD playing with his French keyboardist Domi Louna. The genre they are playing is a mix of jazz, hip-hop, and electronic.
9. Sarah Thawer
On of the rare ladies on the list but with an enormous talent that deserves to be mentioned. Sarah emerged last few years as one of the most talented young drummers worldwide.
In India, they count music differently, and many of their songs are in odd time signatures. It’s a whole new world when it comes to rhythm.
Sarah was able to take Indian music and bring it to a whole new level. Her drumming style is a mix of Indy rhythms with fusion jazz. But don’t let that fool you; she can rock very hard.
Artists that have recognized this so far are Sheila E, Reggie Watts, Teyana Taylor, Jacob Collier, Watsky, Jon Batiste, and Steve Vai.
8. Volkan Oktem
When it comes to odd-time signatures, nobody does it better than Turks. Although popular music in Turkey is 4/4, most traditional music is in odd time signatures.
They have a different way of counting music that is more similar to how they do it in India than in the US. A drummer who plays all these crazy odd-time signatures like it is nothing is Mr. Volkan Oktem.
He is one of the best drummers in Turkey and one of the most recorded ones also. Volkan is known as a drummer for Tarkan, Laco Taifa, Elvan Araci, Dianne Reeves, and many more.
He recorded more than 200 albums. He does most of the recordings in his studio in Turkey. Thanks to his versatility and style that combines traditional Turkish music with jazz and funk, he is called to perform on various international projects.
7. Robert Sput Searight
If you are a drummer, you must have watched at least one episode of “Zildjian Live.” The band in the show is called the Ghost Notes, and the band’s music director and keyboard player is non-other than Robert Searight.
He started as a drummer but had a lot of talent that soon leaked to other fields, such as songwriting and music production. Overall, he is much more than a “just” drummer.
He has toured and recorded with various artists, including Snoop Dogg, Justin Timberlake, Erykah Badu, and Toto.
So far, he has received several Grammys, three with Snarky Puppy and one for Kirk Franklin’s album “God’s Property,” where he played drums and a keyboard.
6. Steve Smith
Steve became known as Journey’s drummer, who created drum parts for their hit songs such as “Separate Ways” and “Don’t Stop Believin.” After departing from Journey, Steve got more into jazz music, and from being a great rock drummer, he completely changed his style into one of the best jazz drummers of today.
It’s a rare occasion that somebody completely changes his sound and style. It needs much focus and dedication to reinvent yourself as Steve did.
Smith was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Journey and voted as the best all-around drummer by the readers of Modern Drummer magazine. Like Dave Weckl, he studied with Freddy Gruber, which helped him develop his drum technique.
Over the years, he worked as a session drummer for many artists, including Mariah Carey, Zuchero, Andrea Bocelli, Byan Adams, and Zakir Hussain. His live performances with Anthony Jackson, Hiromi Uehara, and Victor Wooten are favorites among drummers.
5. Stanley Randolph
Stanley is known as a drummer for Stevie Wonder. Again, one pearl in the sea of great gospel drummers stood out, and it’s because he focuses more on the grove than on the chops.
Although his entire style is based around the groove, that doesn’t devalue his ability to shred. Hard grooving before chops is symptomatic for all drummers/producers, which Stanley is.
Besides playing with Stevie, he toured with New Kids on the Block during their The Package Tour and is occasionally playing with hip-hop artist K’naan.
His power and ability to develop patterns and rhythms on the spot have recognized companies like DW, Zildjian, Vic Firth, Remo, and others.
4. David Garibaldi
Legendary drummer for the Tower of Power and one of the best funk drummers in the world. His drum grooves and chops are sampled and copied by many, and Garibaldi is a significant influence on many funk drummers.
He shaped funk drumming as we know it today. His signature grooves in songs like “What is Hip,” “Squib Cakes,” “Escaped from Oakland,” and “Oakland Stroke” changed funk drumming forever.
In his interview for Drumeo, he mentions “the King Kong beat” that helped him shape his patterns and funk playing.
You can hear this legendary drummer on the tunes of Tower of Power, Yellowjackets, Natalie Cole, Jermaine Jackson, Deniece Williams, and many more.
3. Dave Weckl
A true master when it comes to technique, dynamics, and phrasing. Dave is known as a drummer for Chick Corea and one of the busiest sessions drummers of today. Thanks to his incredible sound and distinctive way of playing, many worship Dave.
He is one of the most unique drum teachers. Dave had the opportunity to learn from drummers who shaped drum technique as we know it today. One of them is Freddy Grubber.
If there is a drummer who perfected drum technique to its tiniest bits, that is Dave Weckl. That’s not the only thing he masters. He is well known for music engineering and achieving great sound on drums.
In the drumming community, Weckl will always stay remembered for his lesson DVDs Back to Basics and The Next Step and songs like Festival De Ritmo, The Zone, Chicken, and Big B Little B that feature his signature grooves.
2. Steve Gadd
Steve is the most recognizable drummer on this list. You know when you hear someone, and you know it’s him? That’s how most musicians describe Gadd.
He is known as a drum pioneer and a master of linear drumming. His signature grooves and chops, like the one in “50 Ways to Leave your lover” by Paul Simon or “Aja” by Steely Dan, are considered a drumming treasure by many.
His interpretation of “Mozambique” is his most recognizable rhythm, along with triplet combinations and linear fills.
Every experienced drummer knows at least one of his signature linear chops. Although he is often considered a jazz drummer, his drumming can be heard on various rock albums by guys like Eric Clapton.
1. Vinnie Colaiuta
If you ask 10 drummers, who is your favorite drummer, I bet at list 7 would say Vinnie Colaiuta. Except often mentioned as the drummer’s favorite drummer Vinnie is a studio legend with more than 565 appearances on albums, singles, and soundtracks.
Known for being a drum chameleon who can adapt to anything from Megadeth to Lindsey Lohan. In fact, in 2004, he recorded Megadeth’s album “The System has Failed” and Lindsasy’s album “Speak.”
Later that year, he recorded for jazz trumpet player Chris Botti. That’s a valid showcase of the tremendous experience and talent Vinnie possesses. To the non-drummer audience, he is known as a drummer for Sting, Herbie Hancock, and Jeff Beck.
Covering his drum part in songs like “Seven Days” by Sting or “Attack of the 20lb Pizza” from his album “I’m Tweaked” is what many drummers consider a significant success.
Ok guys, it’s time to wrap up but this can’t be it.
This list will constantly be updated with new names so let us know in the comments who do you think we should add.