Best Drummers Of All Time: Top 5 Sticks Musicians, According To Music Experts

The best drummers of all time have left an indelible mark on the world of music with their unparalleled skill, creativity, and rhythmic innovation. From the thundering beats of John Bonham of Led Zeppelin to the intricate, jazz-infused patterns of Buddy Rich, these drummers have set the bar for technical prowess and musicality. Their contributions span various genres and eras, showcasing the enduring influence of their percussive talents on the global music landscape.

That low, powerful thumping you hear pulsating through every rock song known to man is all thanks to whoever sits behind the drums. It may not be outwardly noticeable, but it’s so important. In fact, a recent study reveals that it really is all about that bass when it comes to filling the dance floor. Researchers from McMaster University found that people danced almost 12 percent more when a very low-frequency bass was playing.

It takes a special musician to conquer the drums. Their minds are even altered as a result of playing. New research discovered that playing the drums does indeed change one’s brain structure; drummers’ motor brain areas are organized more efficiently, and also appear to have fewer than normal, but also thicker, connecting fibers between the two halves of the brain.

Their dance worthy beats, and intricate brain patterns are just the beginning when it comes to the kings of the sticks. StudyFinds set out to do the research for you, visiting 10 expert websites to put together this list of the best drummers of all time. If you’ve got your own suggestions, please leave them in the comments below!

The List: Best Drummers of All Time, According to Experts

1. John Bonham – Led Zeppelin

Best known as the drummer for Led Zeppelin, John Bonham’s powerful and innovative drumming style set the standard for rock drummers for decades to come. “Bonzo, as he was affectionately known, was renowned for his fast, loud and heavy drum sound, together with his incredible kick drum play. He was the powerhouse that underpinned the heavy metal sound but his playing was much more intricate than that, and that’s why he’s still seen as the world’s best ever drummer,” mentions Redditch Standard.

John Bonham on the drums in Toronto 1969
John Bonham on the drums in Toronto 1969 (

“Powerful drumming, is synonymous with Bonham. It’s especially obvious in songs like ‘Dazed And Confused’, ‘Rock And Roll’ and ‘In My Time Of Dying’. Don’t get us wrong, though: Bonham wasn’t just about playing heavy. He still had discipline and gave the music what it needed, whether it was a booming tom part or something more nuanced,” says Drumeo.

Drum Magazine talks about his legacy, “It’s been 30 years since the tragic news broke from Jimmy Page’s Mill House, in Pangbourne, Berkshire. The memory of John Bonham, fueled by fact and fantasy, has since grown to become legend. But the reality is, Bonham was every bit as good as they say. He was the man with the golden groove, the sensational chops, and that great, big sound.”

2. Neil Peart – Rush

The late drummer of the Canadian rock band Rush, Neil Peart was known for his technical skill and complex drumming patterns. He was also a prolific lyricist and considered one of the greatest drummers in rock history.

Neil Peart on the drums 1979
Neil Peart on the drums 1979 (“Neil Peart” by Steve Selwood is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.)

“He was a key member of the rock band Rush. The band became massive over the years, and so did Neil Peart’s drumming. Neil Peart had an amazing sense of musicality behind the kit, and he was so accurate whenever playing complicated drum parts for Rush songs,” says The Drum Ninja.

Rolling Stone mentions, simply, “Peart, one-third of the Toronto band Rush, was one of the world’s most worshipped drummers, unleashing his unearthly skills upon rotating drum kits that grew to encompass what seemed like every percussive possibility within human invention.”

Damson Global recants his career: “Neil was without a doubt one of the best drummers of all time. It’s possible he could be number one but we just feel that position is well held by its current incumbent. Peart drew so much inspiration from the leading British drummers (British drummers really are the best!) yet he sandwiches himself in between two of them. You can hear in much of Peart’s style how he drew inspiration from the best drummers of previous generations (Ginger). Peart also didn’t let competition turn into jealousy as he drew inspiration from greats that were competing with Billboard chart-topping at that time (Copeland). It’s because of this that we move Neil above both of them.”

3. Buddy Rich

Buddy Rich was a jazz drummer who was widely regarded as one of the best in the world. He had incredible speed and precision, and his solos are still studied and admired by drummers today. “Buddy Rich has been called the greatest jazz drummer of all time—a statement that few would argue with,” says Modern Drummer, “Today Buddy Rich is remembered as one of history’s greatest musicians. According to another great jazz drumming legend, Gene Krupa, Rich was ‘the greatest drummer ever to have drawn breath.'”

Buddy Rich on the drums in 2010
Buddy Rich on the drums (“jazz-festival654-buddy-rich” by frankkeillor is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.)

Electronic Drum Advisor broke down Buddy’s style: “He would master both sheer and delicate approaches to the kit, although he was best known for his powerful and intricate drumming. One of his trademarks was the ability to play at a very high speed and the vast use of hi-hats rather than bass drums. He had many more tricks up his sleeve, designed to impress the audience and to offer a great variety of sounds and layers during solos. One of these tricks was the one-handed roll, quite difficult to master even at slower tempos. Another trademark of his playing style was the use of a matched grip on floor toms during cross-sticking solos. He also had an irreproachable style with brushes.”

There was always his speed, “Buddy Rich did not just start drumming because others were doing it and it was beneficial, he loved and lived to drum. And for this reason, Rich had a technique that has remained unrivaled for all these years. No one can drum as fast as the rich could,” says Zero to Drum.

4. Keith Moon – The Who

Known as the drummer for The Who, Keith Moon was known for his wild and unconventional drumming style. He was a showman on stage and his explosive playing helped define the sound of The Who. “Moon was, quite possibly, the most sensational drummer in rock history, even if he never thought of himself as just the drummer in a rock ’n’ roll rhythm section. He wasn’t support; Moon thought what he played with The Who was ‘lead drums,'” says Best Classic Bands.

His legacy was talked about in Rolling Stone, “Moon was the first to be so celebrated as a drummer. Right from the beginning, as a seventeen-year-old who could have passed for fifteen without trouble. Moon trashed the limits that the best of his contemporaries – Charlie Watts, Hal Blaine, Kenny Buttrey – instinctively respected. There seemed to be no conscious arrogance or musical ambition involved: Moon simply didn’t recognize those limits. He didn’t hear them, so he didn’t play them.”

The Atlanta Institute of Music and Media beats along with Moon, “Self-described as the greatest drummer in the world, Moon hated rote rock drumming and repetition, in general. Serving as the inspiration for Animal of the Muppets, he gained a reputation for smashing hotel rooms as hard as his drum kits. Not the greatest reputation to have, but he owned it. He was even known for flushing explosives! Moon was as much a performance artist as he was a drummer. He tried to play with everyone in the band at once, making his breaks melodic, and he fit drum rolls into places they had never gone before.”

5. Stewart Copeland – The Police

The drummer for The Police, Stewart Copeland, brought a unique blend of punk, reggae, and jazz influences to his drumming. His unconventional rhythms and use of percussion helped shape the sound of The Police and influenced many drummers in the decades to come.

Stewart Copeland on drums
Stewart Copeland on drums (“Stewart Copeland” by Philippe Agnifili is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.)

His style is anything but ordinary, “His style combines reggae, jazz, Arabic music, Latin, and punk rock, which gives him a unique rhythmic sound. For example, unlike most pop or rock drummers, he won’t wait until the end of 8 or 16 bars to add in a fill or chop,” says Drumeo.

Music Radar mentions, “Copeland was the icing on the cake with his fresh and original approach to the drums. Stewart has long ago moved beyond that era, re-establishing himself as an in-demand television and film scorer. He has also gained respect as an orchestral composer, writing operas and symphonic compositions.”

There was one part of Copeland’s style that resonated with Record Drum Online when they said, “I don’t know any other drummer who, before Stewart Copeland, had the brilliant idea of using delay effects on their drums with such deceptive results. Check out the infamous ‘Walking on the Moon’ (especially after 3.14..he goes absolutely nuts!) and the intro of ‘Regatta de Blanc’. Also, on ‘The Other Way Of Stopping’ if you like delay on toms.”

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Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations.



  1. This list reveals influential drummers. Jon Bonham was not a technically great drum — he was the most influential rock drummer. Other than Buddy Rich, they had good chops, not great.

  2. Obviously, this is a highly subjective topic, as all “best ever” lists are. I LOVE John Bonham but could he have played in Brand X, like Phil Collins? (Someone who should have stayed behind the kit).
    The most astonishing drummer I’ve seen is Gavin Harrison in King Crimson. Even in their three drummer line up, he stood out as something almost supernaturally mind blowingly brilliant.
    I don’t get the comment in the article, “…Stewart Copeland, had the brilliant idea of using delay effects on their drums with such deceptive results. Check out the infamous ‘Walking on the Moon’…” what’s deceptive about the use of delay? It’s obvious what’s going on. Also, why “infamous”? Are they saying it’s notoriously bad? It’s a corny song but the playing is sublime, as The Police usually were, I think.

  3. Not to take away from any drummer that’s mentioned, but here we go again without any drummers of color being mentioned. Where’s guys like Billy Cobham, Max Roach, Clyde Stubblefield, Dennis Chambers, Lenny White, Tony Williams and Roy Haynes just to name a few?
    I guess these lists are compiled by folks with limited listening habits.

    1. Yeah, shockingly white list..
      Elvin Jones, Jimmy Cobb, Carlton Barrett (Bob Markey), Sly Dunbar.

  4. Yeah, i guess those “experts” are stuck on music from 3-4 decades ago…
    There are thousands of awesome drummers out there, it´s 2023, what about try listening to some newer stuff.
    Drummers like Gavin Harrison, Matt Garstka, Raymond Hearne, Spencer Prewett, Marco Minneman etc etc etc

    1. A definate, biased list written by someone not knowleged about whats really happening in the drumworld. People like Tony Royster Jŕ. Who playrd increadible drums even at 9 years old. Or Thomas Lang, another superfast highly skilled drummer. How about Mike Mangini? His speed and accuracy on the drums are uncomparable .

    1. Obviously, there were a lot of great drummers. But I am surprised that nobody mentioned Ringo. His backbeat and creativity in his drum playing made a lot of the Beatles songs what they became great!

  5. If you have really LISTENED to all time greats then you can’t leave out Carl Palmer of ELP. Still better than most listed and still amazing at 72 years old. Buddy Rich didn’t like anybody very much but did call Palmer his favorite rock/classical drummer-that coming from the real all time great. And Palmer is far more than a drummer-classically trained percussionist.

  6. Neil Peart stands alone ! I’m 64 & have listened/observed nothing but rock and roll. Have there been faster : yes. Have there been harder hitters : yes. But add all this with skill, finesse, his own brand of innovation, along with his lyrical ability and only Phil Collins can come close to checking this many boxes. I’m just not seeing a TOTAL PACKAGE that can supersede Neil. All the above mentioned deserve discussion, but really ….

  7. Buddy Rich will ALWAYS be THE greatest drummer to EVER walk planet earth.

    John Bonham had a relatively short career and small discography.

    Compared to Neil Pearts’ 40 year career and vast discography, I’d pick Neil Peart over Bonham.

    Vinnie Couliata, Dave Weckl, Thomas Lang, Gavin Harrison, Steve Smith, and a few others should be mentioned as well.

  8. I think the great drummers from each decade not all the time ,to honor the best of the best of each year from example 1960,-1970-,1980 -1990-,2000 2020 ect..each 10 years you hear the evolution of drumming …

  9. Moon,Peart,Carl Palmer,Bonham,Ian Paice,Rich,Copland,Bruford,Ron Tutt,Alex Van Halen,Simon Kirke,Mitch Mitchell,SteveGadd, Vinny Couliata,Krupa,Ginger Baker,Hal Blaine,Charlie Watts,Max Weinberg,Joey Kramer. The top 20.

    1. Well🙄listen to music very closely and love the way Keith Moon puts his own signature on the drums that kicks ass like no other‼️

  10. Buddy Rich
    Dave Weckl
    Bernard Purdie
    Jim Keltner
    Jeff Porcaro
    Vinny Colaiuta
    Tony Williams
    Dennis Chambers
    Simon Phillips
    Jim Gordon

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