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The Top 10 Drum Legends and their Drum Kits

Updated on March 17, 2014

The top 10 Drummers and their kits

As a drummer, and I think a pretty good one, I look at these guys and recognise that these are special, not just great but special, gifted and most of all musical. Drumming is about more than cracking out a rhythm, there has to be swing and there really has to a musicality about the playing. All that and a bit of grove and you've cracked it. The drummers featured here, I believe are the top 10 drummers in the world. Of course this is a subjective opinion, they happen to be my top 10. I love to know yours...

I also love the kits these guys use, they are from different manufacturers, all with differing configurations but all beautiful in their own way. The kit shown above is a classic set up from Neil Peart, drummer with Canadian progressive rock band Rush. This guy, like all the drummers I have featured in this lens were a massive influence on me as I grew up. They were the inspiration to me as I developed as a drummer.

I've only just started this lens, so bear with me as I up-date with the other incredible drummers who have made my top 10!

10. Lars Ulrich

Metallica

I start off my top 10 with Lars Ulrich. I think the only reason he is in tenth place is purely because he is a new boy, and I'm an old git!!!

I've seen Metallica Live a few times, my fondest memory was a few tears ago now, but they played "Master of Puppets" and I just watched Lars drumming all the way through and loved every minute of it.

Lars Ulrich Drum Solo - Lars Ulrich Drum Solo From The Live Shit Binge and Purge dvd

Lars Ulrich Drum Set Up

This is the classic Lars Ulrich set up and one I understand. This is very near my own set up, mind you, I've tried a few in my time!

9. Cozy Powell

Rainbow, Michael Schenker Group, Jeff Beck Group

Cozy was the backbone behind 2 of my favorite old rock bands, Rainbow and MSG. If you listen to Stargazer from the "Rainbow Rising" album for instance you will hear some of the best Rock drums ever.

Cozy Powell Drum Solo

Cozy Powell Drum Set Up

Classic 1981

This is the classic set up Cozy had for years

8 Bill Ward

Black Sabbath

I remember back when I first started playing drums and playing in a teenage band called "Severed Head" (Stop sniggering in the the back) I was expected by my fellow band members to play just like Bill Ward. We were all massive Sabbath fans. Needless to say, I was just not good enough, but I soldiered through.

Bill Ward was the first drummer I tried to play like and even today, when I'm in rehearsal the thought goes through my mind "What would Bill Ward do here?"

Bill Ward Drum Solo 1978

Bill Ward Drum Kit

Bill's drumkit on the Reunion 99 Tour

Bill Ward's kit started off as a classic 4 and 5 piece kit and grew into a bit of a monster double bass drum set up in the 80's only to slim down again when he realised he actually didn't need them all!!

7 Scott Travis

Judas Priest

Scott Travis has been one of the longest serving drummers for Judas Priest, who never seemed to keep a drummer for more than an album or two. This guy has some amazing double bass drum work. I have included the video for Painkiller, one because I love the song and two, because of the drum intro...

Scott Travis - Drums - Painkiller Live

This video was taken by me at the Sweden Rock Festival in 2004 if you like it then get over to my blog where I have loads more JP vids http://bongsworld.wordpress.com/music/judas-priest-sweden-rock-2004/

Scott Travis Drum Set Up

Solid Double Bass

Classic metal kit, 2 bass drums and 2 toms in the middle. This is Travis touring kit with Judas priest.

6, Ian Paice

Deep Purple

Ian Paice, drummer with heavy rock band Deep Purple.

Purple have seen numerous line up changes throughout their long career, but he is the only drummer the band has had, playing on a whole string of million-selling albums.

Between 1973 to 76 Deep Purple were one of the biggest rock band in the world. Ian come from generation of drummers who brought a tight, precise, clean crisp sound taking the best from their predecessors and adding power.

Ian Paice - The Mule - drum solo

Ian Paice Drum Set Up

Ludwig

Ian's drum set up was classic and simple, never on for a huge kit, just the basics but boy could he swing.

5 Alan White

Yes

Taking over from Bill Bruford was a hard task, but Alan White was up to the challenge. In fact in some ways I preferred him in Yes, he seemed to settle the music and on the albums where he could make the tracks his own, I think he provided a solid rock backbone for Yes as opposed to the jazzier style of Bruford.

Alan White Drum Solo - 1998

An amazing drum solo performed by Alan White during the classic 'Whitefish' duet with Chris Squire.

4. Bill Bruford

Yes, King Crimson, Genesis, UK, Earthworks

When I started to get into drum rudiments, a drumming coach asked me what sort of music I liked, I told him "mainly Metal" and his heart sank. Then I said I liked progressive rock, Genesis, Yes and ELP. He brightened and said "OK, listen to Bill Bruford" so I did, and boy am I glad I did!

Bill Bruford Drum Solo

3. Phil Collins

Genesis, Brand X

To my mind these two drummers compliment each other perfectly, Apart from anything else, I believe, Phil Collins is one of the most musical drummers I have ever heard. His early work with Genesis not only provided a solid framework for the music, it brought the music alive.

When Peter Gabriel left in 75, Phil Collins took over the vocal role but still carried on with the dumming duties on all the albums. Do yourselves a favor and revisit both "Trick of the Tail" and "Wind and Wuthering" and just listen to the drumming, outstanding!

Phil Collins - Drum Duet - Drum duet with Chester Thompson.

There are so many versions to choose from from these two incredible drummers. Phil Collins and Chester Thompson perform a flawless drum duet. Drum War at Genesis. This was taken from the Mama Tour.

Phil Collins Drum set up

This is the typical drum set up Phil Collins has always used, this particular kit is a Gretch kit

2 Neil Peart

Rush

No doubt about it, Neil Peart was one of the biggest influences on me as a young drummer. I loved Rush right from when I started listening to them around 1976. The first track I ever heard was round a friends house and that was Bastille Day from the Caress of Steel album. From then on I was hooked. I bought the album and discovered the track "The Fountain of Lamneth" which used drums in a way I had never heard before. The next Album 2112 came out and that was it. They would play 3 nights at the Hammersmith Odeon and I was there all three nights!!

I bought every album and went to see them around the country until Signals came out in 82 and for me the golden age of Rush was over. I can still appreciate the music but it's not as mind blowing... maybe I'm just getting old!

Neil Peart Drum Solo

One of the worlds most technically skillful and musical drummers. Neil is also a prolific lyric writer for Rush. I would have loved to get a clip of Peart's drum solo prior to all the electronic drums and backing tracks but this will have to do for now.

The Neil Peart Drum Set up

 

1 John Bonham

The most influential drummer - ask any rock drummer!!! - May 31st 1948 to September 25th, 1980 R.I.P.

John Henry Bonham has got to be my No.1. I was listening to some old Zep albums on my iPod the other night and just listening to Bonham, and even now just totally blown away by the rhythm and swing he brings to the music. He's not the flashiest drummer in the world, he never used a big kit but in my book still the best drummer in rock by far.

John Bonham - Moby Dick - The John Bonham Drum solo

Moby Dick was of course John Bonham's vehicle to show the world what a great soloist he was. When I first saw this, I couldn't believe it, the guys playing drums with his hands, no sticks and still heaver than most.

The John Bonham Drum Kit

The classic Bonham kit is probably the most sought after of all Vistalite set ups. Bonham Vistalites were amber - a 26 inch bass drum with rail tom mount and bass-drum mounted cymbal stand; 14 inch rack tom; 16 & 18 inch floor toms and a 6.5 inch 402 snare drum.

My top 10 drummers are

Awesome drummers with amazing kits

10 . Lars Ulrik

9. Cozy Powell

8. Bill Ward

7. Scott Travis

6. Ian Paice

5. Alsn White

4. Bill Bruford

3. Phil Collins

2. Neil Peart

1. John Bonham

Special Mention for Mike Portnoy Drum Solo - Drum Solo from the progressive drum legend

Really shows off his double bass drum technique

DEBATE: What do you think of my top 10 list?

Am I right, is John Bonham the best Rock Drummer of all time?

Bonham is the best

Bonham is the best

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    • mission man 7 months ago

      Hey guys what about eric carr from kiss he was a great drummer .

    • anonymous 5 years ago

      its hard to put so many amazing drummers in a top 10 list, especially when you have different genres of drummer (this list is predominantly rock). i agree with most of the list, but i think there are better rock drummers than Phil Collins and Lars Ulrich that were overlooked. Stewart Copeland, Keith Moon, Rick Allen, Mick Tucker, Tommy Aldridge should all be in this list, and many more. Buddy Rich, Gene Krupa, and Steve Gadd should be in an all time list. all in all, Bonham is the best rock drummer - he was a force of power in every song, and an inspiration for so many rock drummer.

    • anonymous 5 years ago

      ll great drummers, but what about mitch mitchell and keith moon?

    • anonymous 5 years ago

      What about the 1st "original" rock drumming pioneer, Ringo Starr ?.. Where's Stewart Copeland ?.Tommy Aldridge with White Snake and Ozzy ? Way better than Lars..How about Tommy Lee ?..the flashiest of all drummers and technically better than Lars....

    • anonymous 5 years ago

      take Phil Collins and Bill Bruford out and replace with JOEY JORDISON (slipknot) and TRAVIS BARKER (blink 182)...

    • anonymous 5 years ago

      take Phil Collins and Bill Bruford out and replace with JOEY JORDISON (slipknot) and TRAVIS BARKER (blink 182)...

    • anonymous 5 years ago

      Just wondering, what do you think of Alex Van Halen?

    • anonymous 5 years ago

      You missed Buddy Rich. i don't personally think anything of Lars Ulrich but othervise your list is pretty accurate.

    • anonymous 5 years ago

      where is keith moon???

    • anonymous 5 years ago

      any drum list that does not include moony is crap!

    • anonymous 5 years ago

      He is the best but you should put 'The Rev' on the list I think he is good enough for this list man

    • anonymous 5 years ago

      FUCK yes

    • anonymous 5 years ago

      Absolutely the best there ever was or will be

    • anonymous 5 years ago

      excellent, bill ward and ian paice right up there. Leave out Phil add Ginger!

    • anonymous 6 years ago

      Missing Dennis Chambers.

    • anonymous 6 years ago

      Screw you, Josh! Have you seen Phil Collins play? Amazing drummer, but always uses single pedal. My favorite drummer, not saying he's the best, is Scott Travis, because he's uber fast and he's in my favorite band, Judas Priest

    • anonymous 6 years ago

      yea he is .... mike portnoy is second

    • anonymous 6 years ago

      yes you are absolutely spot on - and having ward in the top ten is a must -some have him not in the top 100!!! good to see no ringo

    • CHalloran LM 6 years ago

      great lens!

    • anonymous 6 years ago

      hell yeah. he can do BETTER than what drummers with kits twice his size can do. and his drums sound great.

    • anonymous 6 years ago

      People who said that Dave Lombardo from Slayer should be there, yous make a good point, but this guy is older, doubt he'd listen to hard out thrash heavy metal. lol.

      But definately Bonham is one of the best.

      By the way the picture on Bill Wards section on the last part is actually John Bonham during his later years, playing his timpani.

    • anonymous 6 years ago

      Bonham #1

      Paice #2........

      but where is boddy rich??? ;)

    • anonymous 7 years ago

      yes!!!!!

    • anonymous 7 years ago

      take Phil Collins and Bill Bruford out and put Keith Moon and peter criss in

    • anonymous 7 years ago

      Bohnam Is One Of the best but i would go with Keith Moon as #1

    • anonymous 7 years ago

      mike portnoy is a monster

    • anonymous 8 years ago

      yes is the best drummer!!!

    I think there are better

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      • anonymous 5 years ago

        Danny Carey (Tool) puts them all in the shade imo...

      • anonymous 5 years ago

        4 giants missing:dave lombardo,jimmy "the rev" sullivan,joey jordison and of course keith moon

      • anonymous 5 years ago

        No, but in the Top 5 for Sure...Why does everyone overlook Tommy Aldridge? He is a Monster Player...

      • anonymous 5 years ago

        Yes, Bonham's Moby Dick (any version of it) is a master class for any drummer. However, I agree with those who say that Steve Gadd is the most influential drummer. Tops. Thank you very much.

      • anonymous 5 years ago

        i don't know bonham, but i think lars ulrich should be taking out and replaced with eric carr. and nicko Mcbrain should be placed in somewhere (reason i say somewere, is because i haven't heard all drummers

      • anonymous 5 years ago

        I have to say MP is the best at that moment. Nobody that I have heard of, not even Peart, can pull off what the guy does.

      • anonymous 5 years ago

        No mike portnoy is the best drummer

      • anonymous 5 years ago

        Peart was always my favourite who I tried desperately to emulate in my teens. Bonham, however impresses me immensely and for different reasons. Their styles are so diametrically opposed that I find them hard to compare but must go with Peart if only for sentimental reasons.

      • anonymous 5 years ago

        no, Peart is best...compare skill and you'll see. Bonham couldn't even play on Peart's kit, let alone keep up with those insane rythms.

      • anonymous 5 years ago

        No one hit them better than Buddy Miles. ......................................................... 51 year player

      • anonymous 5 years ago

        the rev

      • anonymous 5 years ago

        Ulrich shouln't be there - he sux.

        Portnoy in first place - nah.

        Virgil Donati I say

      • anonymous 5 years ago

        good choices, i would put the same, just in different order :) John Bonham is an EXTREMELY good drummer no doubt! but it's just a matter of opinion for me, i would say; 1. Clive Burr 2. Cozy Powell 3. Ian Paice 4. 5. John Bonham, and then it gets harder :-/

      • anonymous 5 years ago

        Mike portnoy or Dave lombardo of Slayer

      • anonymous 5 years ago

        mike portnoy

      • anonymous 5 years ago

        Phil Collins all the way

        He has so much talent and so much passion for his instrument, and my point is backed up with the unlimited amount of evidence that shines through when you see him play.

      • anonymous 5 years ago

        PHIL COLLINS WINS HANDS DOWN!!!

        I respect the opinions of others and hope they do the same for me but personally I think that Phil Collins is an exceptional drummer with and overwhelming passion for his music.

      • anonymous 5 years ago

        JOEY JORDINSON

      • anonymous 5 years ago

        To be honest I can't believe how you put Metallica's drummer in there and not Nicko McBrain, possibly the best drummer you'll ever see! also... Ian Paice is literally the number 1 drummer in the world, what drugs were you taking when making this list?

      • anonymous 5 years ago

        you have forgotten some great drummers, like scott rockenfield, dave lombardo, vinnie & carmine appice, vinnie paul from pantera...but it likes me your list! I think the number one is Scott Travis, i love his drumming style!!!! But bonham was a revolutionary in rock music

      • anonymous 6 years ago

        Bonham is a monster, but Peart is definitely a God. Peart #1

      • anonymous 6 years ago

        They're all rock drummers. They're are all great, but maybe it's a thing of music styles. For example, my top five is: 5) Vinnie Colaiuta, 4) Derrick McKenzie, 3) Jojo Mayer, 2) Arnaud Renaville, 1) Akira Jimbo. Even so, there are a lot of great drummers I like, to tell something: Bill Cobham, Steve Gadd, Benny Greb, Dennis Chambers, Dave Di Censo, Thomas Pridgen, Sonny Emory, David Garibaldi, ignacio Berroa, Noriaki Kumagai, Omar Hakim, Steve Smith, Mike Portnoy, Buddy Rich...

      • anonymous 6 years ago

        i think Ringo Starr is better than anybody else. people say he is shit, but he was the one who started those drumming, you sissy pussies.

      • anonymous 6 years ago

        it should be Neil Peart in the firs place!!

      • anonymous 6 years ago

        Phil Collins and Bill Bruford are my two favorite on this list, definitely two of the most creative, innovative drummers who changed the way people approach the drums. Lars Ulrich sucks.

      • anonymous 6 years ago

        naw Phil Collins needs to be in there and Bill Bruford DEFINITELY needs to be in there. Two of the most creative, innovative drummers who changed the way people approach the drums

      • anonymous 6 years ago

        You forgot Dave Lombardo!

      • anonymous 6 years ago

        I think you missed Eric Carr with his always massive kit - especially during the Crazy Nights tour. John Bonham was incredible, but Neil Peart deserves to be at the #1 spot. There are none better. IMO

      • anonymous 6 years ago

        While I love Bonhams work tremendously...there are others you have left out. There are simply too many outstanding drummers to pick "1 Best" . It cannot be done. They are all good for all different reasons. Rick Allen from Def Leppard only has 1 arm and plays most everything with his feet on a specially designed electric kit with multiple foot pedals. Nicko McBrain from metal band Iron Maiden studied and uses jazz and swing beats in metal drumming. And Mike Portnoy from progressive rock band Dream Theater is so versitle and fluid. Its' enough to make you cry just watching him play...etc.

      • anonymous 6 years ago

        ...Carmine Appice would be on my list. Neil Peart is definitely in the top 3 with Bonham, but who is the best...? It's music!

      • anonymous 6 years ago

        a list like this will always be a matter of opinion, but you must admit the biggest omission here is Jeff Porcaro. Listen again to Rosanna and tell me he'snot the most talented drummer there's ever been. RIP Jeff

      • anonymous 6 years ago

        The late Buddy Rich said more with a snare drum and 2 sticks than all of these guys combined, I am only half kidding. Of your list I believe Peart is the best, Though seeing Metallica 7 times in Ulrich's Prime, Being able the play the And Justice For All... album puts him in the hall of fame. I own a Dozen Buddy Rich Dvd's Even after a heart attack , at the age of 65 , he was Insane. I urge you to get The channel 1 suite dvd, or any of the 70's concerts. He will Blow your Mind. great lens.

      • anonymous 6 years ago

        Buddy Rich...

      • anonymous 6 years ago

        No. You are retarded Keith Moon is the best. It is okay if you don`t think he is the best but not even putting him in the top 10. You have serious problems. Keith Moon is considered by many experts the best drummer ever.

      • anonymous 6 years ago

        I think this list sucks! Where the hell are Bill Kruetzman and Mickey Hart? I'd wager my left lung that either of those 2 would drum the pants off of any of the others listed here!

        Nyah!

      • anonymous 6 years ago

        No Tico Torres from Bon Jovi is better then all of them

      • anonymous 6 years ago

        Bonham is my favorite, but there are better drummers.

        And also, under Bill Ward, you put a picture of John Bonham.

      • anonymous 6 years ago

        keith moon? just a banger. ringo starr. inventor of original drum sounds and rhythms. how do you beat bill bruford, or alan white or chester thompson?

      • anonymous 6 years ago

        Neil peart is #1 great list though.

      • anonymous 6 years ago

        for me the best drummer is lars ulrich.because your agility.

      • anonymous 7 years ago

        The ability to be creative on just toms, is what always impressed me the most. Over use of just double bass kicking and living so much on the snare, never does impress me. Lars sucks, he is so overrated and bloated ego their is. Bonham with what he used was amazing, but a bit more amazing and tasty when I watch and listen to them is Bill Bruford on just accustic drums, Neal Peart, & Phil Collins / Chester Thompson solos. By the way the duet by Collins & Thompson is taken from "The way we walk Tour 1992" not Mama which came out in 1983. All have talent, but it's the way they use it is how I judge, and I get tired of just double bass kicking and living on the snare, and all the others do that except the 4 I mentioned.

      • anonymous 7 years ago

        Keith Moon is teh best! And where's Dave Lombardo? At least top 5!!

      • anonymous 7 years ago

        i just couldn't understand why scott isn't number one on your list

      • anonymous 7 years ago

        You completely forgot Moon on the list, I would like to point that out. Otherwise, it's the classic Peart vs. Bonham argument. I personally prefer Peart, but the two (three if you want to throw Moon in as a candidate for best drummer) have unique styles that fit best with their band, so it is hard to tell who exactly was better.

      • anonymous 7 years ago

        neil peart. hands down. although i found myself agreeing with bill ward, lars ulrich and ian paice. ROCK ON!

      • anonymous 7 years ago

        fuck no the PORTNOY is.... of course

      • anonymous 7 years ago

        There is no best drummer, all different styles. What's the best drum kit? To many ludwigs here. Sonor the the best imho but not for the next guy.

      • anonymous 7 years ago

        There is no best drummer, all different styles. All down to preferance just like the drums themselves. I think Sonor make the best drums, but plenty of drummers will dissagree with that.

      • anonymous 7 years ago

        HELL NO! IT'S MOON THE LOON!

      • anonymous 8 years ago

        To be honest, There is no telling who is the best. Do you know how many drummers there are with ten times the ability of other drummers but are just not able or dont want to be noticed? I believe the best drummer ever is the one with the most pasion, I dont know who that is, buit passion for drumming beats skill any day in my book. So no, I don't think Bonham is the best, but hes one of them.

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          Karl Komarek 2 years ago

          Andy Philips rated all the drummers, as he put it, based on being..."not just great but special, gifted and most of all musical." He also went on to say that..."drumming is about more than cracking out a rhythm, there has to be swing and there really has to a musicality about the playing. All that and a bit of grove and you've cracked it." There is only one name that comes to mind for me and that name is Phil Collins. Andy fundamentally described what exactly has always been an audience's impression of watching Phil play drums. I would add that he does not just perpetually appear to be in 'a bit of groove', he is always in the massive groove. He still, in my honest opinion, uses half the effort that other drummers have to make. It is extremely hard to focus just on Phil's drumming, due to Genesis unprecedented, genius instrumental synchronization and sound, unless, of course, you happen to be hopelessly fascinated by Phil's drumming like myself. Then it gets somewhat easier to detect the fact that there are two kinds of music during songs, which complement each other; one from the band and the other that comes from Phil's drum set. Yes, talk about musical! He is also the greatest improvisor there is, and let's not forget the fact that Phil has never learned the conventional notes. What does that have to do with anything, you might ask? Well, in such case, an artist simply listens to music and plays by ear and by what feelings are being evoked in him during a song. That cannot be learned, that is a gift. A God given gift. Phil possesses divine auditory abilities, there is no better description than that. He has had them since he was 5 years old. So, to sum things up, Phil Collins is in his own class, above, beyond and out of reach for all other drummers.

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          eric-kress2 4 years ago

          You missed a big obvious! Keith Moon

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          denis-murray 5 years ago

          Stewart Copeland????????

          Terry Williams????

          Brian Downey????

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          Europoljuice 5 years ago

          SAY all you want,....and they may all be very, very, very good! But when it comes to a Number 1. ALL the drummers are second to Buddy. He was way ahead of his time,..and had talent like NO other. The only guy now that comes close is Thomas Lang!

          BUDDY RICH..your da man!!

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          yourup 5 years ago

          Good choice of drummers. It's too bad you didn't include any drummers from the jazz realm. There are a lot to choose from there, too.

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          sam132 5 years ago

          Nice Bonham and Cozy are my top two!

          Sam

          Sam from Roland Electronic Drums

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          timvelleca 5 years ago

          Great list but I think you should include Scott Rockenfield of Queensryche and Gavin Harrison of Porcupine Tree. You should YouTube Gavin's drum solo on David Letterman. Unbelievable. Like Neil Peart, just a different, effortless, technical style of drumming.

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          Charles Nullens 6 years ago from London

          I love the Phil Collins drum solo - I have played it to death on my iPod while trying (unsuccessfully of course) to replicate it on my Traps drum kit!

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          menskincaretips 6 years ago

          This is definitely the ULTIMATE List, very educational information on the drum sets positioning of the best drummers, love this!

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          calpercussion 8 years ago

          That was a nice drum collection of Legends. Good work!

          Visit my lens LP Conags for info on Latin American percussion instruments.