Yes, my list for the top 5 drummers all beginners should now is subjective, but you can’t blame me. It would be impossible to list just 5 drummers, so, now that full disclosure has been stated, let’s read on.
This list is based on my experience as a drummer starting out over 25 years ago. Although I’ve been influenced by 100’s of drummers, these in particular stand out for more reasons than just technical drumming ability.
Dissecting and learning about a drummer is a drum lesson on its own. Sure, you want to pick up techniques that will help you in your drum playing, but It’s not always about that.
With the beginner drummer in mind, I’d like to assure you, 3that these drummers are in bands with music that can be easily interpreted. Their simple, yet powerful grooves will inspire you to learn and play along.
Let’s dive right in starting with:
5 – Phil Collins, the all-around great musician.
Originally in Genesis, Phil Collins has definitely made a name for himself as a drummer and an all-around musician. If you don’t know Phil Collins, you definitely heard his music on TV or in a movie soundtrack. For example, the classic drum intro to “In The Air Tonight” or the very catchy “Sussudio” have been featured in movies or even covered by other bands.
He makes drumming look easy in his original music but don’t be fooled, he’s been featured in big bands and many other projects. I strongly suggest finding a Phil Collins classic playlist and just listen.
Take note of the simple grooves and rarely any time signature changes. You will be able to air drum most of his classics just as Mike Tyson did in the movie “Hangover”. For all you left-handed drummers out there, he’s a drummer to keep an eye on.
4 – Lars Ulrich, the heavy-hitting drummer.
Not very well-liked amongst millennials, Lars Ulrich used to be known for his thrash metal drumming, until he decided to take down the first-ever music downloading app, Napster. Push that aside and you have a musician who always “played for the song.” That is to say, played in ways that brought value to Metallica’s songs.
My suggestion is Metallica’s all-time best selling album nicknamed “The Black Album”. Every song has a groove you imagine yourself playing. He was never elaborate on drum fills which makes it easier for beginners to learn by ear.
The intro to “Enter Sandman” is a great way to get into that classic Lars Ulrich groove. Also, you can slow things down with “Nothing Else Matters” and hold down an easy 6/8 backbeat. Lars Ulrich was great at taking basic drum beats and ripping through rhythm sections in ways he knows best, solid and in the pocket.
Once you’re down with this record, do like I did…roll back to their previous records and turn up!
3 – Chad Smith, the master of ghost notes.
If there’s any one drummer to mirror, my choice would be Chad Smith of Red Hot Chili Peppers. Chad is well-rounded, simple and yet so effective in his rock drumming. He’s what I’d call a pocket drummer. He grooves so well with the music, you can’t help but air drum all his parts.
As a drummer, my album suggestion would be Blood, Sex, Sugar, Magic. Grooves are heavy-hitting but not complicated.
The best take away from a drummer like Chad Smith is his dynamics behind the drums. His feel translates really well with the mood of the songs, displaying his full control over the loudness and softness of his drums. As a beginner, it’s fun just trying to play along.
Another interesting fact about Chad Smith: he was inspired by my top two choices.
2 – John Bonham, the unique, creative drummer.
It is quite fitting that Led Zeppelin, one of the biggest bands of all time, had the heaviest hitting drummer in the world at the time. With access to YouTube and other streaming sites, we’re able to see videos of John Bonham ripping through his drum set in ways that seem inhuman.
He was famous for his drum solo in Moby Dick and playing parts of it with his hands! Crazy right?
Well, the take away from this dude was his more complex grooves like in Whole Lotta Love. He’s able to take simple grooves and add enough ghost notes and punches, giving the groove a whole new feel. Same for track Black Dog.
A groove so simple yet complicated, with an unconventional, off-time entrance in the song. It’s unfortunate he passed away at the height of his career.
1 – Buddy Rich, the master of rudiments.
It’s no surprise that Buddy Rich takes the top spot in my list of top 5 drummers. This is one drummer who I should have paid more attention to as a beginner. I was so obsessed with being a metal drummer and being able to play One from Metallica that it overshadowed the notion of starting with the classic 40 drum rudiments and independence practice.
Buddy Rich has so much to offer to beginners (and advanced players), so don’t be discouraged when watching his drum solo videos. His drum rudiments approach was modern for his time and his interpretation of these rudiments is still practiced by many drummers today.
Rudiments for the foundations of learning the drums. They really teach your extremities to be independent of each other.
For example, the paradiddle, the flam roll, the single stroke roll, and the double stroke roll, are all considered as main rudiments and a big part of most drummers’ practice routines. He gets the number one spot for being a major influence on many drummers and a true drumming pioneer.
Top 5 Drummers To Watch For Beginners – Honorary Mentions
As you open to different artists and bands out there, you’ll be able to build your influences as you go along. Had this list been on my desk when I was 10 years old, maybe I wouldn’t have wasted as much time learning bad habits and have had fewer obstacles in the way while learning my craft.
I can’t end this top 5 drummers article without a few notable mentions. For more advanced learning, definitely check out bands/drummers
Anika Niles drummer and solo musician
Neil Peart from Rush
Mike Portnoy from ex-Dream Theater
Karen Carpenter from The Carpenters
Joey Baca from The Contortionist
Larnell Lewis from Snarky Puppy
Matt Gartska from Animals As Leaders
Ian Paice from Deep Purple
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