Drum solos are impressive feats of display that require incredible control, creativity, and musicianship behind the drum set.
In this article, we’ll explore into iconic drum solos from drumming legends like John Bonham, Neil Peart, Buddy Rich, and many more. We’ll also highlight contemporary drummers who are pushing the boundaries of what’s possible behind the kit, showcasing the evolution and innovation within the drumming world.
There have been many amazing drum solos performed, which makes it difficult to choose the best drum solos of all time. But without further ado, I am pleased to present my selections, and I’ll explain what makes them so great.
- What Makes A Good Drum Solo?
- 20. Simon Phillips – UK Drum Show
- 19. Mario Duplantier – Live at Brixton
- 18. Travis Barker -2017 Lollapalooza Solo
- 17. Phil Collins & Chester Thompson – Bercy Drum Solo
- 16. Alex Van Halen – 5150 Tour Drum Solo
- 15. Larnell Lewis – What About Me?
- 14. Ginger Baker – Toad
- 13. Joe Morello – Take Five
- 12. Eric Moore – PASIC Drum Solo
- 11. Tony Royster Jr. – Pure Energy DVD
- 10. Aric Improta – Blur-Lights In The Videodrome
- 9. Joey Jordison – Disasterpieces Drum Solo
- 8. Dennis Chambers – Live On Letterman
- 7. Thomas Lang – Meinl Drum Festival Drum Solo
- 6. Mike Mangini – Live At Luna Park
- 5. Benny Greb – Meinl Drum Festival Drum Solo
- 4. Gavin Harrison – Live on Letterman
- 3. Neil Peart – Live In Frankfurt
- 2. John Bonham – Moby Dick Drum Solo
- 1. Steve Gadd – Java Jazz Fest 2008
What Makes A Good Drum Solo?
Great drum solos are all about build-up, tension, and release. To have the audience captivated and on their feet, anxiously awaiting what’s about to come next is no simple matter. The best drum solo must totally win over the crowd.
A drummer must demonstrate complete ownership of the stage in order to entertain the crowd through effortlessly channeling energy, charisma, and creativity in performance.
Drum solos are all unique and have their own charm. Some drum solos are wild and frantic whilst others are precise and controlled, relying heavily on the intricacy to really impress an audience.
The best drummers push the boundaries of what is possible behind the kit, leaving listeners in awe of their skill and creativity. Join us on a rhythmic journey as we explore some of the best drum solos ever performed.
20. Simon Phillips – UK Drum Show
Simon Phillips is an incredibly tasteful and distinctive musician, and masterfully uses the full range of tonal options at his disposal within a drum set. He is a true melodic powerhouse of a drummer.
In this drum solo, Phillips flows seamlessly between delicate and intricate grooves to thunderous tom fills with impeccable timing. It is truly astounding to witness his technique, skill and expressive use of dynamics behind a drum set.
Phillips has performed with notable artists such as Toto, The Who, Jeff Beck, and many others. His ability to seamlessly fit into different musical environments and elevate the performances of others speaks to his exceptional talent and professionalism.
19. Mario Duplantier – Live at Brixton
Mario Duplantier is the drummer of technical death metal band Gojira, and he is a truly phenomenal drummer. He demonstrates remarkable speed, precision, and control, executing complex patterns, and polyrhythms with ease.
Duplantier is influenced heavily by lots of tribal sounds and tribal drumming, and this comes across through his drumming with powerful tom fills, unique polyrhythms, and double bass drum intensity. The tribal influence helps create an unconventional and unique drumming style that adds depth and complexity to Gojira’s music.
Having seen Mario Duplantier perform live, I can say with certainty that his enthusiasm and passionate drumming are fantastic to watch, and leave a lasting impression on those who witness his performances.
18. Travis Barker -2017 Lollapalooza Solo
Travis Barker is without a doubt one of the most well-regarded and loved drummers on the planet! He has developed a distinct drumming style that sets him apart, incorporating elements of punk, rock, hip-hop, trap, and electronic music into his solos, creating a unique blend of genres.
In this solo his creativity shines through as he experiments with different sounds, textures, and rhythms, pushing the boundaries of what can be done on the drums. He also demonstrates incredible showmanship, with plenty of stick tricks and one-handed fills!
Travis Barker’s impact on modern drumming cannot be overstated. He has inspired countless drummers with his innovative approach, bringing attention to the drums as a solo instrument. His contributions to popularizing drumming in mainstream music have left a lasting legacy.
17. Phil Collins & Chester Thompson – Bercy Drum Solo
Phil Collins’ drum solo at Bercy is not just a display of technical prowess but also an embodiment of musicality and creativity. At this particular concert, he performs with Chester Thompson and Luis Conte, all incorporating various rhythmic patterns, dynamics, and textures to create one of the best drum solos of all time.
This drum solo is shared with Chester Thompson, and both drummers blend all types of fantastic rhythms together to create a legendary joint drum solo. Luis Conte is also playing as a percussionist, adding a unique fusion of rhythmic flavor to the excitement of this performance.
16. Alex Van Halen – 5150 Tour Drum Solo
Alex Van Halen’s drum solo on the 5150 tour is a dynamic and exciting burst of intense energy and technical brilliance. Known for his lightning-fast hands and impeccable precision, Van Halen’s solo was a dazzling display of speed, incorporating rapid-fire snare rolls and thunderous bass drum patterns.
The solo is 3 minutes of pure skill and fantastic power. Alex Van Halen is a drumming legend in rock music, and he manages to keep the crowd fully engaged during the exciting performance, and demonstrates his proficient use of double bass drumming with intricate and fast paced patterns.
15. Larnell Lewis – What About Me?
Larnell Lewis flew to this gig a few days before after getting a call to cover for Robert ‘Sput’ Searight. He only had the plane flight to learn the songs, and he proved to the world that he’s one of the best drummers in the business after playing every song as if he’d been playing them his whole life.
In one of the tracks, he busts out a seriously good drum solo toward the end. It’s relatively short, but it’s become one of the most epic drum solos that you’ll hear from a Snarky Puppy tune.
14. Ginger Baker – Toad
Ginger Baker regularly played drums with Eric Clapton, and the tune called Toad was written to give him a big platform to rip out a long drum solo. This is a legendary performance that showcases his incredible skills as a drummer.
There’s a bit of music at the beginning and end, but the main purpose of this song was always for Ginger Baker to wow a crowd with his technical mastery.
The way he effortlessly moves around the drum kit, creating complex rhythms and beats, is truly mesmerizing.
This is another song where you can find multiple versions to hear Ginger playing different drum solos. They’re all incredible.
13. Joe Morello – Take Five
Joe Morello was one of the most influential jazz drummers who sadly passed away in 2011. He famously played some amazing drum solos when performing with Dave Brubeck. The song Take 5 is one of the most notable tunes to hear these solos.
The song is in 5/4 time, so playing an interesting drum solo in this time signature can be seriously tricky. Morello nailed it every time, with him often playing extended drum solos when performing live with Dave Brubeck.
You can hear a polished solo in the studio recording of the song, but you should look up videos of him playing it live to see a few different versions.
12. Eric Moore – PASIC Drum Solo
Eric Moore is one of the best contemporary drummers in the world, well known for his exceptional technical ability and chops on the drums. His speed, agility, creativity, and precision is mind-blowing, allowing him to execute complex patterns, blistering fills, and intricate rhythms with ease.
Moore’s background in gospel music, as well as exposure to various genres, have influenced his approach to chops and cemented him as one of the best chops drummers in the world right now. It is a sight to behold to see him play, and he genuinely the pushes the boundaries of drumming to new heights.
11. Tony Royster Jr. – Pure Energy DVD
Tony Royster Jr. was everyone’s favorite drummer around 2010, and he was often referred to as the best drummer in the world at that stage.
He released a DVD called Pure Energy that included footage of him playing various songs with a band. In that DVD, there are also a few clips of him playing different drum solos on a huge DW kit.
One of those solos is one of the best displays of skill I’ve ever seen demonstrated on a drum set. It easily proves why Tony Royster is one of the best drummers ever, as he pulls out crazy things that you’ve most likely never seen played on a drum kit before.
10. Aric Improta – Blur-Lights In The Videodrome
Kicking off this list of drum solos is this mind-bending 40-minute monolith that is both exhilarating and hypnotizing to watch. A truly stellar musical performance, it is ludicrous and inconceivable to believe that a drummer can rehearse and pull off such an incredible feat!
Aric Improta skilfully adopts electronics to create genre-bending soundscapes that blend perfectly with his drum solo that forming a musical journey that needs to be seen to be believed. This is not only a great display of technical ability but also of memory, composition, and insane multi-tasking; all executed in one highly innovative performance.
9. Joey Jordison – Disasterpieces Drum Solo
The late Joey Jordison was widely regarded as one of the greatest metal drummers of all time. He had a very unique playing style, and the energy and passion to match. His intensity and chaotic playing style were one of a kind, and this particular solo will long go down in history as one of the best!
Even being spun around at 360 degrees, Joey Jordison was able to execute one of the best rock drum solos that leaves the crowd stunned.
Joey was an incredible performer, and he really knew how to make the crowd go wild.
8. Dennis Chambers – Live On Letterman
A very different type of musical performance to Joey Jordison’s drum solo – Dennis Chambers exhibits a mature and controlled solo that is still very engaging and rewards listeners in a tremendously captivating fashion.
Chambers speaks with a highly articulate musical voice, and his sense of timekeeping and groove is mesmerizing to watch. I like to describe this drum solo as innately musical- he doesn’t overplay, and the playing of the drum solo perfectly complements the music.
7. Thomas Lang – Meinl Drum Festival Drum Solo
An immense and visceral performance, Thomas Lang takes the stage and leaves no prisoners. This drum solo is an extraordinary feat of musical ability and is also delivered with tasteful musicianship.
Lang exercises an unfathomable level of coordination and limb independence that has the crowd left in awe. He is not only fast, but highly controlled and technical, and performed with bounds of energy.
You really can’t help but be excited whilst watching Thomas Lang as he performs this captivating drum solo.
6. Mike Mangini – Live At Luna Park
Mike Mangini is an incredibly technical drummer, and this live drum solo is a dazzling display that truly stirs the crowd into a frenzy! He manages to use each component of his enormous double bass drum set and is able to create a wide variety of sounds and tonal colors.
This drum solo is filled with passion but is also very controlled, and Mangini has a gift that enables him to play with pinpoint precision and technicality. He simply amazes the crowd with his one-handed rolls, blistering double kick and immense creativity.
5. Benny Greb – Meinl Drum Festival Drum Solo
Benny Greb is an incredibly thoughtful and technically proficient drummer. He has unmistakable creativity, and exerts such a high level of control over his instrument. Throughout this drum solo, Greb displays an extraordinary level of limb independence, that allows him to groove with ease.
The most impressive aspect of this drum solo is simply how effortless he makes polyrhythms and metric modulation seem, all the while maintaining a deep pocket! This is one of the top drum solos, from a true master of his craft.
4. Gavin Harrison – Live on Letterman
Gavin Harrison is one of my all-time favorite drummers, and there are so many facets of his playing that I admire. He is such a well-rounded drummer; with amazing technique, rock-solid groove, inventive playing, and an overall wonderful sound.
This inspiring live performance pushes boundaries stylistically, incorporating polyrhythms, complex rudiments and water-tight grooving all in one epic drum solo. Easily one of the best drum solos to appear on TV!
3. Neil Peart – Live In Frankfurt
This Neil Peart drum solo is a 9-minute musical journey that has everything you want to see in a killer drum solo. Peart incorporates electronic drums and wild trailblazing drum fills with a highly energetic exhibition of drumming ability that drives the crowd wild!
This drum solo showcases the late Neil Peart’s extraordinary talent and innovation. Peart’s ability to create complex patterns and seamlessly transition between time signatures is on full display. With his impeccable timing, lightning-fast rolls, and precise footwork, he solidified his reputation as one of the greatest of all time.
You can’t help but admire his raw passion behind the drum set, and the way he plays with so much energy. This performance by Neil Peart is without a doubt one my favorite drum solos of all time.
2. John Bonham – Moby Dick Drum Solo
No discussion of drum solos would be complete without mentioning John Bonham’s iconic performance on “Moby Dick.” With his unmatched power and groove, Bonham created a solo that was both exciting and musically captivating. His use of dynamics, polyrhythms, and inventive fills showcased his unparalleled talent and cemented his status as one of rock’s greatest drummers.
Effortless, precise, innovative, and dynamic. These are some of the few words which can be used to describe John Bonham’s inimitable drum solo at Madison Square Garden in 1973. John Bonham has flawless technique and uncontested raw energy that enables him to perform one of the best drum solos to ever be heard live.
Bonham expertly channels his raw energy and passion into a confident display of musicianship, building up the intensity in the drum solo, which later releases the tension with the return the Moby Dick motif, and is received with a standing ovation.
1. Steve Gadd – Java Jazz Fest 2008
In first place, and my favorite drum solo of all time, is a drum solo performed by the ultimate groove machine, Steve Gadd.
This drum solo represents the pinnacle of tasteful musicianship, and it’s executed with both phenomenal technique and impeccable timekeeping.
You only have to listen for yourself to hear how hypnotic and enthralling the precise groove is within this drum solo.
Only the drumming legend Steve Gadd can pull off such a performance that makes you question whether he is, in fact, human or not. It is a true masterclass in drumming ability that instantly wins the crowd.