Over the years, there have been countless drummers that have achieved mastery in their specific style. However, we tend to have a nostalgic outlook when discussing the best drummers.
It’s easy to focus on past drummers, who have become almost like mythical beings with legacies cemented in music history.
It’s important that we also recognize the incredible talent that is around today. There are many fantastic drummers across all musical styles, and this guide celebrates the best of the best.
In this guide, we’ll take a look at the very best active drummers today.
- 1. Chris Coleman
- 2. Kaz Rodriguez
- 3. Mike Johnston
- 4. Steve Gadd
- 5. Gavin Harrison
- 6. J-rod Sullivan
- 7. Eric Moore
- 8. Larnell Lewis
- 9. Yusseff Dayes
- 10. Danny Carey
- 11. Matt Garstka
- 12. Nate Smith
- 13. Virgil Donati
- 14. Tony Royster Jr.
- 15. Thomas Lang
- 16. Marco Minneman
- 17. Carter McLean
- 18. Chris Dave
- 19. Mike Portnoy
- 20. Aric Improta
- 21. Anderson .Paak
- 22. Travis Barker
1. Chris Coleman
Chris Coleman is an excellent drummer who has performed across several genres but is perhaps best known for his work in the styles of R&B, gospel, and funk.
Coleman’s story began when his uncle introduced him to the drums as an infant. He was inspired by his musical family and spent the majority of his childhood practicing drums.
After turning down a scholarship offer from the revered Berklee School of Music in favor of returning to his hometown in Michigan, Coleman used his drumming talents as part of his ministry in the church.
A couple of years later, he would win the National Drum Competition, beating over 30,000 drummers to first place. In the years that followed, he has toured with R&B icon Chaka Khan, and his online videos have received millions of views.
2. Kaz Rodriguez
British drummer Kaz Rodriguez has achieved international acclaim, working with a variety of artists in the process. He’s released a wide range of music but is perhaps best known for his “drumless” tracks, which thousands of drummers use for practice.
With a virtuosic style that blends elements of jazz, funk, and world music, Rodriguez is endorsed by many of the biggest brands in the world of drumming. He’s also currently a member of the group The Disciples.
Rodriguez is also a highly respected composer and has written material for artists like Aaron Speakers, Anika Nilles, and the aforementioned Chris Coleman.
3. Mike Johnston
Mike Johnston is one of the best modern drummers who runs a successful education website to help people improve their drumming abilities. Johnston began playing the drums at five years old and quickly fell in love with the instrument,
After practicing relentlessly for the next decade or so, he made his first foray into the music industry after his band Simon Says signed a recording contract with a major label.
Although Mike Johnston is an exceptional drummer in his own right, his ability to teach others is equally impressive. He’s helped develop the skills of thousands of drummers of all experience levels and capabilities around the globe.
4. Steve Gadd
Steve Gadd is one of the most decorated and respected session drummers in the history of popular music. A worthy inductee of the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame, Gadd has worked with many of the most iconic artists of the past fifty years.
After learning to play the drums as a child, Gadd won numerous competitions and contests before serving in the U.S. Army as a drummer for three years in the late 1960s.
Gadd played on countless hits in the 1970s, including Van McCoy’s “The Hustle” and Paul Simon’s “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.” He’s also played drums for Eric Clapton, Chet Baker, Frank Sinatra, and Diana Ross.
A drummer of the stature of Steve Gadd could be endorsed by any brand he chooses, and he’s currently affiliated with Yamaha drums, Zildjian cymbals, and Vic Firth drumsticks.
5. Gavin Harrison
English drummer Gavin Harrison is a member of King Crimson, Porcupine Tree, and The Pineapple Thief. He has won many accolades and awards for his drumming performances and has been working in the music industry for over thirty years.
After years of playing as a session drummer for various bands and artists, Harrison joined the band Porcupine Tree, playing on five consecutive albums. These albums were very well received by fans, and the band soon became one of the most influential in the prog-rock genre of the early 2000s.
Combining with Pat Mastelotto as a drummer duo, Harrison would then join the legendary band King Crimson who achieved fame in the ‘60s.
Interestingly, the aforementioned Steve Gadd was one of Harrison’s main influences growing up. He began as a jazz drummer but has ventured into rock, and other genres as his career has progressed.
6. J-rod Sullivan
J-rod Sullivan is one of the best drummers alive today. Before reaching the age of thirty, Sullivan had already established himself as a hugely popular drummer. As a teenager, he began by posting drum covers on YouTube, amassing millions of views.
After studying music performance at the Atlanta Institute of Music, Sullivan became a full-time member of the band The 4 Korners. He also plays with Jeffery Osbourne and Avery Sunshine and has worked extensively as a session drummer.
Sullivan’s drumming incorporates many different styles, from funk to R&B to world music. He’s insanely tight and has set up a clothing company named “In the Pocket” – for obvious reasons!
7. Eric Moore
Hailing from Stockton, California, Eric Moore is an exceptionally talented drummer. Before age five, Moore had already begun drumming to accompany his father, a church organist.
After a successful stint in the high school jazz band, Moore’s talents became apparent as he started racking up victory after victory in local and national music competitions. In 2013, he had the opportunity to become the drummer with the iconic group Sly and The Family Stone.
In the years that have followed, Eric Moore has worked as the touring drummer for R&B legend Bobby Brown and played with Suicidal Tendencies, T.R.A.M, and Infectious Grooves.
Additionally, Moore has invested much of his time teaching aspiring drummers through the Gospel Chops Movement and online lessons.
8. Larnell Lewis
Larnell Lewis is a highly regarded Canadian drummer who has also enjoyed success as a producer, composer, and teacher. He’s a member of Snarky Puppy, a jazz-fusion band based in Brooklyn.
Incredibly, Lewis first played the drums at the age of two! When you hear him play, it’s believable that he began learning at such a young age. In his local church, Lewis studied and practiced a variety of drumming styles as a youngster.
After winning a prestigious award at Humber College in Toronto, Lewis was featured on the Modern Drummer front cover in 2016.
The next few years would see Lewis work with a wide range of musicians, both as a drummer and a musical director, and in 2018 he released his debut solo album, In the Moment, playing multiple instruments.
9. Yusseff Dayes
One of the brightest young stars in the burgeoning London jazz scene, Yusseff Dayes is an excellent drummer. Best known for his collaborative album with fellow UK artist Tom Misch entitled What Kinda Music, he’s one of the tightest drummers you’ll ever hear.
Inspired by his father, a bassist, Dayes began playing the drums as an infant. After developing his skills and musical knowledge, he was given the opportunity to learn from fusion drumming icon Billy Cobham, and this was when he really began to take drumming seriously.
After touring extensively with the afro-beat and jazz fusion band United Vibrations, Dayes eventually formed Yusseff Kamal with keyboard player Kamaal Williams.
What Kinda Music was released in 2020 on the Blue Note record label and reached number 4 on the UK album charts.
10. Danny Carey
Best known for being the drummer for the popular American rock band Tool, Danny Carey has enjoyed a long and decorated career in the music industry.
Ranked in the top 30 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 greatest drummers of all time, Carney started playing drums after joining his school band at ten. This is quite a late start for world-class drummers.
After joining the school jazz band, Carey began to take drumming very seriously, branching out into the studies of science and geometry and tying these subjects into his passion for percussion.
After getting to know two of the other members, Carey joined Tool after he left college, and the band has gone on to win four Grammy awards, selling tens of millions of albums around the world in the process.
11. Matt Garstka
American drummer Matt Garstka has accomplished a lot in his career as a musician, despite being one of the youngest musicians featured on this list.
Raised in Westfield, Massachusetts, Garstka would perform with his musician father before he even started high school. After originally learning to play rock and blues, a friend introduced him to other genres like Latin and fusion at the age of 14.
Garstka attended the prestigious Berklee College of Music, developing his skills further. He was featured on the front cover of Modern Drummer in March 2015 and has worked with the likes of Toni Blackman, Tony Smith, and David Stolz.
As a member of the band Animals as Leaders, Garstka has released four albums. He’s also released four albums with another project, Victoria.
12. Nate Smith
Nate Smith is a legendary drummer from Virginia who has been working professionally in the industry since 2003. He began predominantly as a jazz drummer but chose not to study music at university, opting instead for a media art and design course.
However, Smith was invited to perform at an event in New York City with renowned jazz singer Betty Carter. He then joined bassist Dave Holland’s jazz quintet, playing drums on two of the ensemble’s albums.
Smith has also enjoyed success as a composer, creating soundtracks for several TV channels. He also has a co-writing credit on the song “Heaven Can Wait” by pop icon Michael Jackson.
13. Virgil Donati
Australian drummer Virgil Donati has created an impressive body of work over his forty-plus years working in the music industry. After playing drums religiously from the age of 2, he signed his first deal with a major label at the young age of 15.
This band eventually became Taste, with whom Donati released three albums. After a brief stint in the United States, receiving lessons from renowned tutors, he came back to Australia and began performing with numerous acts, mainly in the jazz genre.
Donati is considered by many to be a technical genius on the drums. He’s known for his ability to play insanely complex rhythms and for his expert knowledge of time signatures and theory. He’s also a highly accomplished pianist!
14. Tony Royster Jr.
Tony Royster Jr. is an incredible drummer who has received many accolades in his relatively short career so far. After learning to play drums from his father at the age of three, he quickly became obsessed with the instrument.
Royster is endorsed by some of the biggest drumming brands in the world, including Remo drumheads, Zildjian cymbals, and DW drum sets. His ability to switch time signatures effortlessly is amazing.
Some of the most notable performances that Royster has made include playing with rap icon Jay-Z at Barack Obama’s inaugural ball in 2009 and touring with pop superstars Katy Perry, Joe Jonas, Charlie Puth, and the late Mac Miller.
15. Thomas Lang
Austrian drummer Thomas Lang is well known for his work with the prog metal band stOrk, with whom he has released two albums. He’s a highly technical drummer who combines an expert feel with blistering speed.
In addition to his work as a metal drummer, Lang has also worked in rock and pop genres. He’s performed as a session musician on many popular songs and released several solo albums.
Lang is also a renowned educator and author, publishing multiple popular courses and books for drummers looking to improve their playing.
16. Marco Minneman
A prolific musician, Marco Minneman has released over 12 albums and appeared on over a hundred albums as a session drummer for other artists. Aside from his obvious work ethic, Minneman is a highly skilled percussionist.
After beginning his career as a funk-metal band drummer, he became the drummer for Joe Satriani. He is a member of the instrumental rock band, The Aristocrats, with whom he has released four albums.
17. Carter McLean
An accomplished multi-instrumentalist, composer, and arranger, Carter McLean is an excellent musician. As a drummer, he’s one of the tightest and most technically gifted you’ll ever hear.
Born in San Fransisco, McLean practiced furiously throughout his childhood before being spotted by Stevie Wonder’s live band member Dennis Davis. He was invited to play alongside iconic musician Roy Ayers at an event.
McLean has gone on the work with a wide range of artists, including the likes of Victor Wooten, Charlie Hunter, and Bernie Worrel.
18. Chris Dave
Proficient in the genres of jazz, hip-hop, and gospel drumming, Chris Dave is a virtuoso in every sense of the word. His control, feel, and groove-playing ability are second to none, which is why his talents are so in demand.
Dave drummed on British singer Adele’s hit album 21 and has been part of countless successful jazz albums.
19. Mike Portnoy
Mike Portnoy is one of the best-known drummers in the history of rock music. Remarkably, he has stated that he is a self-taught drummer, which makes his abilities even more impressive.
After meeting John Petrucci and John Myung at Berklee College of Music, Portnoy formed Dream Theatre in 1985. His technical ability quickly earned him recognition from Modern Drummer, and he would go on to release a series of highly successful albums with the band.
20. Aric Improta
Renowned for his energetic playing style, speed, and power, Aric Improta is one of the most exciting drummers in the world right now. He’s a member of two bands – Night Verses and Fever 333 and has been nominated for a Grammy.
Improta has a highly successful YouTube channel, with one of his solos garnering over 20 million views! He was voted the best rock drummer in the world by Music Radar and Rhythm Magazine in 2019.
21. Anderson .Paak
Anderson .Paak has achieved worldwide success with his solo music and collaborations with other artists. A talented songwriter, rapper, singer, and producer, he’s also an exceptional drummer.
Starting out as a drummer at his local church, Anderson eventually moved to L. A to pursue his music career. After being left unemployed and struggling financially, he landed a gig playing with former American Idol star Haley Reinhart.
Anderson .Paak’s drumming talents can be seen in his Tiny Desk performance, in which he plays insanely tight 16th-note rhythms while rapping!
22. Travis Barker
Travis Barker is arguably the most famous drummer of the past thirty years. Best known for his work with rock three-piece Blink 182, he’s also released several solo projects and worked with some of the world’s best-selling artists.
Barker is a hard-hitting rock drummer who also has amazing technical skills. His innovative drumming style undeniably contributed to Blink 182’s success over the years.