11 Best Funk Drummers (With Videos)

10 Best Funk Drummers (With Videos)

Over the years, there have been some amazing funk drummers who have enticed us with their immaculate grooving skills. There are some drummers who I could listen to playing the same beats for hours, as they just know how to make it sound and feel good. 

In this guide, I’m going to show you 11 of the best funk drummers of all time. I’ll tell you a few of the bands they’ve played with, but I’ll mainly break down their drumming style to find out what makes them so good at playing the drums. 

I’ll also include videos so that you can listen to their sweet grooving skills! 

Nate Smith

Nate Smith has blown up as a powerhouse funk and jazz drummer over the last decade. While I’m a big fan of his jazz drumming, it’s his work with bands like Vulfpeck and The Fearless Flyers that places him on this list. 

He also has two solo albums that include drum-only songs. While that sounds like it could get old quickly, it’s incredible how engaging they are.

I think the biggest thing that makes Nate Smith so good is his intense control over his hands. He’s able to play really fast funk grooves while keeping them sounding tight and driving.

You’ll also find that most of the drummers on this list are masters at playing ghost notes, and Nate is no different! 

Vinnie Colaiuta

Vinnie Colaiuta’s drumming is a funky masterclass in groove and technique. From tight, crisp snare hits to soulful pocket rhythms that just make you want to move, Vinnie’s got it all.

What sets Vinnie apart is his unparalleled sense of rhythm and timing. He’s got this innate ability to lock into a groove and ride it with such finesse. Every snare hit, every hi-hat accent, it’s all perfectly placed to drive the music forward.

But it’s not just about technical prowess with Vinnie; his drumming has personality. Whether he’s laying down a fat backbeat or throwing in some tasty fills, Vinnie’s playing is always bursting with energy and personality.

And let’s not forget his versatility. From straight-up funk to jazz fusion to rock and beyond, Vinnie can do it all. He’s played with some of the biggest names in the business, and his adaptability is second to none.

Chad Smith

It’s no surprise to see Chad Smith on this list. He’s the drummer for The Red Hot Chili Peppers, which has been one of the biggest bands in the world for decades. 

You could technically consider him a rock drummer, but most RHCP songs sit more on the funk side of things. 

Chad Smith’s main quality is that he’s loud and exciting. Everything he plays is seriously impactful, and when learning how to play good funk drum grooves, you could pull out a whole host of RCHP songs to reference. 

I’d argue that he’s the most explosive drummer on this list! 

Steve Jordan

Steve Jordan is yet another legendary drummer, and he’s someone who I could listen to playing funk grooves all day.

He has an incredibly wide discography of artists that he’s played with, but some of the more recent ones have been Stevie Wonder, John Mayer, and The Rolling Stones. 

I love his sense of pocket. Every time you hear him playing drums in a song, he has the parts completely locked down and feeling good. He’s just one of the most reliable drummers out there, and that’s what makes him so hirable. 

The video that I’ve linked here is one of my favorite drum solos ever. He isn’t playing anything too flashy. It’s just his grooves that are enough to keep a crowd absolutely hooked. Not too many drummers are able to do that. 

David Garibaldi

David Garibaldi literally wrote the book on funk drumming, so he definitely deserves a spot on this list. He plays with Tower of Power and has been performing with the group for decades. 

From everything I’ve heard David Garibaldi play, I’d say his main strength is playing 16th note grooves. Those are a staple in funk drumming, and his vocabulary around them is incredible. 

I’ve watched a few live drum cams of him playing with Tower of Power, and I always admire how in control he looks. He’s just one of the most solid funk drummers out there. 

Clyde Stubblefield

Clyde Stubblefield was one of the longest-standing members of James Brown’s band. With James Brown being one of the founders of funk music, you can just assume how much of an influential impact Clyde Stubblefield had on funk drumming. 

Most people know him as the person who played the Funky Drummer beat, which went on to become one of the most sampled drum loops in history. I’d also say that Funky Drummer is one of the hardest beats to play. 

However, I found out that there’s so much more to that main groove when listening to a bunch of James Brown tunes. I loved hearing how unique his playing style is, with ghost notes and syncopated rhythms being his signature traits. 

Benny Greb

Benny Greb is another massively influential drummer in the modern music space. His main strength is his ability to groove and make things sound good. He’s released a few DVDs and books about it. 

He’s one drummer here who hasn’t played with famous bands. He’s more of an artist himself who performs with a few of his own groups. He’s also a big drum teacher, hosting dozens of clinics around the world every year. 

I first started appreciating how good of a drummer he is when I watched a few clips of him performing at one of the Meinl Drum Festivals. While I was impressed by his grooving skills, I also appreciated his independent limb control. 

Chris Dave

Chris Dave is a massive influence in the jazz drumming world. However, I’d also consider him a funk drummer, as he’s played with many funk artists. Like Steve Jordan, he has a massive roster of performers that he’s played with. 

I’ve mainly seen him perform with Robert Glasper, but there have been plenty more. 

His drumming style is very eclectic, making him very unique compared to every other drummer on this list. He regularly uses multiple snare drums in his setup, along with a host of weird and wacky cymbals. Sometimes he just uses a single snare drum and nothing else. 

Stanton Moore

Stanton Moore is mainly known as the drummer for Galactic, which is a funk band that was formed in the 90s. 

He’s from New Orleans, so he incorporates a lot of New Orleans-style drumming into everything he does. That’s why he also plays a lot of jazz alongside funk music. 

While he’s an amazing drummer, I love his teaching style. I’ve learned a lot about funky grooves from watching many of his educational videos.

Dennis Chambers

Dennis Chambers was regularly referred to as the best drummer in the world at one point. He was an absolute machine of a player in the 90s and early 2000s, inspiring many people to start playing drums themselves. 

He is quite a bit older now, but he still moves around the kit with ease. There were so many grooves that he played that became staples of funk drumming. 

I always wanted to use three floor toms in my setup after watching Dennis Chambers play, but it’s more of his grooves that I appreciate listening to him these days. You also just have to admire the fact that he’s such a versatile drummer. 

Adam Deitch

I strongly believe that Adam Deitch is one of the most underrated drummers out there. He isn’t someone that most people immediately think of when discussing incredible drummers, but he definitely should be. 

He mostly performs with a band called Lettuce, which is a funk and soul music group that has been performing since the early 90s.

I’ve watched so many videos of Adam Deitch performing, and I’m always impressed by how good he makes grooves sound. I’ve often tried to imitate what he’s playing, and I just can’t get it to sound the same. 

Everything he plays on the kit is intentional, and his mastery over timing and dynamics is exceptional. 


There are plenty more notable drummers to mention, but those eleven are ones that will regularly come up in funk drumming conversations. They’ve all made such huge impacts and are massive inspirations to us all. 

I highly recommend checking each one of them out and listening to them play within band contexts. They have the ability to make music sound so much better with the types of grooves and patterns that they play.

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