While many musicians view drum solos as an opportunity to take a break and grab a drink, true drumming enthusiasts know those epic drum solos are intense, impressive, and unforgettable. This article will highlight a list of some of the best drum solos of all time:
Moby Dick – Led Zeppelin (John Bonham)
John Bonham, Led Zeppelin’s drummer, is known for his powerful and explosive drumming style. His solo on “Moby Dick” is a true masterpiece, featuring a combination of intricate rhythms and thunderous cymbal work. It is widely known for its high-energy, frenetic style. The solo is also noteworthy for its length, as it often stretches to over 10 minutes in live performances.
Karn Evil 9 – Emerson Lake & Palmer (Carl Palmer)
“Karn Evil 9” by Emerson, Lake & Palmer is a complex and ambitious piece of music that features three movements of impressive drum solos by Carl Palmer. The solos showcase Palmer’s technical skill (virtuosity) and musicality as he navigates through various time signatures and styles. The solos are also well-integrated into the piece’s overall structure, which adds to their impact.
Yyz – Rush (Neil Peart)
Neil Peart, the drummer and lyricist for the band Rush, is one of the greatest drummers of all time. His technical proficiency and musicality are unmatched, and his live performances were legendary. His drum solos were a highlight of Rush’s live shows, and he was known for his ability to create intricate and exciting drum parts that captivated audiences. Peart’s drum solos were also highly influential, and many drummers have cited him as a major influence on their playing.
Aja – Steely Dan (Steve Gadd)
Steve Gadd’s solo in Aja uses dynamics and grooves to enhance the overall song. The solo is an excellent example of Gadd’s ability to play with precision and control while adding flair and style to the music.
Funky Drummer – James Brown
The drum solo, performed and recorded by Clyde Stubblefield in 1970, has been sampled in hundreds of hip-hop, R&B, and pop songs, making it one of the most widely recognized and influential drum performances in history.
The solo is known for its rhythmic complexity, groovy feel, and dynamic build, all of which contributed to its lasting appeal and influence on subsequent generations of drummers.
Night in Tunisia – Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers
“A Night in Tunisia” is a challenging piece that requires the drummer to play a variety of rhythms and styles, including swing, bebop, and Latin, seamlessly and cohesively. The solo also requires the drummer to play at a fast tempo and to have a strong sense of time and groove.
Art Blakey, who recorded the song with his group The Jazz Messengers, was known for his powerful and energetic drumming style. His solo on “A Night in Tunisia” is a prime example of his virtuosity. Blakey’s solo is also known for its technical proficiency, musicality, and ability to swing. It is also notable for its innovative use of time and rhythm and its creative use of dynamics and phrasing.
Sing, Sing, Sing – Gene Krupa
“Sing, Sing, Sing” is widely recognized and celebrated because of Gene Krupa’s innovative and energetic drumming style. The solo, recorded in 1937, is notable for its fast tempo, virtuosity, and musicality.
Krupa’s use of the drum set as a solo instrument was groundbreaking at the time and influenced many subsequent drummers. The solo became a jazz standard, and many artists have covered it over the years. It remains a popular and enduring piece of music and is often cited as a highlight of Krupa’s career.
Take Five – Dave Brubeck (Joe Morello)
Joe Morello’s drum solo in “Take Five” is one of the best drum solos of all time because of his innovative use of the 5/4 time signature and his technical proficiency on the drums. Morello’s solo is known for its precise, intricate rhythms and its use of odd time signatures, which give the solo a unique and complex sound.
West Side Story Medley – Buddy Rich
Many fans love “The West Side Story Medley” because of Rich’s technical proficiency and ability to convey emotion through his drumming. Rich was known for his speed and precision, and his “West Side Story Medley” solo showcased these skills. He also had a natural sense of swing and groove, which gave his drumming musicality.
Painkiller – Judas Priest (Scott Travis)
“Painkiller” features a fast-paced and complex drum performance by Scott Travis, which critics and fans have widely praised. Many people consider it one of the best drum solos of all time due to its technical proficiency, energy, and overall musicality.
Travis’s performance on “Painkiller” is notable for its use of double bass drumming, which gives the solo a driving, relentless feel, and for its use of fills and other rhythmic variations that help keep the music interesting and engaging.
Additionally, the song’s fast tempo and aggressive musical style add to the overall impact of the drum solo, making it a standout performance in the heavy metal genre.
O Baterista – Rush (Neil Peart)
“O Baterista” features a spoken-word tribute to Peart and his drumming abilities, set to a Brazilian bossa nova-style instrumental backing. Peart is one of the greatest drummers in rock because of his technical skill, musicality, and creativity.
The End – The Beatles (Ringo Starr)
The solo, which appears at the end of the “The End”, features a series of drum fills and rolls that showcase Starr’s technical ability and musicality. The solo also builds to a dramatic conclusion, making it stand out in the song and Starr’s career.
Many drummers and music critics have praised Starr’s performance on “The End” as one of the finest examples of drumming in rock music.
Toad – Cream (Ginger Baker)
Many critics and fans celebrate “Toad” by Cream because of Baker’s technical skill, musicality, and intense energy in the performance.
He plays with great precision and control, using various drum and cymbal combinations to create a range of sounds and textures. He also builds the solo up dramatically and excitingly, using dynamic shifts and rhythmic variations to keep the listener engaged.
Ram Jam – Black Betty (Peter Charles)
“Black Betty” by Ram Jam is another iconic song known for its catchy and upbeat rhythm. An integral part of the arrangement is the drum solo, which helps drive the energy and momentum of the track. It also showcases Charle’s technical proficiency.
Fun Fact: The solo is also memorable for its use of the cowbell, which gives it a distinctive sound.
Won’t Get Fooled Again – The Who (Keith Moon)
Keith Moon made The Who’s Won’t Get Fooled Again one of the most iconic songs because of his wild and frenetic drum style. He uses various techniques and fills, and his timing and rhythm are spot on.
Rat Salad – Black Sabbath (Bill Ward)
Black Sabbath’s Bill Ward is a highly skilled and accomplished drummer. In the song “Rat Salad,” he showcases his powerful and precise playing style It is well-crafted with a clear structure and a good balance between technical virtuosity and musicality.
Wipe Out – The Surfaris (Ron Wilson)
The drum solo in “Wipe Out” is iconic and memorable, featuring a series of rapid-fire snare drum hits played over a driving beat. Also, Ron Wilson, the drummer for The Surfaris, is a highly skilled and talented musician who was able to create a drum solo that was both technically impressive and highly expressive.
In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida – Iron Butterfly (Ron Bushy)
The “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” solo is incredibly technical and showcases the drumming skills of Ron Bushy. The solo is over 17 minutes long and includes various techniques and fills, making it a true showcase of Bushy’s ability as a drummer. Additionally, the solo is iconic and has become synonymous with the song itself, which has helped to cement its place in rock history.
Hot for Teacher – Van Halen (Alex Van Halen)
Hot for Teacher is considered one of the greatest drum solos because of Alex Van Halen’s impressive technical skill and energetic performance. The solo features a fast tempo, complex rhythms, and several remarkable drum fills and accents.
Alex Van Halen is also known for his creative use of the drum kit, incorporating a variety of sounds and textures into his playing.
In the Air Tonight – Phil Collins
“In the Air Tonight” by Phil Collins is widely celebrated because of its emotional and musical impact on listeners. The solo, which comes in towards the end of the song, is characterized by its building intensity and sense of anticipation, as well as its use of dynamic contrasts and rhythmic complexity.
Collins’s use of the drum machine and other electronic effects also adds to the song’s overall atmosphere and impact. In addition to being highly influential and memorable, the solo in “In the Air Tonight” has been widely praised by critics and drummers alike for its technical proficiency and musicality.
Ticks and Leeches – Tool (Danny Carey)
Ticks and Leeches features an impressive drum solo performed by the band’s drummer, Danny Carey. The solo is known for its complex and intricate rhythms, its use of polyrhythms, and other techniques that showcase Carey’s skill and creativity as a drummer.