The 20 Best Drum Songs of All Time

drum kit

Drumming serves as the heartbeat of music, providing rhythm, pace, and energy that drive a song forward. Whether it’s rock, jazz, hip-hop, or country, the best drum songs are not just catchy rhythms; they are a showcase of skill, creativity, and the ability to communicate to listeners. Drumming shapes the dynamics and emotional tone of a song, helping to evoke emotions and create atmosphere.

Our top 20 best drum songs of all time highlight the versatility of some of music's greatest drummers. We've chosen a mix of simple yet memorable beats that music lovers will instantly recognize, as well as others that are well-known for a high level of skill and difficulty. The creativity and technical prowess displayed in all of them celebrate the  amazing drummers behind them and underscore the drum's indispensable role in the music we love.

20. Back in Black

AC/DC (Phil Rudd)

Phil Rudd AC/DC Manchester Apollo
Rudd performing live with AC/DC in 1982 at the Manchester Apollo

One of the quintessential tracks that boast of the best drum songs in the rock genre, AC/DC's "Back in Black" is a powerhouse of steady, pounding rhythms courtesy of Phil Rudd. The song's universal appeal isn't just in its catchy riff but also in Rudd's disciplined, metronomic precision that drives the track forward. This consistency and Rudd's ability to create an engaging beat with what seems like effortless simplicity is what sets "Back in Black" apart, making it an unforgettable anthem in rock history.

Rudd's style is not about complexity; it's about the groove. In "Back in Black," his drumming serves as the backbone, offering a masterclass in rock drumming that prioritizes feel over technical flashiness. His contribution highlights why he is considered one of the greats, bringing a charismatic beat that's both powerful and inviting, ensuring its place among the best drum songs ever crafted.

19. Walk This Way

Aerosmith (Joey Kramer)

"Walk This Way" by Aerosmith, with Joey Kramer on the drums, is a landmark in rock music, not only for its role in merging rock with hip hop but also for its unforgettable drum intro. Kramer's beats are an essential ingredient to the song's success, providing a groovy, hard-hitting foundation that carries the tune. His work on this track is a perfect example of how dynamic and rhythmic complexity can coalesce into a catchy, memorable drum beat that becomes iconic in its own right.

Kramer's technique and energy are palpable, making "Walk This Way" stand tall among the best drum songs. His ability to blend power with a nuanced sense of rhythm helps bridge the song's genres, creating a piece that's as influential as it is enduring. Kramer's performance is a testament to his prowess, solidifying his status as a legendary drummer in the world of rock music.

18. Pass The Mic

Beastie Boys (Mike D)

While not the most technically superior drum track, we had to include Michael Diamond's "Pass The Mic" for the creativity used to produce its innovative drum sound. When the Beastie Boys recorded their 3rd album "Check Your Head" in 1991, they were returning to their live music roots, after exploding onto the music scene for 4 years as a rap trio. Eager to prove they could still rock, they spent long hours recording at G-Son Studios, trying to come up with something truly unique by experimenting with unorthodox playing and recording techniques. It was in this setting that they achieved "Pass the Mic's" unique drum sound by surrounding Mike D's drums with large cardboard boxes to create a big, beefy echo. This unconventional recording technique resulted in a distinctive sound that made "Pass The Mic" one of the hottest live hip-hop drum beats ever recorded. 

This drum beat became the driving force for one of the best songs on one of the band's best albums that put them back on the map, demonstrating how creativity in production can elevate an entire career. Mike D's performance and the band's unique approach showcased their adaptability, underlining their importance in music history, as well as their influence on the hip-hop genre. 

17. We're Not Gonna Take It

Twisted Sister (Anthony Pero)

Twisted Sister's anthem "We're Not Gonna Take It," powered by Anthony Pero's energetic drumming, is a staple in rock music and a highlight among the best drum songs. Pero's ability to drive the song with a mix of power and precision creates a compelling backbone that complements the song's rebellious spirit. His drumming not only supports but enhances the anthemic quality of the track, making it an unforgettable piece of rock history.

The drumming in "We're Not Gonna Take It" exemplifies Pero's skill in using the drum set not just as a rhythmic foundation but as a means of amplification for the song's message. His performance is a key element of what makes the song resonate with audiences, showcasing the significant role that effective drumming can play in elevating a track to legendary status among the best drum songs.

16. Smooth

Santana (Rodney Holmes)

Santana's "Smooth," featuring Rodney Holmes on the drums, stands out as one of the best drum songs for its seamless blend of rock and Latin rhythms. Holmes' intricate playing is a central element of the song's success, offering a rich, rhythmic texture that complements Santana's guitar work. His ability to navigate complex patterns while maintaining a fluid groove is what makes "Smooth" a masterclass in drumming.

The track is a testament to Holmes' versatility and skill, showcasing how drumming can serve as a bridge between genres, creating a sound that's both unique and universally appealing. His work on "Smooth" not only elevates the song but also contributes to its enduring popularity, ensuring its place among the best drum songs. Holmes' performance is a brilliant example of how technical proficiency and rhythmic innovation can come together to create a track that resonates across different musical landscapes, cementing his reputation as an exceptional drummer.

15. The Fez

Steely Dan (Jeff Porcaro)

Jeff Porcaro Toto Steely Dan - Planet Earth Tour 1990
Jeff Porcaro, touring with Toto on the Planet Earth Tour in 1990

Steely Dan's "The Fez" features Jeff Porcaro, whose drumming is a key element in the song's smooth, sophisticated sound. Porcaro's work on this track is a showcase of his exceptional skill in laying down a groove that's both intricate and effortlessly cool. His ability to blend into the song's fabric while still making a distinct impact is a testament to his mastery as a drummer, making "The Fez" a standout among the best drum songs for those who appreciate the subtler aspects of drumming.

Porcaro's performance on "The Fez" is a prime example of how a drummer can elevate a song, providing a rhythm that's both compelling and complementary to the musical arrangement. His legacy as one of the great studio drummers is well represented by his work on this track, highlighting his remarkable technique and feel. It's his nuanced approach that secures "The Fez" its place among the best drum songs, celebrating Porcaro's contribution to the art of drumming.

14. Crazy in Love

Beyoncé (The Neptunes)

In modern music programability is king. So we had to pay homage to so many amazing tracks being produced without a single live instrument. And the irresistible groove captured on Beyoncé's "Crazy in Love," stands as a powerful example of what can be accomplished with programmed drums.  Produced by The Neptunes in 2003, this track stands out as one of the best drum songs despite its reliance on digital production to create a beat that's both iconic and infectious. The Neptunes' expertise in crafting a rhythm that complements Beyoncé's dynamic performance showcases the potential of programmed drums to match, and sometimes surpass, the energy of traditional live drumming. The production choices made by The Neptunes on "Crazy in Love" highlight the song's groundbreaking approach to rhythm, making it a standout track in Beyoncé's discography and a memorable entry among the best drum songs. 

13. Cissy Strut

The Meters (Ziggy Modeliste)

"Cissy Strut" by The Meters, with Ziggy Modeliste on drums, is an exemplary showcase of tight, funky drumming that has made it a classic among the best drum songs. Modeliste's performance is a masterclass in funk rhythm, combining subtle variations and a deep pocket that makes the track irresistibly groovy. His ability to lay down a beat that feels both relaxed and precise is a hallmark of his style and a significant reason for the song's enduring popularity.

Modeliste's drumming on "Cissy Strut" is not just technically impressive; it's a vital part of what makes the song a cornerstone of funk music. His work exemplifies how a drummer can define a genre's sound, providing a blueprint for future musicians. The track remains a go-to reference for drummers seeking to learn the nuances of funk drumming, solidifying its status among the best drum songs and Modeliste's legacy as a pioneering drummer.

12. 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover

Phil Collins (Steve Gadd)

Phil Collins' "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover" is renowned for its distinctive drum pattern performed by Steve Gadd, making it one of the best drum songs for enthusiasts and musicians alike. Gadd’s performance is a highlight of the song, showcasing his ability to create a memorable and innovative beat that drives the track. In addition to the primary beat, the song's drum break has also become one of the most recognized moments in music, illustrating creativity and technical prowess as a drummer.

Gadd’s work on "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover" serves as an inspiration for drummers seeking to combine technical skill with musicality, ensuring the song's place among the best drum songs. This collaboration produced a lasting impact through a single song's rhythm section, and is a testament to the genius of both Gadd and Collins.

11. Killing In The Name

Rage Against The Machine (Brad Wilk)

Rage Against The Machine's "Killing In The Name" features Brad Wilk behind the drums, delivering a performance that's as politically charged as it is rhythmically complex. Wilk's powerful, driving beats are a foundational element of the song's aggressive sound, showcasing his ability to blend technical proficiency with raw energy. His drumming not only complements the song's message but amplifies it, making "Killing In The Name" a standout track among the best drum songs for its fusion of purpose and prowess.

Wilk's work on this track exemplifies how drumming can be an act of expression, channeling the song's confrontational spirit through every beat. His ability to maintain a relentless intensity while navigating dynamic shifts in the song demonstrates why he is regarded as one of the most impactful drummers in rock. "Killing In The Name" owes much of its enduring impact to Wilk's drumming, securing its place as a landmark in the canon of the best drum songs.

10. In Bloom

Nirvana (Dave Grohl)

Dave Grohl 1989
Dave Grohl performing live with Nirvana in 1989

"In Bloom" by Nirvana, with Dave Grohl on drums, is a testament to the power of dynamic drumming in shaping the sound of a generation. Grohl's explosive style combines raw power with nuanced musicianship, driving the song forward with a force that's both exhilarating and deeply emotional. His performance on "In Bloom" showcases his ability to convey the spirit of the grunge movement through the drums, making it one of the best drum songs for capturing the essence of an era.

Grohl's drumming on "In Bloom" is not just technically impressive; it's a crucial part of Nirvana's signature sound. His ability to balance aggression with subtlety, and to craft beats that are both complex and catchy, demonstrates his exceptional skill as a drummer. This track highlights Grohl's role in defining the musical landscape of the 90s, ensuring "In Bloom" remains an iconic example of the best drum songs.

9. Come Together

The Beatles (Ringo Starr)

The Beatles' "Come Together" features Ringo Starr's drumming at its most inventive, providing a groovy, laid-back foundation that's instantly recognizable. Starr's performance is a masterclass in serving the song, with his choice of rhythms and fills adding depth and character without ever overshadowing the other elements. His work on "Come Together" exemplifies why it's considered one of the best drum songs, highlighting Starr's ability to enhance a track subtly yet significantly.

Starr's understated yet impactful approach to drumming on "Come Together" showcases his musicality and his knack for creating memorable drum parts that serve the song perfectly. His ability to blend seamlessly with the band while still making a distinct contribution is what makes this track stand out among the best drum songs. "Come Together" remains a testament to Starr's genius as a drummer, proving that sometimes less is indeed more when it comes to making lasting musical impact.

8. Since You Been Gone

Motherlode (Clyde Stubblefield)

"Since You Been Gone" by Motherlode features the legendary Clyde Stubblefield, whose drumming adds a layer of soulful groove that's hard to ignore. Known for his work with James Brown, Stubblefield brings his signature funky beats to the track, making it a standout among the best drum songs for those who appreciate the finesse of soul and funk drumming. His ability to lay down a groove that's both tight and expressive is a showcase of his immense talent.

Stubblefield's performance on "Since You Been Gone" is a reminder of why he is considered one of the greatest drummers in the realm of funk and soul music. His drumming not only provides a rhythmic foundation but also acts as an integral part of the song's identity, highlighting the importance of the drums in crafting a memorable tune. The track is a testament to Stubblefield's legacy and his ability to elevate a song, securing its place among the best drum songs.

7. Rat Salad

Black Sabbath (Bill Ward)

"Rat Salad" by Black Sabbath, featuring Bill Ward on the drums, is a powerhouse of heavy metal drumming, showcasing Ward's skill in creating a thunderous, driving beat that defines the genre. This instrumental track allows Ward to take center stage, delivering a performance that's both a technical showcase and a testament to the raw power of heavy metal drumming. His ability to combine speed, power, and complexity makes "Rat Salad" a standout among the best drum songs, especially for fans of heavier music.

Bill Ward's performance on "Rat Salad" exemplifies the drummer's vital role in heavy metal, providing not just the backbone of the song but also its beating heart. Ward's drumming is a masterclass in the art of heavy hitting, proving that aggression and intricacy can go hand in hand. This track remains a crucial listening for anyone interested in the evolution of drumming within heavy music, ensuring its place among the best drum songs.

6. Wipe Out

The Surfaris

The iconic drum solo that kicks off "Wipe Out" by The Surfaris is perhaps one of the most recognizable pieces of drumming in music history, cementing its status as one of the best drum songs. The frenetic pace, coupled with the sheer joy and energy of the performance, makes it a standout track that has inspired countless aspiring drummers. The song's driving rhythm is a testament to the power of the drum to take center stage and captivate an audience.

The impact of "Wipe Out" extends beyond its surf rock roots, becoming a universal symbol for the exhilaration of drumming. Its simplicity, coupled with its undeniable catchiness, showcases the drum set as a lead instrument, capable of defining a song's character and leaving a lasting impression on listeners. This track remains a pivotal piece of drumming history, illustrating the instrument's potential to transcend genres and generations.

5. The Crunge

Led Zeppelin (John Bonham)

John Bonham Led Zeppelin 1975
John Bonham performing live with Led Zeppelin in 1975

Led Zeppelin's "The Crunge," with John Bonham behind the kit, is a testament to the drummer's legendary status and a prime example of why this track ranks among the best drum songs. Bonham's distinctive style—marked by powerful, innovative beats and an unmatched feel for the groove—drives this song, showcasing his ability to meld technical prowess with soulful rhythm. His work on "The Crunge" is a showcase of drumming genius, demonstrating his influence on the world of rock drumming.

John Bonham's approach to "The Crunge" highlights his skill in creating complex, yet utterly compelling rhythms that are both innovative and timeless. His ability to push the boundaries of rock drumming, while maintaining a deep connection to the groove, is what sets him apart. This track not only solidifies Bonham's legacy but also continues to inspire drummers across genres, making it a quintessential example of the best drum songs ever recorded.

4. Ants Marching

Dave Matthews Band (Carter Beauford)

Carter Beauford Dave Matthews
Carter Beauford performing live with Dave Matthews Band in 2005

Dave Matthews Band's "Ants Marching" showcases Carter Beauford's extraordinary talent, making it one of the best drum songs for illustrating the beauty of complex, yet musical drumming. Beauford's ability to weave intricate patterns with a light, almost effortless touch gives the song its lively, upbeat character. His work on the track is a prime example of how technical skill and musicality can coexist, providing a rhythm that's both captivating and uplifting.

Beauford's drumming on "Ants Marching" is not just about keeping time; it's about adding color and texture to the music, demonstrating his role as a true artist behind the kit. His performance is a blend of precision and spontaneity, making the song a favorite among both musicians and fans alike, and solidifying its status as one of the best drum songs. The track highlights Beauford's innovative approach to drumming, showcasing his ability to push the boundaries of what's possible on the drums while still serving the song's overall feel and energy.

3. Hot For Teacher

Van Halen (Alex Van Halen)

Alex Van Halen Van Halen Live
Alex Van Halen performing live in 2012

Van Halen's "Hot For Teacher" is renowned for Alex Van Halen's explosive drum intro, a piece of rock drumming virtuosity that sets the stage for one of the most energetic tracks in the band's catalog. His work on this song is a perfect example of how technical skill can be combined with sheer power to create a memorable and impactful performance. Alex's ability to maintain an intense level of energy throughout the song, while executing complex patterns, makes "Hot For Teacher" a landmark among the best drum songs.

Alex Van Halen's performance is not just a display of drumming proficiency; it's an integral part of the song's identity, driving the music forward with unstoppable momentum. His contribution to "Hot For Teacher" showcases the drummer's role as the backbone of a band, providing a foundation that is both solid and exhilarating. This track stands as a testament to Alex's skill and creativity, securing its place in the pantheon of the best drum songs.

2. Tom Sawyer

Rush (Neil Peart)

Neil Pearts drum solo Rush
Neil Peart's full circle drum kit, live with Rush in 2011

"Tom Sawyer" by Rush features Neil Peart, whose drumming elevates the song to a masterclass in progressive rock percussion, firmly establishing it among the best drum songs ever recorded. Peart's complex time signatures and innovative use of the drum kit create a soundscape that's as intellectually stimulating as it is viscerally satisfying. His performance on "Tom Sawyer" showcases his reputation for combining technical mastery with expressive musicality, making the song a touchstone for drummers and music enthusiasts alike.

The drumming in "Tom Sawyer" is emblematic of Peart's approach to music: a blend of precision, power, and artistry. His ability to craft parts that are both challenging and coherent has inspired countless drummers to push the limits of their own playing. This track not only highlights Peart's skill and creativity but also his role in defining the progressive rock genre, ensuring "Tom Sawyer" a lasting legacy among the best drum songs.

1. Schism

TOOL (Danny Carey)

Danny Carey live with TOOL in 2019
Danny Carey performing live with TOOL in 2019.

TOOL's "Schism" features Danny Carey's drumming, which is nothing short of a rhythmic marvel, blending complex time signatures with a deep, primal intensity. Carey's work on the track is a testament to his status as one of the most innovative drummers in the world of progressive metal. His ability to navigate through the song's shifting rhythms while maintaining a powerful, cohesive groove is what sets "Schism" apart as one of the best drum songs. Carey's drumming not only complements the song's intricate structure but elevates it, creating a mesmerizing rhythmic experience.

Danny Carey's performance in "Schism" exemplifies his philosophical approach to drumming, where technicality meets spirituality. His use of polyrhythms and unconventional time signatures showcases a level of mastery that transcends mere technical skill, turning the song into a journey through rhythm itself. "Schism" stands as a powerful example of Carey's genius and TOOL's innovative approach to music, securing its position as our number one best drum song of all time.

The best drum songs of all time are a celebration of rhythm's power to move, inspire, and innovate. These top 20 contributions to the music we know and love are timeless reminders that drums will always be a cornerstone of musical expression.


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Beats by ME

This list started questionable. Walk this Way and Beyoncé seemed a stretch. But it ended strong AF with Tool and Rush, and Carter Beuford is a beast! I remember reading about how the Beastie Boys recorded Pass the Mic too. Love the drum sound on that track!

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