I don’t know about you, but I find that when listening to music I tend to focus in on a specific aspect of the music. Sometimes I will be mostly focused on the vocals for a few months, then I will move onto focus on the guitar for a few months and so on, and so on….. As it happens I have just reentered my cycle of listening specifically to the drums, and it got me wondering about what makes a great drummer great.
Now I am in no way an expert on percussion, so I can only speak as an enthusiastic listener, but I’m sure that if you were to look on any list of the greatest drummers of all time there would be three name that would come up on any of them. Those names are Buddy Rich, John Bonham and Neil Peart. Three excellent drummers with three distinctive styles, and depending on your personal preference, each will rank differently on any given list.
Lets start with Buddy Rich. Widely considered to be the absolute greatest drummer of all time, all you gotta do is watch one of his insanely fast solos and it’s easy to see why. Basing your greatest drummer pick off of straight up technical ability means that there is really no question about who is #1, not to mention that in 1982 he had a heart attack mid drum solo but kept on playing and finished the solo before going to the hospital…… badass!
Next up is John Bonham. Now to listen to a Bonzo solo is of course a feast for the ears, like a beautifully rhythmic thunderstorm, but what really makes him unique is how he plays along with the rest of Led Zeppelin. Bonzo was a pioneer when it came to playing drums like a lead instrument in a rock band rather than just being there to keep the beat. It’s chaotic, unpredictable and makes any Zeppelin song stand out as exceptional.
Last but certainly not least is The Professor, Neil Peart. Now technical ability is one thing, and being the focus of a group made up of amazing musicians is another thing, and Neil has both of those things going for him, but he also has a drum kit 3 times the size of Buddy and Bonzo. Some people may argue that less is more, and having a huge kit is a gimmick but it’s not just Neil’s technical ability that makes him stand out, it’s his creativity and ability to make use of every piece in his giant kit. Listening to a Neil Peart solo is unlike anything else because you can never be sure what you’re going to be hearing next.
So there you have it. Three amazing drummers (in no particular order), and my take on them as someone loves their music but has never even have a drum lesson. Who is the best though? Well I suppose it depends on what you’re looking for from your drummer, Technical ability, complimenting their group or straight up creativity. You decide.
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