20 of the Best Female Drummers Ever
Drumming is too often stereotyped as a guy thing. Check some of the female drummers of all time in this list. Of course, this is certainly not a definitive list, but it’s a good starting point!
- 1. Karen Carpenter
- 2. Moe Tucker
- 3. Meytal Cohen
- 4. Sandy West
- 5. Cindy Blackman
- 6. Kavka Shishido
- 7. Jen Ledger
- 8. Stella Mozgawa
- 9. Evelyn Glennie
- 10. Honey Lantree
- 11. Viola Smith
- 12. Meg White
- 13. Hannah Welton
- 14. Anika Nilles
- 15. Dottie Dodgion
- 16. Nikki Glaspie
- 17. Terri Lyne Carrington
- 18. Gina Schock
- 19. Janet Weiss
- 20. Samantha Maloney
1. Karen Carpenter
She is my personal favorite! Her drumming skills have been appreciated just as much as her contralto vocals by critics and musicians alike. When ‘The Carpenters’ started, she mostly played drums.
Sadly, the audience didn’t want her hiding behind the drum kits. They wanted to see her on the stage as the focal point. Karen then became the main vocalist who called herself ‘the drummer who sang’.
However, it didn’t stop her from flaunting her skills and following her passion; she was often seen moving around the stage and banging the drums. She passed away when she was only 32 years old after battling complications of an eating disorder.
Watch this clip of Karen’s drum solo from the Carpenters’ 1976 television special and you will see how awesome she was:
2. Moe Tucker
The legendary drummer for the rock band the Velvet Underground, Moe Tucker is well-known for her drumming abilities, unconventional style, and the cool factor that made her stand out among her peers.
She is a trendsetter for female drummers who preferred to play standing up with mallets rather than sitting down with a pair of drumsticks. As a teen, she spent hours and hours on her single snare drum hidden away in her bedroom.
She was working as a keypunch operator in IBM when Sterling Morrison (one of her brother’s friends and the guitarist for the New York City band) asked her to join and she ended up being up to the drummer for the Velvet Underground. She quit music in 1971 to raise her kids, but did some solo projects, joined Half Japanese for a while, and participated in the 1993 Velvet Underground reunion.
3. Meytal Cohen
Meytal Cohen is an Israeli-American drummer who gained fame through her heavy-metal band ‘Meytal’. She owns a DW Drum Kit in a white finish which can be often seen in her music videos and live performances. She says on her website that it is pure fate that her name happens to sound just like her favorite genre of music!
Check out her website: https://www.meytalcohen.com/story/
4. Sandy West
Remember the 70’s most influential all-girl heavy rock band, The Runaways? The band consisted of a group of feisty teenage girls who showed the world that girls can rock just as well… or maybe, even better!
West was nine years old when her grandfather got her a drum kit seeing how crazy she was about rock and roll. The Californian musician began her drum-stricken musical journey when she was merely 13, and at 15, she met the co-founders of The Runaways, and the rest is history. She passed away when she was 47 years after losing a battle with lung cancer.
5. Cindy Blackman
The American jazz and rock drummer is known for her ferocious style and spectacular drumming techniques. You can tell how gifted she is from the way she handles her equipment.
Critics have called her a ‘virtuoso drummer who creates time on the drum’. Blackman has released several solo Jazz albums and has performed alongside Pharaoh Sanders, Joe Henderson, Bill Laswell, and her rock guitarist husband, Carlos Santana.
In 1993, Lenny Kravitz called her for an audition and Blackman played drums over the phone. He immediately asked her to come to LA and perform on his live shows. More recently, she has been focusing more on Jazz.
Read more about Blackman on her website: https://cindyblackmansantana.com
6. Kavka Shishido
Kavka Shishido is a Japanese drummer and singer who started her musical journey as a part of an all-girl rock band, the News. She once admitted that although she loves to play drums, she finds it comforting as well because the cameras never focus on the drummer.
However, she caught enough attention with her intense, passionate drumming style, and unique vocals. In 2013, she released her debut album ‘Kavkanize’ and in all the promotions, you could see her strike the drums with utter panache.
7. Jen Ledger
Hailing from England, Jen Ledger is a drummer and co-vocalist for the American-Christian hard rock band ‘Skillet’. Ledger has been playing drums since the age of 13, and before joining Skillet, she was a drummer for a local band, won a scholarship at Living Light School of Worship to do majors of drums, and was a finalist for the United Kingdom Drummer of the Year competition in 2006.
She joined Skillet when she was merely 18 years old when the previous drummer, Lori Peters, left the band. Since then, she has been a recipient of several awards thanks to her aggressive drumming style and amazing vocals. She also released her debut album ‘Ledger’ in 2013.
8. Stella Mozgawa
Stella Mozgawa is an Australian drummer and a member of the indie-rock band ‘Warpaint’. Besides that, she has worked alongside various other musicians including Adam Green, Tom Jones, and Regina Spektor.
When Mozgawa was 13 years old, she began playing drums. She was a huge fan of Zan Hanson of the pop band ‘Hanson’ and her drumming style was mainly inspired by him. At the age of 14, she pretended to be a 20-year-old Polish immigrant in order to be allowed to play at Sydney music venues.
There she met Flea the bass guitarist of Red Hot Chili Peppers who told her to Los Angeles if she wished to pursue drumming. In LA, she met the members of Warpaint.
9. Evelyn Glennie
Can you play a musical instrument flawlessly if you are profoundly deaf? Can you train your other body parts to ‘hear’ because your ears cannot? It sounds impossible but Evelyn Glennie triumphed over!
She is a Scottish virtuoso percussionist who suffered from hearing loss at the age of 12. It didn’t stop her to become one of the world’s best drummers out there.
She has collaborated with a wide variety of orchestras and plays ‘barefoot’ to feel the beat and rhythm better. Due to determination and a passion for drumming, she now enjoys a full-time and highly successful career as a solo percussionist.
10. Honey Lantree
Referred to as a ‘rarity’, Honey Lantree was indeed a wonder. She was a drummer and a singer for a 60’s British rock band ‘The Honeycombs’. While the band was labeled as a one-hit-wonder after their chart-topping song “Have I the Right?”, Lantree has often been called the first female drummer who even inspired Karen Carpenter to drum.
What’s more, she was the only female member of the band. She passed away in December 2018 at the age of 75.
Listen to Have I the Right? Here!
11. Viola Smith
Viola Smith was a drummer and one of the most influential musicians of the early 20th century. Viola Smith was born in Missouri in 1911 and began playing the piano first.
Being a part of an all-girl orchestra with her sisters, the only instrument left to take up was the drums. She quickly developed a reputation as a talented musician, and by the 1930s she was already touring.
Passing away at the age of 107 she was one of the longest living drummers in history. She was an amazing musician and paved the way for other women to follow in her footsteps. Her story is an inspiration to anyone who has ever been told they can’t do something because of their gender.
12. Meg White
Meg White is another female drummer with an impressive resume and a story that proves anything is possible. Meg was born in 1974 and first started playing drums at the age of 14.
She became well known as the drummer for The White Stripes, a band formed with her then-boyfriend Jack White. After the band disbanded, she continued to work as a drummer and has since played with other bands such as The Raconteurs.
Not only does she drum but she’s also a singer. Her most prominent work was with The White Stripes, releasing seven albums. While Jack White is the more well-known member of The White Stripes, Meg’s drumming was a big part of their sound.
13. Hannah Welton
Hannah Welton is a modern female drummer. She was born in 1990 and began her professional career at just the age of 12 which is definitely an impressive and early start.
Hannah Welton is a powerful drummer who isn’t afraid to take risks. She has a unique style that incorporates both her technical skills and her musicality. She studied at the Chicago College of Performing Arts.
She’s been featured in magazines such as Modern Drummer and DRUM! Magazine. Paving the way for other young female drummers, she is an inspiration to many.
14. Anika Nilles
Anika Nilles is another modern female drummer and gained popularity through YouTube. She was born in Germany in 1983 and began learning the drums at the age of six and graduated from the Popakademie Baden-Württemberg in Mannheim with a degree in popular music.
Anika has been influenced by a variety of genres which is evident in her playing. She incorporates different styles such as jazz, funk, and Latin into her own unique sound. She was influenced by Jeff Porcaro, one of the most well-known drummers of all time, as well as Sheryl Crow, Prince, and many others.
15. Dottie Dodgion
Dottie Dodgion was a very prominent jazz drummer and singer. She was born in 1929. Dottie Dodgion was a pioneer for female jazz drummers. She was one of the first women to ever play drums in a major jazz band. She played with some of the most well-known jazz musicians of her time.
She was a talented musician and paved the way for other female jazz drummers. Sadly passing away in 2021, she will always be remembered as a legend. Very few female drummers have made their mark on music history as she had.
16. Nikki Glaspie
Nikki Glaspie is a powerful female drummer who is known for her work with Beyoncé. Nikki Glaspie has been playing professionally for some time now and has toured extensively throughout her career, working with some of the biggest names in the music industry.
She’s a versatile drummer who can play a variety of genres. Nikki Glaspie is an inspiration to many female drummers and musicians alike.
Her career has seen many great names and produced a lot of good collaborations with the likes of Andre Ward, State Radio, Ceelo, Pharoe Monch, and many more.
17. Terri Lyne Carrington
Terri Lyne Carrington is a prominent jazz drummer and one of the most respected musicians in the industry. Terri Lyne Carrington was born in 1965 and has played with some of the biggest names in jazz, such as Dizzy Gillespie and Clark Terry.
Terri is a Grammy award-winning drummer and has also been nominated for several other awards. She’s an educator, having taught at the Berklee College of Music and the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music.
Terri Lyne Carrington is a powerful figure in the jazz community and is known for her unique style and approach to the drums.
18. Gina Schock
Gina Schock or Regina Ann Schock is an American drummer, best known as a founding member of the all-female rock band The Go-Go’s. Gina was born in 1957 and started playing drums at the age of thirteen.
The Go-Go’s were one of the first all-female bands to achieve mainstream success in the early 1980s. They were also one of the first bands to be associated with the new wave genre.
Gina Schock is a highly respected drummer in the industry and has influenced many other female musicians. She’s an inspiration to many and continues to be a force in the music industry.
19. Janet Weiss
Janet Weiss is a rock drummer born in 1965. She’s best known for her work with Sleater-Kinney, an American rock band formed in 1994. Janet is a highly respected drummer in the industry and has been nominated for several Grammy awards.
She’s known for her hard-hitting style and her ability to play a variety of genres. With so many collaborations and projects, Janet Weiss is a true force to be reckoned with. With more than 20 albums under her name, Janet Weiss is a highly accomplished drummer.
20. Samantha Maloney
Finishing off this list is Samantha Maloney. She was born in 1974 and is a highly respected drummer in the industry. Samantha has worked with some of the biggest names in music including Motley Crue, Hole, and Eagles of Death Metal.
She received her first drum kit at the age of 5. At just the age of 14, she joined the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts in New York City.
Samantha Maloney is a powerful drummer with a unique style. Apart from the aforementioned bands, she has so many other collaborations and performances under her belt.
Female drummers are some of the most respected musicians in the industry nowadays. They have unique styles and approaches to the drums that have inspired many other female musicians. These female drummers are some of the most accomplished in the business and have achieved great success in their careers. They are a force to be reckoned with and continue to make an impact in the music industry.