How to Drum Like Phil Collins (10 Tips)

Phil Collins is undoubtedly one of the greatest drummers of all time. His drumming has been praised for its creativity, precision, and ability to drive a song forward. From his work with Genesis to his solo career, Collins has left a mark on the music world that is unmatched.

To further go in-depth on how great Phil Collins is as a drummer, I suggest you check out this amazing video by Drumeo called “The Genius of Phil Collins where they break down just how prolific Phil Collins was as a drummer and they show how complex, diverse, and sometimes overlooked his drumming skill is.

Drumeo also has plenty of great notations and drumless tracks by Phil Collins and Genesis, and you can get access to them with this free 30-day trial of Drumeo. They also have some great lessons specific to Phil Collins.

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In this article, I’ve outlined 10 tips to help you play the drums like Phil Collins and develop your own unique sound and style.

1. It’s All About The Fills

Collins is known for his legendary drum fills. Of course, the first thing that will come into most people’s minds when they think of Phil Collins is the iconic fill from the song “In The Air Tonight”. The Drumeo video above also showcases his iconic drum fills from the song “Easy Lover.

It’s important to use fills at appropriate moments in the song to add interest and excitement. Phil Collins’ fills were not just about showing off his technical prowess but were always in service of the music, enhancing the dynamics and adding depth to the songs.

A clip from Drumeo where Brandon Toews takes you through his pick of the Top 12 Phil Collins Drumming Moments.

2. Master Odd Timing and Complex Time Signatures

Another important aspect of Phil Collins’ drumming style is his impeccable timing. Whether he’s playing a simple groove or a complex fill, his sense of timing has always been spot-on. 

In “The Genius of Phil Collins”, Drumeo further explained how Phil Collins easily mastered playing in odd timing and complex time signatures further proving how an amazing drummer Phil Collins is. It includes some great examples, which includes a section of the song Firth of Fifth, where he goes between 2/4 and 13/6, as well as another song where he’s playing 7/8.

To develop your timing skills, practice playing along with a metronome or a backing track, and work on playing different rhythms and tempos with consistency. Keep in mind, playing odd time signatures can feel incredibly awkward and challenging at first, especially if you’re not used to it. But they’re a fantastic way to practice our rhythm and stretch our skills.

3. Dynamics are Good But Play LOUD

Playing with dynamics is another crucial element of Collins’ drumming style or any drummer in fact. He uses accents and ghost notes to create a more varied and dynamic sound. But in order to really capture his sound you need to play loud.

Just experiment with different levels of intensity, and use the hi-hat cymbals to create an interesting sound. Use dynamics to add tension and release to your playing, creating a more engaging listening experience.

Check out an interview he did where he talks about his drumming philosophy and drumming style by clicking here.

4. Focus on Your Technical Ability

Phil Collins was an incredibly skilled drummer. If you only knew Phil Collins from the iconic drum fill in “In the Air Tonight,” you might be mistaken to think that he wasn’t a technical drummer.

Collins’ drumming style was incredibly versatile, and he was equally at home playing in a variety of styles. He had a remarkable sense of timing and could effortlessly switch between intricate rhythms and explosive fills.

We can all learn from Collins’ example and strive to push our own boundaries in our playing. Whether it’s tackling a complex rhythm or exploring a new genre of music, we should always be looking for ways to challenge ourselves and stretch our abilities.

5. Use Technology and Audio Processing

While Phil Collins was undoubtedly a master of acoustic drumming, he was never a purist when it came to the tools he used to create his sound. In fact, he fully embraced technology and incorporated electronic drums into his playing.

Collins was a big fan of Simmons electronic drums (with those iconic Hexagonal shaped e-drum pads from the 80s!). This allowed him to create a wider range of sounds and textures than he could with a traditional drum kit and gave him more control over the tone and dynamics of his playing.

Experimenting with different drum sounds and textures is an important tip to achieve Collins’ unique sound. Try different drum heads, cymbals, and drumsticks to create your own unique sound.

Even during a time when the Simmons electronic drums were not yet popular, Phil Collins already incorporated them into his songs and playing which gave him an even more unique sound and feel. So continue to experiment and embrace new technology and find ways to incorporate them into your playing style.

In addition to electronic drums, Collins was also a big proponent of using audio processing like compressors and gates to shape his sound. He was known for heavily processing some of his drum sounds to create a more unique and powerful sound.

In the song “In the Air Tonight,” Collins used a heavily gated drum sound that created a distinct and powerful impact. This processing technique became one of the most recognizable aspects of the song.

To further learn and hear from the man himself on how his signature sound was made, check out an interview he did a few years ago by clicking here.

6. Develop Hand and Foot Independence

Next, it’s important to develop hand and foot independence. Collins’ style was known for its intricate rhythms and complex patterns that require a high level of coordination between hands and feet. A great example of this is in the intro of the song “Dance on a Volcano” where you can clearly hear how his left hand, right hand, and feet work independently from one another.

Also in the aforementioned video “The Genius of Phil Collins” you can see a proper breakdown of this fill where you can see how this is played in order to get a sense of how complex it is.

Start with simple patterns and gradually increase the complexity as you progress. Practice exercises that focus on different hand and foot combinations to develop a versatile playing style.

7. Master the Groove

One of the most important aspects of Phil Collins’ drumming is his ability to create a solid groove that drives the song forward. To master the groove, focus on playing with a consistent tempo, using dynamics to add interest and variation, and working on your feel and sense of groove.

To learn more about grooves and how to play them like Phil Collins check out “Nic Collins – The Grooves Of Genesis (Drumeo Live)” by Drumeo, where Nic Collins (Phil’s son and current drummer of Genesis) teaches you about the grooves of Genesis and how to play them.

Alternatively, you can also check out this article titled “The 12 Most Iconic Phil Collins Drum Parts” by Drumeo, where they break down Phil Collins’ 12 most iconic drum parts and teach you how to play them.

8. Focus on Musicality

To truly play like Phil Collins, it’s crucial to focus on musicality. Rather than solely playing the drums, focus on serving the song and creating a cohesive musical experience. Pay attention to the other instruments and develop a strong sense of rhythm that complements the overall sound. A great example of this is how he compliments the keyboard solo in the song “Robbery, Assault and Battery”, by making the keyboard shine but still make it sound groovy. 

If you want to learn more about further improving your musicality as a drummer, check out “Adam Marko – Tools To Enhance Musicality (Drumeo Live)” by Drumeo.

9. Learn to Play in Different Styles and Broaden Your Influences

Phil Collins is known for his versatility as a drummer, and his ability to play in a variety of styles including rock, pop, jazz, and funk. To play like him, it’s important to develop your skills in different styles of music, and practice playing with different drumming styles and genres to broaden your musical vocabulary and add more depth to your playing.

Phil Collins was influenced by other artists like Santana and drummers like John Bonham. Listening to other drummers is also crucial to developing your own style. While Collins is undoubtedly one of the greatest drummers of all time, there are many other great drummers out there to learn from. Take the time to listen to other drummers and incorporate elements of their playing into your own style.

10. Develop a Powerful Kick

Developing powerful bass drum playing is also essential to achieving Collins’ driving sound. Practice different rhythms and exercises with your bass drum to develop your own foot technique. Focus on playing with power and precision to achieve a strong, driving sound.


In conclusion, emulating Phil Collins’ drumming style is a rewarding journey that can help you improve your skills, broaden your musical horizons, and develop a deeper appreciation for his unique approach to drumming.

By focusing on mastering fills, odd timings, dynamics, technical ability, incorporating technology, and practicing regularly, you’ll be well on your way to capturing the essence of Collins’ iconic playing style.

Remember, the ultimate goal is not to simply imitate Phil Collins, but rather to draw inspiration from his work and use it as a springboard to find your own unique voice as a drummer. Embrace the challenge and enjoy the process of refining your skills and exploring new creative avenues.

With dedication, passion, and a commitment to growth, you can build on Phil Collins’ legacy and make your own distinctive mark on the drumming world!

Alan Walsh
Alan Walsh

I've been playing drums for 17 years. Drumming and producing music are the two things I love doing most. If I'm not behind my drum kit, you'll probably find me making some beats on my computer!

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