Today we will explore 20 songs with some of the best drum solos ever recorded. Some of the greatest drummers in history performed these amazing drum solos, and they are quite the treat to listen to!
The energy a drummer carries in a song is crucial. In some cases, drum solos have been used with great effect in songs and compositions throughout the years. As a result, many tracks feature some of our favorite drum solos.
Whichever genre you like, you are sure to find some surprising songs here that you will love and that will broaden your horizon on playing the drums. Also, we have featured some of the most influential drummers in the history of music as such, so you’re sure to find top-level quality songs and drum solos on this list.
Please note, that this is not to be considered a definitive ‘best of’ list of drum solos, but it’s a great starting point!
- 1. Tool – Ticks & Leeches
- 2. Rush – YYZ
- 3. Led Zeppelin – Moby Dick
- 4. Phil Collins – In The Air Tonight
- 5. Judas Priest – Painkiller
- 6. Steely Dan – Aja
- 7. Cream – Toad
- 8. Deep Purple – The Mule
- 9. Buddy Rich – Bugle Call Rag
- 10. Dave Brubeck Quartet – Take Five
- 11. The Who – My Generation
- 12. Van Halen – Hot For Teacher
- 13. Benny Goodman – Sing, Sing, Sing
- 14. Caravan – Charly Antolini
- 15. Deep Purple – The Mule
- 16. Gino Vannelli – Brother To Brother
- 17. The Who – Won’t Get Fooled Again
- 18. Focus – Hocus Pocus
- 19. Surfaris – Wipe Out
- 20. Ram Jam – Black Betty
1. Tool – Ticks & Leeches
Tool is well known for how they handle the rhythmic elements in their songs but if there is one song among their works that stands out the most is “Ticks & Leeches” from their 2001 album “Lateralus”. Drummer Danny Carey composed some really complex and enthralling drums that make the song feel like a whole journey on its own.
2. Rush – YYZ
Rush is a legendary band as each member has hones their musical capability to the maximum. Rush’s “YYZ” from the 1981 album “Moving Pictures” brought Neil’s Peart Skill to the maximum with really nice complex breaks and sustained that complexity throughout the whole song.
Without a doubt, Neil Peart has proven himself to be one of the most technical and capable drummers for decades. Some dub him to be the greatest drummer of all time.
3. Led Zeppelin – Moby Dick
When we talk about energetic drumming, John Bonham is the way to go, in Led Zeppelin’s “Moby Dick” from their album “II” is the best example of how drums can carry a whole song’s energy and sustain the entertainment and force factors perfectly. This song is the most famous as it features mostly just drums and shows everything that Bonham had to offer to the world.
4. Phil Collins – In The Air Tonight
Phil Collins is one of the most renowned drummers from the 80s to the modern 2010s. “In The Air Tonight” immediately took place among legendary drum songs due to the solo that starts at 3:10.
This song has one of the most original and intense sound designs for a drummer and the whole vibe of the song is that it’s something fresh and new as you’ve never heard it, even if it’s 40 years old. That alone is enough for this song to make it into the list.
5. Judas Priest – Painkiller
Out of all the songs on this list, this is the song that has an intro like no other. “Painkiller” starts with one of the most powerful drums ever heard in the Rock & Metal genre, Scott Travis worked his way into technicality with each album and it is notable that through and through he developed his capability further each time.
This is the type of drum solo everyone probably has in their mind when they think about it.
6. Steely Dan – Aja
This jazzy masterpiece features the great Steve Gadd on the drums. At the beginning of the song, the drums can’t be heard but as time goes by, so are the drums getting louder.
It features a beautiful jazz drums solo, with Gadd playing offbeat together with a saxophone solo, creating this mellow masterpiece. This song shows how you can make a drum solo without kicking and crashing everything around you as we’re used to thinking from rock solos.
7. Cream – Toad
Coming from one of the best drummers of all time, Ginger Baker, Toad is the closing song of the Cream album Fresh Cream. It’s the classic rock and roll sound and together with Led Zeppelin’s Moby Dick, it’s the showoff of the two greatest drummers of that era (or any era for that matter).
With the same principle as the Moby Dick, Toad features Baker playing drums with just a little help from the rest of the band and without any spoken words.
8. Deep Purple – The Mule
Deep Purple’s Ian Paice went on to show everybody what he was made off of with his amazing drum solo in the “Mule” from their 1971 classic from the album “Fireball”. Ian Paice is without a doubt a master at handling stable rhythm and keeping the tension through a song.
“The Mule” features a solo that shows how a drum solo can put a whole new color to the composition. And you won’t hear many songs that have this complicated drumming played that sounds so logical and easy when you listen to them.
9. Buddy Rich – Bugle Call Rag
One of the classics and legends in drumming is the one and only Buddy Rich. He revolutionized the world of jazz drumming across the ’50s and ’60s and set a new level of technical capability for artists to come.
“Bugle Call Rag” from 1982 displays every single thing Buddy Rich was capable of, stable rhythm, improvisation, sudden mood swings, aggressive and fluid soloing, and energy on stage that was breathtaking.
10. Dave Brubeck Quartet – Take Five
Dave Brubeck Quartet was one of the first bands that had a technical aspect to them that was difficult to compare to many other musicians.
Their drummer, Joe Morello was one of the pioneers of rock drumming without even knowing it. He was an inspiration to many drummers that came out in the ’70s and the ’80s and without a doubt, his solo in “Take Five” was a truly legendary display of what technicality, practice, and effort can achieve.
11. The Who – My Generation
The Who’s Keith Moon is undoubtedly one of the most well-known drummers in rock history. He was not only a great showman on his own when playing live but also in the studio.
He could record with only one microphone and get the perfect sound, that’s how good he was. “My Generation” is an emblem of the 60’s music generation and a pillar stone of rock, as Keith Moon set the foundations for many rock songs to be composed of his rhythmic ideas.
12. Van Halen – Hot For Teacher
Another song that showcases the power a solo drum intro can have, Hot for Teacher is an emblem of the culture from the 80’s Rock and Hard Rock Scene,
Alex Van Halen allows his explosive drumming skills to go wild in “Hot For Teacher”, starting with that savage solo and a constant switch of energetic moods that go along with David Lee Roth’s voice and his brother’s (Eddie Van Halen) amazing guitar riffs.
Production-wise, “Hot For Teacher” featured a compression and post-production behind the drums that opened the gates for possibilities for many Metal and Metal Core drummers afterward.
13. Benny Goodman – Sing, Sing, Sing
Originally a composition by Louis Prima in 1936, “Sing, Sing, Sing” hits the charts and goes straight into history due to Benny Goodman’s interpretation.
Gene Krupa’s drumming skills are still top of the line. He was one of the first highly technical drummers we saw in the Big Band Scene in the mid-’30s and he had an influence that would spread to other genres to come, especially Jazz & Swing.
14. Caravan – Charly Antolini
Charly Antolini’s interpretation and drum soloing in the classic “Caravan” (well known as the featured title song for the movie Whiplash”) is quite an intense drum solo. The technicality behind it, and the mastery of Charly Antolini’s drumming is a league above most drummers out there.
He had the magical ability to play highly technical drum patterns but that also sounded like they were there for a reason, which is something many drummers can’t produce. Charly Antolini went down in the history of Jazz after his live performance of the song, as audiences were shocked, knowing they were witnessing a legend.
15. Deep Purple – The Mule
Next on the list is Deep Purple with their song The Mule. Although the solo is not on the original studio version, their live performance features the drum solo from Ian Paice and it is truly a sight to behold.
The song was first released on their 1971 album Fireball and became famous because of its live performance and hugely credited to the drum solo. Around the 2 minute mark on the video above you will see said drum solo and realize why the song became what it did.
16. Gino Vannelli – Brother To Brother
Diving into the Canadian scene, Gino Vannelli is a rock singer that had many successful hits. Some of which you may know like “Wild Horses” or “People Gotta Move”. The song “Brother To Brother”, however, has some of the finest drumming you will come across.
The tune is filled with grooves and fills that just keep your attention all the way through. Especially the trades between the bass and drums. This is a complex tune but undoubtedly one with great drums. The song came out in 1978 on the album of the same name.
17. The Who – Won’t Get Fooled Again
The Who make another appearance, this time with “Won’t Get Fooled Again”. The groove-filled drums are simply amazing to listen to. The song was released in 1971 and managed to reach the top 10 on the charts.
The reason why this song is on the list is the great drum solo at the end. Many of you will probably recognize it from the famous TV show CSI Miami. Granted, the scream is a signature move, but, it wouldn’t be the same without the amazing drum solo.
18. Focus – Hocus Pocus
What is there to say about the legendary Focus. “Hocus Pocus” is a peculiar yet very catchy and famous song. It was released in 1971 and holds one of the most impressive and interesting vocal performances to date.
What makes this tune great is not only the vocals but also the drums. Hans Cleuver simply goes off on the drums, creating very captivating fills and solos. Every time I hear this track, I am blown away. Give it a listen.
19. Surfaris – Wipe Out
Let’s get a good beach vibe going. Surfaris’ “Wipe Out” is a memorable track, to say the least. The song dates back to 1963 with its summer vibe and recognizable guitar melody. No doubt everyone knows this song.
What makes the track so captivating is undoubtedly the drums. The groovy sensation it brings out is unmatched. The tune found a place in countless films and how could it not? Give it a listen and try to keep up with the groove.
20. Ram Jam – Black Betty
Last, but certainly not least, is Ram Jam’s “Black Betty”. The song was released in 1977 and is a very successful and memorable tune even today. The tune managed to break through the top 10 on the UK singles chart.
The signature vocals are hands down, the biggest reason behind the success of this song. But, the drums have a say in the matter as well. The well-timed breaks and fills give the song a unique feeling, credited to the great Pete Charles.
There are several songs with excellent drum solos out there, but some are more technical than others. Some of the most technical songs have been defined by rock musicians in the ’60s and ’70s, while others are Jazz masterpieces from the late ’40s to early ‘50s.
This is by no means a definitive list as some countless drummers and songs could have made it. Some honorable mentions are Mike Portnoy from Dream Theater, Lars Ulrich from Metallica, Ringo Starr from The Beatles, and many more.
All these artists that pushed drums into new boundaries did so with absolute brilliance. Their work is still being used by many artists today. Incorporating cymbals, snares, the bass drum, and even a double bass drum on some occasions, all can make for a fantastic drum solo.
The most important thing about these tracks is their influence on other musicians that came out in later decades. They influenced thousands of young musicians to dedicate themselves to the study of drums and strive for perfection with their drum kit.