Top 10 Drum Solos of All Time

Contributed by Stacy Weinstein-Weiss, Top 10 Guru

A famous drummer joke asks “How many drummers does it take to change a light bulb?”

Answer: Five – One to change the lightbulb and four to talk about how Neil Peart would have done it better.

While it would be easy to list the top ten drum solos as “anything by Neil Peart,” my husband, the jazz drummer, reminds me that there are other genres of music besides rock. With a more open mind, the top ten drum solos of all time are:

10. Sing, Sing, Sing (Gene Krupa)

One of the top ten drum solos of all time

Before the Surfari’s made it big with their hit “Wipeout,” Gene Krupa introduced the wild, heavy floor tom sound on “Sing Sing Sing” while playing with Benny Goodman and His Orchestra. Not only was Gene Krupa on of the most influential drummers of the twentieth century, he was also responsible for the early development of the drum kit.

9. Channel One Suite (Buddy Rich)

One of the top ten drum solos of all time

Hands flying, Buddy barely looks at the drum set during his famous solo. It’s hard to imagine that anyone could play that fast for that long. He also wins the prize for most creative use of various parts of the drum set.

8. Take Five (Joe Morello)

One of the top ten drum solos of all time

A prolific drummer, Joe had vision problems from birth and first studied violin before switching to drums at age fifteen. Dave Brubeck’s Take Five is one of the most famous tunes in jazz and the drum solo uses a 5/4 time signature.

7. Wipeout (Ron Wilson)

One of the top ten drum solos of all time

One of the more recognizable surf songs on the 1960’s, Wipeout’s furious drum solo is oft-covered on the party band circuit. Oddly, the Surfari’s formed in Glendora, CA, which is far from the ocean.

6. My Generation (Keith Moon)

One of the top ten drum solos of all time

With his thundering double bass drums, Keith Moon was inspired by Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich, except when he was busy smashing or blowing up his drums on stage.

5. Black Page (Terry Bozzio)

One of the top ten drum solos of all time

Yes, Terry is hiding somewhere in that monster kit, but it could use a few more cymbals. Black Page, written by Frank Zappa, is notoriously difficult to play.

4. O Baterista (Neil Peart)

One of the top ten drum solos of all time

Baterista means drummer in Spanish, and Neil Peart means drummer in any language. Written by Neil himself, it was nominated for a Grammy in the category of Best Instrumental. The solo has a lyrical quality and Neil uses all 360 degrees of his drum set in the execution of the song.

3. Moby Dick (John Bonham)

One of the top ten drum solos of all time

Known for using the heaviest drum sticks available and his fast bass pedal playing, John Bonham of Led Zeppelin fame was one of rock’s great drummers. His solo on Moby Dick could last up to 30 minutes.

2. Frankenstein (Check Ruff and Edgar Winters)

One of the top ten drum solos of all time

You’ve heard of “Dualing Banjos?” “Frankenstein” featured multiple dueling drum solos between Chuck Ruff and Edgar Winters himself. A 70’s classic.

1. In A Gadda Da Vida (Ron Bushy)

One of the top ten drum solos of all time

Yes, this psychedelic solo, one of the longer ones in rock history, made it to number one. It was supposed to have been name “In The Garden of Eden,” but the singer was slurring his words when he told Ron Bushy, the drummer, the title, and the garbled name stuck. That’s rock for you!

Honorable mention goes to the following: any solo Mike Portnoy ever played, Aja (Steve Gadd), Sunshine of Your Love (Ginger Baker), Seven Steps to Heaven (Tony Williams), Nearly Lost You (Mark Pickeral), and Jimmy Chamberlain’s random solos.

4 thoughts on “Top 10 Drum Solos of All Time

  1. Thanks Richard!

    Ahhh – it was such a tough call to limit the list to only 10 solos, and I knew there would be people writing in and saying “but what about so-and-so!?!!” Art Blakey is a fine choice!

    As for the drummer from Rush, that is the one and only Neil Peart (see #4 above). I limited myself to picking only one of his solos, and it was one that is not often mentioned (“2112” and “YYZ” are more typical selections, and), but in the spirit of trying to pick a diverse set, that’s what I chose. HIs solos have such a lyrical quality that it’s easy to forget the amazing technique he uses.

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