Nothing beats an incredible drum solo in the middle of a really great song. And rock music, in particular, has produced some fantastic drummers over the years. So what are the best drum solo songs?
Below, I bring you the all-time 29 best songs with powerful drum solos.
Throughout the years, drummers have evolved along with the massive changes in the music industry. Drummers’ kits are much bigger, and their talents have improved to heights that would have appeared inhumane 60 years ago.
And the popularity of drum solos had only grown since the jazz era when Buddy Rich reigned supreme. Time and time again, we see newly released drum solos, but which ones are actually considered the best?
In this article, let me break down to you the 29 best songs with drum solos.
September 25, 1980 John Bonham, drummer with Led Zeppelin, died at 32 after a heavy drinking session. ‘Bonzo’ was found dead at guitarists Jimmy Page’s house. During live sets his drum solo, ‘Moby Dick,’ would often last for half an hour and featured his use of his bare hands. pic.twitter.com/N1gVnkJ7ql
— Ken Calvert (@kencalvertshow) September 25, 2020
1. Led Zeppelin’s “Moby Dıck” – (John Bonham)
“Moby Dıck”, which is said to have evolved from a Bonham studio jam, is without a doubt the pinnacle of Bonzo’s legacy with the legendary rockers.
Bonham is renowned for this nearly 4-and-a-half-minute blast from Led Zeppelin’s superb second album.
When playing the song live, Bonham would improvise musically for far longer and even more astonishing lengths.
2. The Surfaris’ “Wipe Out” (Ron Wilson)
Wilson earned a living by performing what is arguably the greatest famous drum solo in music history.
This piece with a powerful drumbeat and surf-rock atmosphere from 1963 served as the benchmark for aspiring drummers just getting started. However, the average music fan is unlikely to be familiar with the drummer who played the song’s drums.
Wilson tragically passed unexpectedly from a cerebral aneurysm in 1989 at the young age of 44.
3. Tool’s “Ticks and Leeches” (Danny Carey)
Carey from Tool is indeed one of the best drummers in modern rock songs and music.
Just take the time to listen to this fantastic yet underappreciated song from the Lateralus album from 2001. Carey launches the lengthy song with a solo attack and maintains the tempo for the following three minutes and more.
Carey returns to kick off the final two of the eight-minute piece after the lyrical guitar riffs, which is a masterclass in hard-rock, precise drumming.
4. Jimi Hendrix Experience’s “Fire” (Mitch Mitchell)
Naturally, Hendrix makes headlines with his customarily incredible guitar work, but in our opinion, this tune is a Mitch Mitchell master lesson.
He punctuates Hendrix’s stop-start riffing with masterful bass and snare work, thumping toms, and just wonderful playing. Mitchell is playing with both strength and speed, but he also manages to emphasize it all with a killer rhythm.
All rock drummers aspire to achieve this combo, but Mitch managed to perfect it on Hendrix and the Experience’s debut album.
5. Cream’s “Toad” (Ginger Baker)
This is universally regarded as Baker’s pinnacle with Cream and possibly the turning point in his career as one of the greatest drummers ever.
The song, which lasts for more than five minutes and puts Baker in the spotlight, whether on vinyl or during live performances, was written by Baker himself, who passed away in 2019 at the age of 80.
It’s a fantastic performance that ought to be cherished for all time by music lovers of all eras. You should definitely not miss out on his Royal Albert Hall performance in 1968.
— ryu (@BSJazz) September 30, 2017
6. Buddy Rich’s “Bugle Call Rag” (Buddy Rich)
Absolutely no list of all-time great drummers would be complete without the legendary Buddy Rich.
His genre of expertise was jazz, and throughout history, Rich has produced many outstanding musical performances. However, this performance of “Bugle Call Rag” is unbelievably flawless.
We could listen to this rendition for 30 minutes and not get tired of his impeccable skill even though it is only a little over three minutes long.
7. Rush’s “La Villa Strangiato” (Neil Peart)
The idea for this song may have come from Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson, but drummers who were inspired by the late great drummer Neil Peart point out the absurd complexity of Peart’s drum sequencing and patterns.
The inventive and meticulous timing made this Peart’s defining moment in his career, according to former Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy.
8. The Who’s “My Generation” (Keith Moon)
Moon was a definite threat both on and off the stage and behind his drum kit. The Who’s generational anthem’s solo coda may be his musical pinnacle.
While Moon was physically all over the place on the drums, the music is well-timed at 4/4 time signatures in well-organized mayhem.
The best illustration of all of it is in “My Generation.” While Moon’s solo at the end of the song is excellent, his playing is flawless all throughout.
9. Santana’s “Soul Sacrifice” (Michael Shrieve)
This incredible Santana song was performed at Woodstock in 1969, where it gained the most recognition.
Music fans were able to witness Carlos Santana’s famed guitar solos skills as well as the underappreciated drumming skills of Shrieve, who was only 20 years old at the time.
Due to a fantastically rowdy solo, Shrieve plays around the midway point of the song, this performance is frequently regarded as the turning point in Shrieve’s career.
10. Iron Butterfly’s “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” (Ron Bushy)
This Iron Butterfly classic has an album runtime of just over 17 minutes.
One of the song’s highlights is Bushy’s solo, which lasts for almost three and a half minutes and has a vague George-of-the-Jungle vibe. It intensifies to a frenzied pace, slows down, and then the rest of the band unites for a group jam.
At the 13-minute mark, Bushy once more takes center stage—an excellent drum performance all around for the late 1960s up until today.
Dave Brubeck and his Quartet – Paul Desmond on saxophone, Eugene Wright on bass, and Joe Morello on drums, recorded ‘Take Five’ during three summer sessions (June 25, July 1, and August 18) in 1959, New York City. Photograph: Don Hunstein. pic.twitter.com/pcj7kVAIhc
— Jazz On This Day (@jazzonthisday) August 20, 2021
11. Dave Brubeck Quartet’s “Take Five” (Joe Morello)
One of the most well-known pieces of music in the world, “Take Five”, was created in 5/4 time by Paul Desmond.
The Dave Brubeck Quartet, with Joe Morello on drums, first released the song in 1959 on their album Time Out. Many musicians have covered “Take Five” since it was first recorded in 1961 by Dave Brubeck and the Roger Kellaway Trio, including Brubeck himself.
The 5/4 signature is insanely difficult, but Morello made it look so incredibly easy.
12. Deep Purple’s “The Mule” (Ian Paice)
Not only is “The Mule” a masterpiece for Deep Purple as a whole, but it also stands as perhaps the peak of Paice’s career as one of the greatest drummers in the rock music industry ever. This is undoubtedly one of his best solos ever.
Paice, a fan favorite at concerts, commanded attention with his performance throughout the song and unquestionably during his solo minutes.
It mainly controls the song’s second half and brings the song to a supersonic peak that stands out even among Jon Lord’s organ and Ritchie Blackmore’s guitar.
13. Rush’s “Tom Sawyer” (Neil Peart)
We’ll continue to highlight the late, amazing drummer from the band Rush.
About halfway through the renowned opener from 1981’s Moving Pictures, Peart’s outstanding fill transitions into a brief solo that serves as the beginning of his illustrious drumming career.
The entire intensity of Neil Peart’s performance on this tune serves as an illustration of why he is regarded as one of the best drummers of all time, if not the best.
14. Van Halen’s “Hot For Teacher” (Alex Van Halen)
The drum intro in hard rock history that is most easily recognized may have been created by Alex Van Halen.
Beginner drummers typically aspired to master his double bass-driven, cymbal-aided entrance to Van Halen’s popular track from the Smash 1984 album.
Although brother Eddie’s usual guitar excellence was there throughout the song, Alex’s opening pattern managed to stand out.
15. Phil Collins’ “In The Air Tonight” (Phil Collins)
It was quick, simple, and incredibly memorable—an easy way to describe Collins’ four-second drum break that appeared near the end of his 1981 debut record as a solo artist.
The entire song is highlighted by Collins’ creepy drumming, but the iconic break is regarded as one of the best drumming memories of all time.
Drummer and percussionist Steve Gadd was born on this day in 1945. Gadd was a prolific session musician during the yacht rock era, with credits that include “I Gotta Try” by Michael McDonald, “Livin’ It Up” by Bill LaBounty, drums on “Aja” and percussion on “Hey Nineteen”. pic.twitter.com/7RSkY0Tpeu
— Today in Yacht Rock (@in_yacht) April 9, 2020
16. Steely Dan’s “Aja” (Steve Gadd)
In one of Steely Dan’s most successful songs, prog rock and jazz fusion shines.
It’s also a momentous time for the legendary drummer Steve Gadd, who is regarded as one of the best in the world. According to reports, Gadd’s solo was mostly improvised during the song’s second half, which was close to eight minutes long.
Even his own bandmates stared in astonishment because it was that amazing.
17. Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll” (John Bonham)
One of the best drum intros from the second song off Led Zeppelin’s untitled fourth LP, also known as Led Zeppelin IV, is the “Rock and Roll.”
The phrase “pure rock and roll” sums up Bonham’s drum entrance wonderfully. As if that weren’t impressive enough, Bonham adds an exclamation point to the song with a jazz-infused solo.
18. Queen’s “Keep Yourself Alive” (Roger Taylor)
This is one of the best Roger Taylor drum solos. Prior to the guitar solo, there is a brief drum solo that makes everything extra admirable.
Every few measures, Roger Taylor adds accents with cymbals while playing straight 16th notes across his toms.
This drum solo was one of those that the crowd anxiously anticipated in suspense since it was played in the same manner every time the band performed the song.
19. The Beatles’ “The End” (Ringo Starr)
Maybe Ringo doesn’t get enough credit for the Beatles’ overall work.
However, “The End” features one of his most renowned drum performances. Without including the hidden “Her Majesty,” his early solo performance on this last tune from Abbey Road is as fantastic as it gets.
It serves as a reminder that Ringo, who supposedly disliked drum solos, was more than deserving of his position in the group.
20. Dave Matthews Band’s “Say Goodbye” (Carter Beauford)
Because he’s always grinning, drummer Carter Beauford is a lot of pleasure to watch.
This song has that distinctive Beauford sound, demonstrating his love of china and splash cymbals. Beauford’s ability to achieve this is partially due to the way his kit is oriented.
His ride cymbal is on the left rather than the right because he plays open-handedly with his left hand and doesn’t cross it over to play the hi-hats. As a result, it is simpler to play the syncopated rhythms between the ride and hi-hats.
— The account formerly known as Lamacq on 6 Music (@BBClamacqshow) November 10, 2016
21. Motorhead’s “Overkill” (Phil Taylor)
One of the most significant milestones in the development of the metal subgenre, according to thrash drummers, was Taylor’s introduction to this Motorhead classic.
The song’s double-bass drum assault intro and subsequent solo break by Taylor gave the likes of Metallica’s Lars Ulrich and the aforementioned Dave Lombardo the opportunity to control the thrash world.
Nobody seems to play the double-bass drum as well as the “Philthy Animal,” yet it would eventually become a mainstay of thrash metal.
22. The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again (Keith Moon)
The lunatic Moon makes an appearance on this list, as expected.
In this 8 1/2-minute climax to the timeless Who’s Next, Moon delivers a remarkable solo with one minute remaining that transitions into Roger Daltrey’s renowned scream.
Although the solo is among the epic track’s greatest moments, Moon’s performance is outstanding all throughout. Considering the length and intensity of the song, it’s an exceptional effort.
23. Pink Floyd’s “One of These Days” (Nick Mason)
Mason, who is arguably Pink Floyd’s most underappreciated member, does not often receive the recognition he deserves as an excellent, above-average rock drummer.
The instrumental from 1971 may be the best representation of Mason’s talent. The performance of Mason, especially his quiet solo about halfway through, is the piece’s high point.
It’s not extravagant like some of the others on this list, but it’s a great effort and deserves praise.
24. Black Sabbath’s “Rat Salad” (Bill Ward)
Bill Ward, a former Black Sabbath drummer, is the man behind the swaggering instrumental “Rat Salad” and “War Pigs.” The “Rat Salad” is a song from Sabbath’s second studio album 1970’s Paranoid.
He has one of the most intense and emotional drum solos on the list. He asserts brashly that he is rock’s most underappreciated drummer.
This gives a distinct perspective on Bill Ward’s drumming because the fills that make up the solo are so rapid and clearly have a jazz influence.
25. Foo Fighters’ “Rope” (Taylor Hawkins)
The Foo Fighters’ 7th studio album Wasting Light’s lead song, “Rope,” was released in 2011. Taylor Hawkins not only contributed to the song’s lyrics but also handled the drums, cowbell, and backup vocals.
An electric guitar line opens the song before Hawkins’ upbeat percussion rhythm takes over. The song advances as soon as Dave Grohl’s vocal enters.
Hawkins greatly uplifts the energy of the song with an offbeat and odd rhythm and the persistent playing of the cymbal near the finish.
Happy Birthday 🎸🎶Mike Portnoy, great drummer, songwriter, lyricist and producer of Dream Theater for 25 years. Also for playing in Progressive bands like: Transatlantic, Liquid Tensión Experiment, Sons Of Apollo, and others. A living legend of the Progressive.🎸🎶 pic.twitter.com/wLTMXjba9m
— Ori (@oriettamusic) April 20, 2021
26. Dream Theater’s “6:00” (Mike Portnoy)
The song “6:00” by Dream Theater is quite technical.
An amazing drum performance was given by the one and only Mike Portnoy. The first drummer fill and groove are particularly important additions to the list.
Mike contributed so much to Dream Theater. Even though he may no longer be a band member, drummers of the future will always remember his performances.
27. Billy Cobham’s “Tenth Pinn” (Billy Cobham)
Billy Cobham expertly merged jazz and rock drumming as one of the first fusion drummers.
He played single-stroke rolls so insanely quickly in this solo from the 1974 Kongsberg Jazzfestival that it makes you want to give up playing the drums.
Perhaps more noteworthy than his strong rolls in this instance is the fact that Cobham was one of the first drummers to use the open-handed method.
His decision to move the right hand to the left side of the kit inspired numerous drummers, including Beauford, to emulate him in addition to the radical new playing style he and other fusion musicians helped establish.
28. King Crimson’s “21st Century Schizoid Man” (Michael Giles)
The opening track of In The Court of The Crimson King follows the tradition of the album’s frequently frantic and cacophonous music.
Throughout the song’s duration, the beat, time signature, and style change many times, making it challenging to follow along.
At the very least, it would be challenging without drummer Michael Giles to keep things in order. The song’s many changes are seamlessly incorporated into the beat by the hammering drums, which also manage to coordinate all the other instruments.
The fantastic drumming unites everything and keeps the song under control while everything else appears wild and crazy.
29. Buddy Rich’s “West Side Story Medley” (Buddy Rich)
Rich, whose amazing power and speed on live shows still live on, succeeded Gene Krupa in taking the throne.
He probably also came up with the idea of drumming when drenched in sweat.
His contribution to the “West Side Story” score is outstanding, particularly in the medley. Rich plays all over the drum set and has a hi-hat and rim playing style that would make any drummer drool.
Frequently Asked Questions
What song has the longest drum solo?
A live rendition of “Moby Dick” lasting 19 minutes and 20 seconds on Led Zeppelin’s triple live CD, “How the West Was Won”, has John Bonham playing solo for more than 17 minutes.
Every Led Zeppelin concert in the 1970s included Moby Dick as one of its highlights, and Bonham served as an example and an inspiration for numerous aspiring drummers.
Keep in mind that this was the height of the drum solo when improvisational creativity was admired and drummers were celebrated—as they should always be.
World Record Wednesday!
11-year-old Pritish A R (Australia) is officially the world’s fastest drummer!
He has broken the record for the most drumbeats in a minute using drumsticks, with a total of 2,370 – that’s 39.5 beats per second! pic.twitter.com/gluIuFGWDJ
— Columbia Arts Academy (@ColaArtsAcademy) January 19, 2022
Who is the fastest drummer?
The Guiness World Records’ world’s fastest drummer is 11-year-old Pritish A R from Australia.
With a total of 2,370 beats or 39.5 beats per second, he has smashed the record for the most drumbeats played with drumsticks in a minute this year.
One year after being one of the youngest individuals to ever pass the highest level (Grade 8) drums test at Trinity College London, Pritish has made another significant advancement in his drumming career with this accomplishment.
The future is indeed bright for this one!
What is the most famous drum solo?
Buddy Rich is the most famous solo drummer ever. His most spectacular solo is from the Concert for the Americas in 1982 at the Altos de Chavón Amphitheater in the Dominican Republic.
His hi-hat performance is unquestionably the most remarkable part of the solo. Rich takes the hi-hat with his left hand about 1:24 into the video, hangs his thumb on the top cymbal, then rolls his left stick on the underside of the hi-hat with his remaining four fingers.
He is also using his left hand to mute the cymbal throughout. It’s pure genius, and his stage presence is still unmatched.
As we can see, there aren’t many songs that have a full-fledged drum solo, but it’s great that we have these best drum solos to enjoy. The drummers in this list are also regarded as the best drummers of all time.
Everyone will have a different top choice among these drummers because there are so many distinct genres and styles. But a lot of drum enthusiasts agree that Buddy Rich, indeed, is one of the best of all time, showing up twice in this list.
And for those of you who don’t play the drums, these are the drumming pieces you might want to check out to see how drummers can easily steal the whole show.
Image by Nadine from Pixabay