Did you know there are a lot of fantastic female drummers out there? In the 19th and 20th century, many female drummers participated in all sorts of bands. If you go through history, you will see plenty of female drummers who have been the best in their field.
Not just percussions or jazz, they have mastered heavy metal and rock drumming too. They all have had different drumming styles, but all have been professionals in their crafts. Here, we have compiled a detailed list of the top 30 best female drummers of all time, in our opinion.
An American drummer, Carla Azar joined the band Autolux and performed as drummer, guitarist and also a vocalist. She has collaborated with many big brands and names like Jack White. Currently, she is touring with Jack White, who has terrific chemistry with her. He is impressed by her work and speaks highly of her.
Terri Lyn Carrington
Terri is a 3rd generation musician. She has had the honor of playing with Jack DeJohnette very early in her drumming career. She has proved her mettle in jazz and soul genres. In 2011, an album released called The mosaic project with other female artists like Sheila E and Esperanza Spalding. She has also played with Yellowjackets, Herbie, Wayne shorter, and many more. Not only does she have a lot of awards under her belt, but she has also taught music and earned a doctorate degree in her field. She has also become the first female musician to win in many different categories.
Born in 1912, the viola is termed to be the first female professional drummer in the USA. She was inspired by the style of her predecessors like Buddy Rich and evolved with her time. When she was little, her parents had a concert hall in their village. Viola along with her siblings used to participate in the orchestra. In 1940, she joined an all-female orchestra which also included Ella Fitzgerald. Viola Smith is famous for her pop music, orchestra, and performances. She was also known as the fastest girl to drum. She was the one who paved the path for many other female drummers and musicians of her time.
Sheila E started her career by collaborating with Prince in the 1970s. She started more on percussions and was also termed as the queen of percussion due to her immense talent. During that time in her career, she was considered to be a sex symbol, and her power-packed performances were overlooked. She has also had the honor of playing along with Hans Zimmer on many legendary soundtracks. When she played a full kit with Prince during a tour, people were shocked by her talent. After that, she became a lead drummer.
In the initial years, the bangles were a typical garage band. They usually covered songs of other famous bands while performing. Debbi was their drummer who excelled at her skill. She always stood grounded along with her band, although she was far more talented. Not only that, but she also had the skill to sing as a lead vocalist or backup whenever needed.
Formed for more than a century now, Yo La Tengo was one of the most synchronized bands. Georgia was termed as a type of drummer who had a perfect feel but played simply. She had more of jazz feels in her drumming. Not only that, but she has also worked subtly on some powerful ballads which make her one of the most creative female drummers.
Patty has had a life full of glitz and glamour with the band called Hole. Later in her life, she also suffered from addiction. Her style has always been sophisticated with the combination of punk. She is amongst the best drummer in the grunge genre, so good that Kurt Cobain wanted her to play in nirvana but she refused. A lot of celebrities worked with her, including Courtney Love.
In 1979, Kate started playing in South Bronx where she grew learning punk and funk. She played alongside a band called Beastie boys. In the 90s, she collaborated with another band called Luscious Jackson, to date she is famous for. She still plays on different gigs, but now also works as a producer for a TV show.
Jody was the drummer in a band called The Who. Her most famous tour was in 1989, where she performed. She was also full of glamour, which had a unique talent. Some of the best names in the industry like Paul McCartney and Elton John consider her amongst the vest female drummers in the history of music. Here you can find a video where she is the drummer.
In the year of 1982, Joe Jackson shifted the genre of his band. It was at this time that Sue helped along with her percussion, which was the best thing about the sound. Her talent and skills were the factors that made the album Night and Day so popular. She toured alongside the band also. She was one of the best drummers of her time. She has also worked with other big names like Simple minds, Cyndi Lauper, Laurie Anderson, and many more. Sue has also toured with other bands and musicians, and also worked on various soundtracks.
Born in 1965 in Scotland, Evelyn is a multi-percussionists means that she won’t be just sitting behind her drum kit. She also writes music and plays it. One of the most interesting things about Evelyn is that she is partially deaf but still perfect in her skill. She lost her ability to hear when she was 8 years old and tries to feel the rhythm by her legs. Her disability has not been her hurdle as she has worked with big names like The Sting and performed internationally. She also likes to play drums barefoot sometimes, which is her style. She trained her body to be able to feel the music and play!
Since her childhood, Hannah has been performing as a dancer. When she was 7 years that is when she turned to drum. She started to train under successful teachers like Ruby Alvarez and Louie Bellson immediately. At 12 years when she moved to Chicago, she owl eared more about drumming from Johnny Rabb and Peter Erskin. She took it seriously when she enrolled at Chicago’s College of performing arts and learned more about her skill. Although she used to play throughout her school years after she graduated she was approached by Prince himself to play alongside. Not only did she compose music but she also taught music to others.
A German by birth, Anika Nilles has been playing drums from the tender age of six. Not only did she used to play, but she also studied hard to graduate. She became a Youtube sensation when she crossed more than 13 million views on her drumming sessions. Her drumming style is extremely versatile which she uses to play her own songs and also cover others’. In this photo we see her in company with a Tama Imperialstar.
Being a member and founder of the popular Indie band called ‘The Like’; Tennessee has been drumming for over 15 years. She comes from a British background, while drumming was also passed onto her by her father. Her songwriting has always been strong, and creative. Recently she has been working alongside a band called Nice as Fuck.
Born in 1950, and is the lead singer of the popular band called The Carpenters, Karen used to be on the main vocals and also drums. She and her brother formed the most popular duos in the time. Some of their hits have become classics in history. Her sounds have been light, with a pure and soft voice. Famous musicians like Buddy Rich have also been praising her skills along. She is still considered to be the best female drummer of her time. Karen Carpenter lost her life at only 32 years of age due to heart failure.
An American musician, Samantha has played in plenty of bands. She took the place of Patty Schemel when she left The Hole. She started playing at the age of 5. She has studied percussion in more depth. She has worked with many different brands throughout her careers such as Hole, The ingenues, Peaches, Motley Crue, and many more. She is working right now A&R VP at Warner Bros.
Cindy was born in 1959, in the city of Ohio. She was only 11 when she got hold of her first drum kit. She started out as a drummer in New York. She has had the honor of working with Lenny Kravitz and also playing both rock and jazz music. She has shown her versatility with her grooves, which is why she has been able to build up her audience over the years. She found her own band in the 80s, later on partnering up with Lenny. She has been termed as one of the top female drummers. Since 2016, Cindy Blackman has been working on new songs.
Jenifer ledger is an English drummer and also a lead vocalist for the band Skillet. She started drumming he she was just 18 years old. In 2012, she also started her solo career, and till 2019 she has bee releasing albums of her own. In this picture she play a customized old version of the Pearl Roadshow drum set.
Honey Lantree came from a British background and was the female rock and roll drummer in the 60s. She formed a band with her friends called The Honeycombs. Their song Have I the Right became one of the most popular hits which garnered a lot of attention. Her presence added a lot of energy to the band. She later on also sang some powerful ballads for the band. Loads of young female British drummers look up to honey as an inspiration even today.
Born in 1984, Cohen comes from Israel. She started recording from the age of 18. She also was deployed in the Israeli army for two years. When she moved to L.A. in 2004, she showed the world how creative she was. She started touring all over the world with her band. Meytal also started to trend on YouTube in 2010, which made her more popular amongst the masses. Many young Israeli women drummers look up to her as an inspiration in this field.
Meg White is famous for her career along with Jack White in the band White Stripes. She started working as a waitress until she met her husband and started the band. She didn’t start on drums initially. After a year, she started playing on drums and till then there is no looking back for her. After her divorce, the band dissolved, but she continued with her skill. She has been awarded Grammy and may others for her skills.
During her training period, she also helped other girls learn to drum. Her style of drumming is quite unique while being simple. She has her own signature Ludwig set, on which she still plays. Since 2011, after the white stripes were disbanded she has not been playing.
Bobbye is termed to be the Queen of percussion because of her skill at it. She has played different genres like rock, soul, and jazz. She has also worked along with Stevie Wonder and Bob Dylan. She is accredited to play different instruments like tambourines or triangles, alongside drumming. She used to play with different household objects in her childhood. In the 1970s when she started performing, there were very few female drummers in this field. She went alongside Bob Dylan on tour as well. She has also had the honor of working alongside Pink Floyd on their album The Wall.
Dottie was an innovator of jazz music and started as a musician in the 50s. She played with benny Goodman on his orchestra and also worked at West Coast jazz festivals. She did not record many vocal albums, except for one in the year 1996. At the age of 84 (in 2013) she sang so perfectly that everybody was mesmerized at her vocals at this age. But sadly, she did not use them much.
Demetra Plakas also knows as Dee Plakas, in an American drummer who has played in the rock band L7. She joined her first band in the 1970s. In 1987, she joined the punk rock band called L7 and hit the spot immediately. They worked together very well till in 2001 they disbanded. however, even she never stopped playing. She is known for her bad-ass attitude and her ferocious performance.
Born in Minnesota, Linda is an American drummer who was part of a band called Zuzu’s petals. She has been a part of many young and fresh band. Her best music work was on the albums by Wyn’s miracle three. On this album, she not only showed her true talent but also went along the flow of the album.
Regina or GinaSchock is an American musician, who was a member of The Go-Gos. Everybody in this band had a lot of talent, but Gina took it to another level. Two of the best songs of this band have a drum intro which is surprising. Eve after dissolute of this band, she continues working solo and alongside many other artists. She has been working for several films and television and also appeared on many shows.
Maureen or Moe tucker is an American musician who is very well known for her infamous work in The Velvet Underground. She was very forward with her androgynous look, and often controversial. She loved playing her drums still standing, and did not utilize a bass drum. Her patterns were also very simple, which made her way ahead of her time. She has also worked solo with different artists like Lou Reed, Bloodkin, Kropotkin’s, and many others. After her band disbanded, they reunited in the 1990s. In 2017, she also played for Grammys’ live.
In 2012, Nikki was part of one of the funkiest bands in NewOrleans called the Dumpstaphunk. Before she joined it, the bad was already quite famous but afterward Nikki, she became a sensation, even becoming a lead vocalist for th band. She turned out the offer to join Beyonce’s gang as a drummer. She has since been apart of many different bands like The Nth power and The Runaways.
At age of 15, Sandy West co-founded the band called The Runaways. Her drumming was one of the main attractions of the group, while they played more metal and rock genres. Her biggest achievement has been the Live in Japan album. Due to addiction, she could not carry on with her talent and performance.
Janet is not only the best female drummer but also was a perfect balance of creativity with an innate talent for crafting a whole song. She partnered with a bad called Sleater-Kinney and became a famous name quickly. N another due called Quasi, she made it more of a rock and roll type of genre. Later on, she also performed solo but no matter where and when she did, she always had her own twist to it.
BONUS: ? Top Rising Female Drummers ?
Now that we took a look at some of the best drummers in the past, let us look at the potential rising female drummers who are very talented and currently gaining a lot of attention in their field:
Yu-Chiao is a female drummer from Taiwan, born in 2009. She has placed on many platforms and also is a sensation on YouTube. Here her official channel. She plays rhythms mostly like jazz, Latin, and more. She mostly plays solo on her drums which has Latin music in it. She is immensely talented and also under training to improve her skills further.
Mia Morris is an American musician who started practicing on drums when she was 10 years old. Since then she has branched out into playing guitar, harmonica, keyboards, and even bass. She is multi-talented as she can not only perform a song but also write it. She has been under direct training from Rich Redman, Chester Thompson, and Dane Clark. She grew up in Indianapolis. Since she was 13, she has been actively focusing on her music career. Mia Morris also has her own YouTube channel where she frequently uploads her videos. Here one of her performance when she only had 13 years old.
Senri Kawaguchi is a Japanese drummer, born in 1997. She was introduced to drumming at the age of five, when her father brigs back home an electronic drum set. Her main specialty is Japanese Jazz and fusion drumming. She recently has also graduated from Waseda University. Ever since she was 12 years old she has won everyone over for the ease and skill with which she played the drums. Senri made her first overseas trip in the year 2011, at 14 years old. Since then, she has been touring with many brands and at 17 years old she already had a lot of professional experience on her shoulders. She has also worked alongside Philippe Saisse who is a French musician. In the year 2010, she was listed in the top 500 female drummers of all times, in a top Japanese magazine. With this talent and this portfolio, sky is the limit for this young female drummer.
Here you can find one of her performance when she only was 12 years old:
And here one of her performance when she was 20 years old.
What bands have a female drummer?
There are many bands out there featuring a female drummer. Some famous ones include Hole, The Runaway, The white stripes, and many more. These drummers add a flare and ferocity to their performances. They have always shown to prove their mettle and became the center of attraction. So many famous groups in the past like The Velvet Underground have had a female player which actually became their identification. These women drummers were not just ‘drummer’s, but they also played the guitars, also sang and played the other instruments. Most of them even participated in the whole process of song crafting.
What percentage of drummers are female?
While, as we have seen, there have been and continue to be many talented women in the drumming niche, unfortunately there is a very less percentage of girl drummers in the industry. There could be many reasons, but nothing specific. However, It’s a sad fact that some bands thinks if they leave a female to play the drums they will not be taken as seriously or even noticed. Which is wrong. As we have seen in this article, many iconic bands in the past have had a woman playing the drums, and women are for sure equally talented as men. Not just the drums, girls have proven they can do all. They have played the guitar, written songs, crafted a whole musical experience given so many hits. They have also played live music and toured successfully.
Did Prince have female drummers?
Prince has had a 40 year of a musical career. Throughout this time, he has collaborated with many artists, bands, and even girl drummers. It is worth mentioning, that the prince himself was very good at playing drums, but he worked with many girl drummers on the way.
Sheila Escovedo was the first drummer who worked with him for a long time. They collaborated together to form many hits. She was a great percussionist and worked with Prince from the year 1987 to 1989.
Cora Coleman joined Prince in 2006 and worked on three albums with him. She was also invited alongside her husband to collaborate with Prince.
He also worked with an all-girl band called 3rd eye girl, which included drummer Hannah Welton with them. They all worked with him as a backing band and even made an album together called Plectrumelectrum in the year 2014. He also toured with this bad in the year of 2015. She is the latest person who has worked with Prince. He came through to her by watching her playing videos on YouTube and was impressed by her talent.