If there’s anything that completes every band, every live concert, and every song, it’s the one instrument that sits on the farthest, the most rear part of the stage: the drums. The thing is playing the drums has always been perceived as a masculine activity, and that men suit the drums the best.
But how ’bout all the ladies that dominate the stage with their drumsticks and perfect rhythm?
Women drummers dominate every performance they make, and surely with that, they have proven over and over again, their talents, skills, and abilities in playing the drums. It’s time we break the stigma about men and drums because women with their drumsticks are just as enticing and alluring.
To further prove this, I present to you the 15 best female drummers of all time in no particular order.
1. Sheila E
Known as the queen of percussion, it’s only right we start the list with the one and only, Sheila E. Beginning her career as the percussionist of The George Duke Band, this icon has performed legendary stages with world icons like Beyonce and Prince.
Being born into a musical family, with his father being percussionist, Pete Escovedo, Sheila E has always been musically inclined since she was young. Her first performance even being at the age of 5.
Every Sheila E performance will tell you the years she dedicated to music, her continuous growth her musical passion, self-expression, and her outstanding talent and skill that has not only mesmerized audiences but has inspired so many people in pursuing their dreams.
2. Cindy Blackman
A discussion on jazz and rock percussion would not be complete without mentioning this legend.
Started as a busking street performer, her passion for music has continuously let her reach great heights in the music industry. Through every stage and performance, she does not simply hit the drum with the stick but pours her soul into expression, innovation, and color.
She has been constantly working on music, creating critically acclaimed albums like Another Lifetime. She has also recently become the touring drummer of Santana that showcased her skills to the world even more.
Even her mom said that she was born to hit things and make rhythms. Cindy Blackman is an inspirational music icon that continues to break boundaries, create change, and make great music.
3. Karen Carpenter
Dominated the 70s with her music, together with her brother Richard as a duo called The Carpenters, Karen Carpenter was a singer and drummer that many people look up to.
First touching music as a way to avoid attending classes, Karen and her brother have created iconic and legendary songs like We’ve Only Just Begun and Top of the World that even kids from the 2000s know. Karen wasn’t only known for her vocals, but her drumming abilities and skill also stood out.
Always found herself attached to percussion, Karen considered herself a drummer who sang and also saying that picking up a pair of drumsticks was the most natural thing she has done. Though she, later on, focused on being a singer for The Carpenters more than playing drums, her drum skills and abilities were definitely superior and unforgettable.
4. Annika Nilles
Just 8 years into her career, Annika Nilles has already made a name for herself as one of the best drummers of all time. Started her career as a Youtuber, Nilles has gained much attention online for her percussion skills and unique groove in every performance.
Mostly making progressive pop music, Nilles has traveled all around the globe and has worked with many artists that allowed her to make her mark in the drum and music industry. Debuting with the album PIKALAR, she has continued to make great music that showcases her abilities as a musician.
Aside from this, she is also part of the band NEVELL, which has been touring around the globe, showing people their craft.
She is also an educator that offers drum lessons for any skill level that allows her to share her abilities with others and let her passion for music and drums bring out the passion of others as well.
5. Bobbye Hall
Congo, bongos tambourines, and drums, all these are percussion icon Bobbye Hall’s forte and trademark.
Starting her career when a Motown producer found her at a sock-hop at the age of 11, Hall became a music icon born with the talent to create music and touch the hearts of people. She has been a percussionist for big artists like Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder and has participated in many iconic songs with her name under percussion.
Born with the sense of rhythm as she used to play and tap her mom’s cooking pans, Bobbye Hall’s unbeatable talents and abilities were not the only reason people were amazed by her. She is also a musician that uses music with heart and depth, always wanting to connect and create harmony with the instrument she’s playing and the music she’s creating.
6. Janet Weiss
Known as one of the best rock drummers in the world and as a former Sleater-Kinney band member, this list would not be complete without mentioning Janet Weiss. Janet has worked with many different artists and has been credited with many great songs throughout the length of her career.
Beginning her journey with music by playing the guitar at the age of 16, Weiss has been acclaimed as one of the greatest drummers of all time by different magazines. Weiss also first started as a member of the girl trio, The Furies, then afterward joined Sleater-Kinney which she was best known for.
She was also a member of Quasi, The Jicks, and Wild Flag, where she all stood out for her amazing percussion skill. Weiss has also played for Bright Eyes and other big artists that showcased her great abilities.
7. Moe Tucker
Played drums for the widely known rock and roll band, The Velvet Underground, Maureen Ann or “Moe” Tucker is a drum prodigy. Started by playing music for fun and destress after work, Tucker joined the famous rock band that boosted her career and showed her artistic abilities to the world.
Tucker grew to love the drums as she was inspired by African musician Olatunji, and it was when she realized she didn’t want to just listen to songs, but to play along to them. Tucker has been an inspiration to many, as she does not succumb to standards and norms, always aiming for the unconventional yet true to herself type of play and personality
Another unique thing that the world certainly will never forget about Tucker is how she loved to play the drums while standing up.
8. Hannah Welton
Played as the percussionist of Prince’s 3rd Eye Girl, Hannah Welton is one of the best rock and jazz drummers out there.
Starting young and born with a passion for performing, Hannah Welton owns every stage she’s performing in and every crowd she’s performing with
She started as a member of her school’s ensemble then, later on, got to study with critically acclaimed and legendary music educators like Diane Downs. With great influence from the likes of Led Zeppelin growing up, Welton continues to create great music with her bandmates. And, surely, you’ll be stunned watching 3rd Eye Girl perform on stage with their unbeatable passion and fun.
As she continues her journey as a musician, Hannah Welton has awed and inspired many people with how great of a drummer she is.
9. Viola Smith
Best known for her participation in orchestras and swing bands, Viola Smith was a drumming legend. Known as the “fastest drummer of the world,” Smith had a knack for knocking people out with her every performance.
Playing a 12-drum kit, Smith had amazing talent and skill when it comes to drumming. She was not only known for her passion but also her advocacies and strong stand on her beliefs. She was an advocate for women musicians’ equality making her an inspiration and great influence especially to aspiring women musicians out there who face judgment and unequal treatment.
“We girls have as much stamina as men. There are many girl trumpet players, girl saxophonists, and girl drummers who can stand the grind of long tours and exacting one-night stands. The girls of today are not the helpless creatures of earlier generations,” Smith said in a previous interview.
A trailblazer and a legendary icon, Viola Smith is a name you should remember when talking about drums.
10. Kate Schellenbach
Dominated the punk and alternative genre, get your hearts ready for American musician and television producer Kate Schellenbach’s performances. Schellenbach was known for her band Luscious Jackson that created unconventional yet great music, exploring and combining different genres to create the sound that separated them from the rest.
Schellenbach has been playing the drums since she was 13, and throughout her long career, she has played as a member of Young Aborigines, Beastie Boys, Young and the Useless, Hagatha, Lunachicks, Luscious Jackson, and Pushbuttons!
Seeing and first visiting a club to watch a band at the age of 13. Schellenbach was inspired and thought that she could do it too. Now in her 50s, Schellenbach continues to perform great music that formed her into the legend that she is.
11. Nikki Glaspie
Traveled the world as top icon Beyonce’s backing band drummer. Nikki Glaspie is one of the best drummers living in our world today. Coming from a black family, Glaspie has found her rhythm and talent for music as young as eight years old when she used to go to their church.
At the age of 15, her father introduced her to secular music where her passion and talent continued to grow. Aside from her outstanding drum abilities and sense of rhythm. Glaspie has been an inspiration to many musicians as she continues to walk the path of her career.
As a member of The Nth Power and other musical groups, she has created music that empowers people and moves its listeners to have a good time.
Aside from this, Nikki continues to use her abilities and talents for a good purpose as she offers drum lessons to aspiring drummers and as she becomes one of the partners of the Harold Robinson Foundation that help kids on their road to exploring life self-discovery, and self-expression.
12. Meytal Cohen
Started playing drums at the age of 18, Israeli drummer Meytal Cohen continues to drum up a better tomorrow as her slogan says.
Despite getting negative comments from her family as their youngest member, Cohen pursued her passion which has led her to achieve great heights in her career. Cohen encountered many difficulties when she started as a musician, but these just made her stronger and better both as a person and as a drummer.
With her band Meytal, she has created and released music that has charted on Billboard and songs that people grew to love Like how she first started. Cohen continues to upload drum covers on YouTube where she showcases and shares her talent and abilities with the world.
As she continues to grow as an artist and create good music, Cohen has become a drummer and artist people grew to love and respect.
13. Debbie Peterson
As a founding member and drummer of the band The Bangles. Debbi Peterson continues to amaze people with her natural talent and abilities. Only having one formal drum lesson and picking up the rest from just watching other drummers.
Peterson was born with a talent for rhythm and drums, For this, she is known and recognized as one of the world’s top drummers. Together with her sister and the other members that form the girl band she has created great music and has collaborated with different artists like Cyndi Lauper.
For a short while, she was also a member of Kindred Spirit that created hit singles. When The Bangles came back together in 2000, she has continued her musical journey with them, remaining as one of the world’s best drumming icons.
14. Meg White
Famously known as garage-rock band duo The White Stripes drummer. Meg White has created a legacy of her own in the drum industry. White started drumming when her husband. Jack asked him to play some beats and with that, a legendary duo was made.
Together with Jack, they have released great hits that continue to awe people since 1997. Though she was known as one of the loudest musicians out there as she hit the drums on stage. White was known as a quiet person off-stage who does not speak much but allows her music to speak for her.
With her authenticity, raw emotion, and passion every time she performs, White has rocked every stage she has ever performed in and played her best which allowed people to love her ad recognize her as a great drummer.
15. Jody Linscott
It’s only right that we close off this list with the one and only, Jody Linscott. With her strength and great sense of rhythm, Linscott is another drummer that many musicians look up to.
She first worked as an item repairer, where she first encountered the Conga and grew an attachment for percussion. With her interest in Congas, she studied and continued to hone her percussion skills, which made her the icon she is now.
Aside from being known for percussion, Linscott was also known as a producer who made great music for artists like Elton John who she even toured with. Even performed at Princess Diana’s Tribute Concert, Linscott owns every stage she performs in with her percussion and rhythm skills, her passion for music, and you can’t miss her beauty and charm.
Who was the first female drummer?
One of the very first professional female drummers was a woman named Viola Smith, who was born in 1912 and was a performing musician from the 1920s through the 1970s.
She played with all kinds of orchestras and swing bands throughout her career, played on The Ed Sullivan Show a grand total of five times, and was also part of the orchestra for the original Broadway run of the hit musical Cabaret. Among her other accomplishments were performing at the inauguration of President Harry Truman in 1949, as well as with other celebrated performers such as Ella Fitzgerald.
Sadly (though perhaps not surprisingly), Smith was subjected to all kinds of discrimination on the basis of her gender. She was frequently forced to justify herself and her talent in ways that male drummers were not expected to.
In 1942 she wrote an article for Down Beat magazine called “Give Girl Musicians a Break!” However, in spite of the hardships, she managed to carve out a highly successful recording and performing career. She passed away in 2020, at the age of 107.
That’s the end of the list! Certainly, these women have dominated the percussion industry and have broken the stereotypical men and drums combo.
As these women continue to showcase their talents to the world and as they have made legacies and marks of their own. they are proof that women + percussion is a combo that would make your heartbeat louder than the drums.