35 Best Female Drummers of All Time

Last Updated on May 28, 2021 by Danny

While drumming is seen as a male-dominated scene, women have been part of it since the 19th century. The stereotypes and prejudices against women have made it much harder for them to succeed in drumming. However, every woman in this list has strived hard and gotten through endless obstacles to succeed in what they do best. While we have listed the best female drummers globally, these talents transcend gender, and these artists could easily be considered to be among the best drummers of all time. There have been so many amazing bands with female drummers. These women have been an inspiration for many girls to pick up drumming. So without further ado, here are the best 35 female drummers of all time.

Viola Smith

Viola Smith

Viola was one of the first female American drummers; she was born way back in 1912 at Mount Calvary. She is considered to be the first among great female drummers. She drew inspiration from Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa and kept improving over the years until she reached technical perfection. She has worked in multiple genres; she has played in many swing bands, pop music projects, and even part in orchestral works. Her bombastic performance earned her the nickname “fastest drumming girl.”

Even though she was a fantastic talent, she had to go through the ordeal that every female musician faced at that time. Her first contact with live performances was through a concert hall that her parents used to run; Smith and her siblings used to sit in the family’s orchestra. Over time the band became more popular and had a few notable performances.

After a while, Smith became part of a women’s orchestra called the “Coquettes” in the 1940s and would eventually play with legendary musicians like Ella Fitzgerald and Chick Webb. She was then part of one of the greatest women’s bands ever.

Evelyn Glennie

Evelyn Glennie

Evelyn Glennie is proof that human willpower can overcome anything. Even though she is almost deaf, she has still managed to become one of the world’s greatest drummers. Evelyn does not play like a conventional drummer; sitting barefoot and skilfully works on each instrument. She is also a multi-percussionist, so she does not use a standard drum set. Not only is she an excellent percussionist, but Glennie also writes pieces of music and is hailed as an excellent interpreter of contemporary music.

Glennie was born in Scotland in the year 1965. When she was eight years old, she lost most of her hearing capabilities but could still feel sound by holding a loudspeaker between her legs. A graduate of the Royal Academy of Music in London and has performed with music greats like the Sting. She has performed in multiple philharmonic orchestras and has established herself on the international stage.

Since she cannot use her ears, Glennie had to train other body parts to feel the music. Her unique and extraordinary talent has allowed her to perform over a hundred concerts and overcome her challenges.

Anika Nilles

Anika Nilles

Anika Nilles is one of the hottest female drummers right now. She is a standard feature on the front pages of multiple drumming magazines.

Since the age of six, she’s been playing drums. She has also studied at the University of Popular Music and Music Business. Nilles is a YouTube sensation, and her videos have gathered over 20 million views. She is one of the most prominent female drummers on youtube. Following her YouTube success, she would release two studio albums (Pikalar and For A Colorful Soul). She has also toured around the world and has won many awards.

She has a unique drumming style that is both exquisite and extravagant. She plays her songs while also playing covers of many popular songs. She also conducts multiple international drum clinics and masterclasses.

Hannah Welton

Hannah Welton

Welton’s early years were spent on the stage. However, she was not a drummer but was a dancer. But when she laid her eyes on a drum set at the age of seven, she completely fell in love with it.

She devoted her utmost focus to learning the drums. She was taught by Louie Bellson and Ruby Alvarez, two incredibly talented drummers. When she was 12 years old, Welton moved to Chicago with her family. In Chicago, she would learn under another set of great drummers, Peter Erskin and Johnny Rabb. Once she had finished high school, Hannah joined Chicago College of Performing arts and would get picked up by multiple Grammy award winner Paul Wertico.

Under his guidance, Hannah would graduate from school and grow immensely as a drummer. During her schooling, She was part of multiple school ensembles, but she started building her brand once she graduated.

She has been part of various bands like Bellevue Suite and Pandorum. She has also worked with Prince on his 3rd eye girl project. In addition to working on Prince’s projects, she also conducts classes and holds seminars as a corporate drummer for Gretsch.

Karen Carpenter

Karen Carpenter

Karen Carpenter, along with her brother Richard Carpenter formed the legendary group The Carpenters. They would be one of the most successful music duos. They would deliver classic hits like “Rainy Days and Mondays” and “Yesterday Once More.”

Karen was the lead singer and drummer and could sing and drum simultaneously. With a calm and light style, she could make compelling arrangements. She was known for her soft and soothing voice.

Karen was born in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1950. She was one of the most famous female drummers of the ’70s. Sadly Karen passed away in 1983, at just 32 years old. She suffered from anorexia, which caused the heart attack that killed her.

Her drumming skill was second to none and praised by drumming greats like Hal Blaine and Buddy Rich. She was voted as the best rock drummer of 1975, beating even the legendary John Bonham of Led Zeppelin. Even today, she is regarded as one of the greatest drummers ever.

Cindy Blackman

Cindy Blackman

Cindy Blackman first laid her eyes on a drum kit as a kid in a friend’s home; she was immediately hooked onto it from that moment. She described her first experience with drums as “When I hit them, it was like, wow, that’s me. That’s completely natural for me. It’s like breathing for me….”. She would then get her drum kit using the power of whining. 

Born in 1959 in Ohio, she would start schooling in Boston. Blackman would work with Lenny Kravitz and establish herself in the music scene. She would even work with Santana. She was in demand, both as a female jazz drummer and as a female rock drummer. Cindy was extremely versatile and could play deep raw jazz grooves expertly. That would garner her millions of fans.

She began as a street drummer in New York before founding and leading her band in the 1980s. Her collaboration with Lenny Kravitz lasted from 1993 to 2004. She would release many songs and go on multiple world tours with him. As of 2016, she had partnered with producer Narada Michael, and they have been working together on new material. All this has helped establish Cindy Blackman as one of the most influential black female drummers.

Maureen Tucker

Maureen Tucker

Maureen (Moe) Tucker is a famous female musician of the ’70s. His unique drumming style at The Velvet Underground garnered her wide acclaim.

She was born in New Jersey in 1944 and would buy her first snare drum at the age of 19 after hearing The Rolling Stones. She would then go on to teach herself the drums by playing along with the radio. She joined the Velvet Underground after the original percussionist Angus Maclise quit after thinking that the band had sold out by taking a paying gig (Ah the 60s).

As a drummer, she was primarily tasked with timekeeping and would dish out excellent rhythms. That is why many of her tracks sound minimalist.

Tucker stood out in the drumming scene for a variety of different reasons. Along with Karen Carpenter, she was one of the first female rock drummers. Moe had a unique way of setting up her drum kit. She would pace the kick drum upside down on the floor. While Moe did have cymbals, she hated them and would use tambourines instead. She tended to use mallets instead of drumsticks and preferred to stand and play. All this helped her establish herself as a unique artist.

She would leave her band in the 1970s and would take a long hiatus from performing. She returned to the drumming scene in the 1980s as part of the group “Half Japanese” and would form her band.

Meytal Cohen

Meytal Cohen

Cohen was born in Ramat Gan, Israel, in 1984. Her career began as a live and studio musician, and she was just 18 years old then. However, before she could fully dive into a career as a musician, she spent two years in the Israeli army. That is because Israel has conscription for both sexes.

She would then move to Los Angeles in 2004 and join the Los Angeles Music Academy, where she was able to showcase her talents. Once she graduated, she would tour the United States, Mexico, South America, and even Australia with her band.

Her fame and recognition significantly increased when videos of her playing multiple drum covers of popular songs hit YouTube in 2010. She has over 100 million views and over 1.5 million subscribers on YouTube. Following this, she would create her band called the Maeytal and record her first album called Alchemy. Her song Breath would go on to become a famous track.

Cohen, therefore, became a significant source of inspiration for young girls in Israel. She had also helped promote female instrumentalists and would make drums more popular with girls.

Bobbye Hall

Bobbye Hall

Bobbye Hall is an extremely versatile female percussionist who could play a wide variety of genres, including rock, soul, blues, and Jazz. She is regarded as the queen of percussion and has released multiple hit albums. She has even performed with Stevie Wonder and Bob Dylan.

She was born Bobby Jean Hall in Detroit, Michigan. As a child, she would use sticks to play on all objects at home, including bowls and pots. She would then try to perform in various nightclubs as a teenager.

She would then move to Europe for a few years. During that time, she would change her name to Bobbye. She felt that Bobby was too masculine and wanted to differentiate herself as a female drummer.

In the 1970s, she used to perform in Los Angeles. Bobbye Hall would use a range of instruments; her kit included Ed tambourines, bongos, and even triangles. She would also snap her fingers and clap her hands to better express herself.

She would then marry producer Joe Porter and started becoming well known for her performances in soul jazz. That was the period in which Bob Dylan would find her and take her along on tour.

Claudia Gonson (The Magnetic Fields)

Claudia Gonson (The Magnetic Fields)

Gonson is a mighty drummer who can whack out explosive strokes. She frequently collaborates with Stephen Merrit as a musician, but she is also his manager. She wasn’t limited to the drums and would play the keyword and sing in Merritt’s songs. She is the secret ingredient behind the subtle shadings of Merritt’s tracks. What makes her talent even more unique is her ability to showcase her drumming skill while not being part of a conventional rock band.

Dottie Dodgion

Dottie Dodgion

Dottie Dodgion is one of the great talents whose work has slowly been lost in the years. Her five-decade-long career began in the 1950s when she briefly played in Benny Goodman’s orchestra. She performed along with Brecker Brothers and other bands, becoming a common feature in West Coast jazz festivals. 

Dodgion did not record much; she only has one vocal album that was released in 1996. The only available video of her playing the drums is from 2013, and she plays the drums with elegant brushwork at 84 years old. How good must she have been when she was younger?

Tennessee Thomas (The Like, Jenny Lewis)

Tennessee Thomas

If you are a fan of power-pop, you should immediately check out, “Are you Thinking what I am Thinking?”. This track by The Like is one of the unknown treasures of power-pop. Tennessee Thomas and guitarist/singer Z Berg would form the band’s core. They would deliver innovative tracks in a stellar manner. These female artists were bombastic. In recent years, Tennessee has been working with Jenny Lewis in her side band Nice as F**k.

Debbi Peterson (The Bangles)

Debbi Peterson

Every garage band needs a killer drummer if they ever want to succeed. Debbi Peterson was that killer drummer in The Bangles, who was nothing more than a garage band in their early years. The band would regularly cover The Seeds and The Yardbirds during that period.

Debbie would widen her skills as a drummer as the band started branching out, but she would still stick to her roots. If you want to experience her drumming prowess, you should check out “Hazy Shade of Winter.” She cannot only drum like a beast, but she could also sing as a backup or, at times, even the lead vocal of her songs.

Dee Plakas (L7)

Dee Plakas

L7 was filled with artists who were simply badass in their instrumental prowess. The band’s unique mix of musical ferociousness and subtle humor needed the artists to be nothing less. Plakas and Jennifer Finch ( the bassist) grooved like no other pair. Their work has been one of the things to look out for in L7’s reunion tours.

Georgia Hubley (Yo La Tengo)

Georgia Hubley

The trio of Yo La Tengo is so synchronous that you might think they could telepathically speak to each other. This harmony level between the band members has allowed the band to make incredible improvisations with ease during their initial period. Georgia would play simple beats with great feels, like Moe Tucker. However, over the years, Georgia would grow as a drummer and could drum with immense flexibility. If you want to listen to Georgia’s in her best, check out some of the jammier songs of YLT. Not only does she deliver unique rhythms and fils, but she can also provide subtle brushwork for the band’s ballads.

Linda Pitmon

Linda Pitmon

Linda Pitmon has worked with an extensive list of artists and has many collaborations to her name. Right now, she is part of a unique collection of hipsters; this group includes The Young Fresh Fellows’ Scott McCaughey and her husband, Steve Wynn, along with REM’s Mike Mills and Peter Buck.

She used to be part of Zuzu’s Petals, an underrated band from Minneapolis. She is also working with Buck and Sleater-Kinney’s Corin Tucker in a group called Filthy Friends. However, if you want to hear the best of her work, you should check out the four albums she created with Wynn’s Miracle Three. She showcases her exceptional songcraft and enjoyable improvisation skills in those.

Patty Schemel (Hole)

Patty Schemel

Patty Schemel was there for the whole ride of the Hole, from the peaks of glamour to the trenches of decadence. While she became an addict in later stages (it wasn’t uncommon), her raw and primal punk drumming style with a touch of elegance never diminished. The only reason she even actually ended up exiting the band was due to a lack of love between her and Celebrity Skin producer Michael Beinhorn. 

Schemel would then get picked up by Courtney Love, who would use her as the core drummer in her solo debut, America’s Sweetheart. Patty would continue to make audiences go crazy with her drums and remains one of the most revered female drummers in grunge and beyond.

Samantha Maloney

Samantha Maloney

Samantha Maloney has established herself in the music industry as kind of an emergency drummer. She is a solid drummer who is exceptionally professional and has been known to join bands when they have had personnel issues or simply needed some change.

She toured with Eagles Of Death Metal when Josh Homme couldn’t cope up. She joined Mötley Crüe when Tommy Lee took a hiatus and became part of the Hole after Patty Schemel left.

The sad part about being an “emergency” drummer is that Maloney did not get to play these bands’ classic tracks. However, she has helped keep them rolling. As of now, she is working as the Vice President of artists and repertoire at Warner Bros.

Kate Schellenbach (Luscious Jackson)

Kate Schellenbach

In the late 70s, New York was filled with hippie artists who formed funk and punk bands that took inspiration from all the new sounds entering Sound Bronx. Kate Schellenbach was one such hip New Yorker who was part of a band known as Beastie Boys.

The thing that set her apart from the other artists is that her band was meant for much greater things. Beastie Boys and Kate would have a great time playing music before growing and making tracks that blended multiple genres and were innovative. However, if you want her very best work, you should check out the tracks she made with Luscious Jackson, a 90s alternative girl band.

She works as a producer on “The Late, Late Show” while still performing the occasional drumming gig.

Honey Lantree (The Honeycombs)

Honey Lantree

Lantree is regarded by many as the very first female drummer to feature on a hit single. She played the drums for the track “Have I the Right,” a great track from the British Invasion.

Joe Meek (the legendary producer) knew he had struck gold with Honey Lantree, and you can sense that the entire record was built around her drumming. The thunderous drumming is quite catchy. You should check out the videos of The Honeycombs as Honey Lantree is the only band member who didn’t dress like a nerd.

Gina Schock (The Go-Go’s)

Gina Schock

The Go-Go had terrific artists who were melodious and could make fills that hook the audience. Still, Gina’s instrumental prowess laid down the beat that made the dance an excellent dancing number. She would showcase her skills even more, when bandmates Charlotte Caffey and Jane Wiedlin started working the guitar harder. Gina’s skills were bar none; in fact, the band’s two biggest hits featured drum intros.

Janet Weiss (Sleater-Kinney)

Janet Weiss

Weiss was a stellar drummer who had great power, an inventive playing style, a solid groove, and a fantastic sense of songcraft. These skills made her a perfect drummer for the post-punk genre and would establish her as one of the greatest female drummers of all time.

Sleater-Kinney had an unconventional guitar-as-bass lineup. It was Janet’s drumming that delivered the projection that this unique setup required. She also turned the simple piano and drums lineup of the Quasi duo into a rock’n’roll powerhouse. Weiss even had a three-year stint with Stephen Malkmus And The Jicks; during that time, she would provide the rock-solid base that enabled the band’s improvisational heights. 

Sandy West (The Runaways)

Sandy West
Sandy West in center

While most of us were stuck doing nothing useful at the age of 15, Sand West was busy confounding The Runways. She and Joan Jett formed the core of the band, and Sandy’s impressive drumming was one of the main reasons why the band transformed into proto-metal and arena-rock. 

Sandy shows her full potential in the album “Live in Japan.” Her usage of cowbells on the band’s cover of “Rock & Roll” (by The Velvet Underground) is quite memorable. Sadly, not everything ended well for Sandy West. Her life after the band wasn’t as great as it should be. That was primarily due to her addiction and financial manipulation by Kim Fowley.

Jody Linscott

Jody Linscott

Jody Linscott was a flamboyant drummer who could deliver rhythms and fills that boomed across a concert hall. She was such a skilled drummer that she played for The Who. While the 1989 big-band tour was not iconic, the onstage interaction between kit drummer Simon Philips and Linscott was probably the most memorable thing. Linscott’s usage of timpani, timbales, and orchestral percussion is simply put quite fun. This skill level doesn’t go unrecognized, and she has been touted as one of the best female drummers ever by legends like Paul McCartney and Elton John.

Sue Hadjopoulos (Joe Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, Simple Minds)

Sue Hadjopoulos

Sue Hadjopoulos is regarded as one of the best female drummers of her era for a good reason. Her inventive Latin percussion helped propel Joe Jackson’s 1982 album “Night and Day.” Without her rhythms, there was no way that the album would glue together. Along with her rhythms, even her stepping out of the line in “Steppin’ Out” and “Cancer” was beautiful. She was so good that Jackson did not even hire a full kit drummer to join her on their tour.

Following this, the demand for her increased substantially. She has worked with The B-52s, Cyndi Lauper, Laurier Anderson, and Simple Minds in various albums and tours. She has even worked on multiple stage and movie soundtracks.

Meg White (The White Stripes)

Meg White

The White Stripe is pretty much unimaginable without Meg White. Meg was working as a waitress in Detroit when she met John Anthony Gillis. She would eventually marry him in 1996, and they would soon start a band. During the starting period, Meg did not play the drums; only after a year did Meg start playing the drum. She found drums to be refreshing and would stick to them from then on. Her style of drumming was both explosive and expressive.

Meg White Grew up in Detroit and was born in Michigan in 1974. Her marriage with Gillis ended up failing, and they both got divorced; this dictated the end of the band. White would, however, continue to be a professional drummer. This period saw her actively work on getting more young girls to take up drumming. 

While Meg White isn’t a technical drummer, she had an intricate drumming style. Her style had pure expression and rhythm while still being very powerful. Her drum kit is easily recognizable by its red/white resonant heads on the toms and bass drum. Her iconic red Ludwig drum set; she has been using it since the early days of White Stripes.

Terri Lyne Carrington

Terri Lyne Carrington

Terri Lyne Carrington is a woman of many talents. She is a gifted female drummer, a composer, a producer, an activist, a teacher, and even an entrepreneur. As a drummer, Terri has won multiple Grammys. She is the first female to have ever won a Grammy Award in the Best Jazz Instrumental Category.

Lyne hails from Massachusetts and has left her mark throughout the world over the years. She has worked with legendary jazz musicians like Dianne Reeves, Herbie Hancock, and Wayne Shorter. Her credentials include multiple international tours and album recordings. She is one of the most talented female drummers in the world, delivering strokes with precise control and musical sense. Her success in multiple fields has helped break many stereotypes.

Nikki Glaspie (Nth Power)

Nikki Glaspie

Nikki Glaspie is yet another extraordinary drumming talent. She began drumming at the age of two and was encouraged by a preacher to join Berklee college. She would graduate from Berklee ( batch of 2005) and has been rocking the drumming scene since then. 

She has complete mastery over grooves, and her drum work is filled with so much soul and feel. This level of passion is contagious to the listeners. She has drawn inspiration from various artists, including Dave Grohl, Horacio Hernandez, and Dennis Chambers. She has also been working with many legendary musicians and improving her skill through the years.

She was, in fact, the drummer in Beyoncé’s all-female backup band. She has also worked with other massively popular artists like Kanye West, Jay-Z, Chaka Khan, and Destiny’s Child. An impressive trait about Nikki is her versatility. She can deliver everything from gospel music and jazz fusion to powerful rock rhythms correctly.

Sheila E (Prince)

Sheila E

Sheila E is a drumming powerhouse. Many people consider her to be the best drummer in the world right now and bestowed upon her the title queen of percussion (Yes, she and Bobbye Hall have the same title). Not only is she a world-renowned drummer, but she is also a composer, a producer, and an excellent performer. 

She started growing in fame in the 1980s and would tour and record with greats like Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye, Lionel Richie, and even Prince. While drumming remains a male-dominated region, drummers like Sheila help break the prejudice and inspire more girls to take up drumming.

Senri Kawaguchi

Senri Kawaguchi

Hailing from Japan, Senri Kawaguchi is a world-famous Asian female drummer. Her videos on YouTube have garnered over 40 million views, and they are a testament to how talented she is. Senri is accurate, ferocious, and can play at insane speeds. While she might seem like a cute drummer, do not let your eyes deceive you as she is an Asian drummer girl who can wreck a drum set. Her incredible talent has earned her the nickname Tekazuhime, which means “Princess of many Strokes.”

She started learning drumming at the age of six and took her first drum lesson from the well-known drummer Kozo Sugunama from the age of 8. She would go on to release her first CD while being just 16 years old. She now has three CDs to her name, several TV appearances, and has worked with many big names in Japanese Jazz. She has even worked with the J-pop group The E-Girls. She has also performed in various festivals and is a judge in the competition Hit Like A Girl.

Sarah Thawer

Sarah Thawer

Sarah Thawer is well known for her technical expertise and excellent drumming style. She is a versatile drummer who can play many genres, including Latin, Jazz, Funk, Indian, RnB, fusion, funk, world music, and rock.

 She has been much inspired by Indian music. She is able to mix Indian rhythms into western groves, which produces some fantastic results. She graduated from New York University and has collaborated with many notable artists, including Senri Kawaguchi. She has also released her compositions.

In addition to being a world-class drummer, she is also a fantastic composer. She also conducts multiple drum clinics and workshops and writes the arrangements for those herself. In recognition of her talents, Zildjian and Percussion Arts Society have been supportive of her.

Emmanuelle Caplette

Emmanuelle Caplette

Caplette has been recognized for her drumming skills from an early age. She took up drumming when she was nine years old and had won consecutive drumming awards at the Provincial Individuals Championship (in Quebec) when she was a teenager.

She would then study at the University of Montreal and would be hired for professional touring in that period. She has been touring the globe since then and is now a standard feature in major drum festivals. Her talent is well recognized, and she is now sponsored by major drum brands like Vic Firth, Sonor, Evans, and Sabian.

Kavka Shishido

Kavka Shishido

Kavka Shishido is a Japanese-Mexican drummer and vocalist who is well known in both pop and rock scenes. She was part of the rock band The News, after which she became a solo artist. In 2013 Kavka launched her first album Kavkanize. In addition to being an excellent drummer, she is also a singer and even a model. She has worked in many movies and drama series.

In Mexico City, Mexico, she was born in the year 1985 as Yuna Shishido to Japanese parents. She started learning drums at the age of 14 and would be part of the band The News by the age of 20. She is a well established Asian female drummer and has collaborated with multiple artists. Copy editor Junpei Watanabe would give her the stage name “Kavka.” This is because Shishido always wore black clothes, which reminded Junpei of a crow. Therefore he decided to call her kavka, the Czech word for the durian jackdaw.

Jen Ledger

Jen Ledger joined the long-running Memphis hard rock band Skillet at 18; she had only played drums for four years then. Ledger joined the group after Lori Peters, the previous drummer, retired in 2008. She was the third drummer to join Skillet. Not only was she a great drummer, but she also acted as an excellent backing vocalist.

Ever since she joined the Skillet, Ledger has been touring around the globe. Skillet does not have the popularity it deserves, even though it has won several awards, including a Grammy. Their tracks have even been part of Rock Bands 2, and their song “Legendary” is the theme song for WWE’s RAW.

While Skillet are well known among the Christian rock community, Ledger remains underrated even though she can deliver the explosive beats and frantic fills that define contemporary hard rock. Her powerful performances showcased her ability to deliver immaculate rhythms while still playing hard and fast. She is regarded as one of the best Christian female drummers. In addition to Skillet, Ledger has her self titled side projects where you can hear both her excellent drumming and electrifying voice.

Stella Mozgawa

Stella Mozgawa

Stella Mozgawa is now taunted as one of the most creative drummers in rock and is in high demand. She has been drumming since 2007 and is best known for her work with the indie rock band Warpaint, with whom she has released three albums.

Stella hails from Sydney, Australia, and is, in fact, even friends with Flea. She came to America in 2006 thinking she would stay there for more than a couple of years, but she’s now been there for over a decade. In addition to Warpaint, she has worked with various artists like Tim Presley, Tom Jones, the xx, Regina Spektor, and Kurt Vile.

Leave a Comment