The Greatest Progressive Classic Rock Drummers
Beasts Behind The Kit
These Kings of Slam like to push the boundaries when it comes to drumming. They have their own unique style – whatever works best for the band’s sound. What separates them from others, however, is the fact that they need to keep up with complex rhythms and time signatures most of the time. They need the right amount of skills, musicianship, timing, and stamina. But that’s not to say there’s no emotion in there too.
And for that, we’re dedicating this entire list to the greatest drummers in progressive rock.
10. Gavin Harrison
His works with Porcupine Tree and King Crimson are nothing short of stellar. His playing is solid and his style is fantastic.
9. Jon Hiseman
His style mostly involved jazz and rock. He said in one interview, “Progressive music probably has a lot more opportunities to play stuff that isn’t just grooving or keeping time, but in the end I’m not sure I see any real distinction. If you’re a good player surrounded by good musicians you will simply just go with the flow.”
8. Nick Mason
He’s not everyone’s favorite prog-rock drummer because unlike the others on this list, he doesn’t go for the overly complex rhythms. But his drumming is simply perfect for Pink Floyd. And sometimes, less is more.
7. Mike Portnoy
While his replacement Mike Mangini is highly skilled too, Mike Portnoy was just next level. It’s not just the technical aspect, the feel and musicality are always there.
6. Danny Carey
Almost always left out from “greatest drummers” list, Danny Carey was a force of nature. He’s undoubtedly one of the greats.
5. Phil Collins
He’s had hits and misses during his solo career but it’s undeniable that his drumming is spectacular. It’s not just groovy but he also knows how to elevate the entire song.
4. Alan White
Often overlooked, Alan White joined Yes after Bill Bruford’s departure. He has played in Plastic Ono Band after John Lennon invited him. He once shared, “The key to playing great progressive music is to listen to the rest of the band, play what is necessary and not play something alien to the part so it’s distracting.”
3. Carl Palmer
He once referred to prog rock as “an English art form”. He’s a virtuoso through and through. Along with Keith Emerson and Greg Lake, they made musical masterpieces that showcased their musical brilliance.
2. Neil Peart
This man needs no introduction. Not just in prog-rock but he’s one of the greatest drummers of all time. The technical skills are there, obviously, but more than that, his musicianship is out-of-this-world. He’s the musician every drummer aspires to be.
1. Bill Bruford
Even in the company of other greats, Bruford easily stood out. He could play highly complex rhythms and yet his drumming remained tasteful and not overly done. He could lead the entire band and not show off. He said, “[The essential qualities of the prog rock drummer are] unwavering time, thick skin, nifty technical capacity, endless patience, some ability with odd meters, a list of great ideas and a clear view of how to revolutionise drumming for the next decade.”