Female drummers are almost an oxymoron. Good female drummers definitely are – at least according to top drummers charts scattered around the net.
As a young girl interested in music, I never considered drums as one of the means to express myself. I had no real-life examples in the drumming world to which I could compare myself to, or strive to become one day. Drumming wasn’t considered feminine, and comparing myself to Neil, John, Carl or Keith just wasn’t an option. Copying Joan Jett, Janis or Lita Ford was the only thing on the agenda for an aspiring rock chick.
Later, when I realized that no guitar, bass or keyboards is a right fit for me and that drumming is what I was “born” to do, I tried to look for new role models. It took some time, but I managed.
Some might argue that the below list of my personal best still doesn’t compare to the ultimate drum beasts that dominate the charts. They might be right, but in order to break the era of male domination, we have to inspire girls to pick up the sticks and pound their frustrations away. In that way, we will raise a new generation of fearless and fantastic chicks who can win any testosterone filled bang-off out there.
So who are those (as we will refer to them in the future) pioneers of female drumming?
Here is my personal top 7, in no particular order.
Member of The Carpenters, Karen first started as a drummer for the band, and later took on the lead vocals role as well. Although over time she drummed less and less, it is known that she considered herself as a “drummer who sings.”
Her drumming was acknowledged by her male peers as well, and she received numerous praises from the likes of Buddy Rich and Hal Blaine. Modern Drummer magazine had only praise for Karen and stated: “With a stick and a brush, she weaves an almost ethereal groove.”
Unfortunately, she passed away at the young age of 32, losing her long battle with anorexia. We lost an excellent singer and an even better drummer.
This 1987-born LA drummer is currently a drummer for Autolux. She first started as a percussionist in her school orchestra, but picked up drumming a few years later.
Her talent was recognized by some of the greats, so she contributed drums for T-Bone Burnett, PJ Harvey, as well as one of the guitar legends, John Frusciante.
What makes her so good and so unique in my point of view is summed up in one sentence she said in her interview for Tom Tom Magazine in April 2011. For her, she stated, the best part about being a drummer is: “Playing sick drum beats. Or trying to at least. And then hopefully effecting people whilst doing so.”
Born in the US, her obsession with drums started when she went on a trip to England, fell in love with the country and never returned. By chance, she started playing the conga drums, and soon awed everyone who heard her play. A natural talent is what most described her. Later on, she went to play with tons of notable musicians/acts - Robert Palmer, David Gilmour, Elton John, The Who and Paul McCartney, to name a few.
To all the aspiring female drummers, here are a few words of wisdom from this mega-awesome drummer: “There really are no rules, so just go into it with love in your heart and have good faith in your abilities.” (source: Mikedolbear.com)
A clarinetist in an symphony orchestra who loves to rock it on the drums – this is probably the best way to sum up Roxy.
A member of notorious Madam X and Vixen, she toured with Kiss, Ozzy and Deep Purple, and is regarded as the toughest female drummer today.
Why is she so great? What keeps her rockin’?
"I love playing live; the thunder of my kick drum and the crack from my snare resonating in a room full of head bangers is so indescribably satisfying, it's like an addiction. I'm anxious to get back on stage and kick in some teeth!" (source: zildjian.com)
Maureen (Moe) Tucker
A notorious drummer for the notorious band Velvet Underground, she is often described as that chick drummer who played it standing up. Easier access to bass pedals and all :)
Her philosophy was to keep it simple. With a kit consisting of only snare, bass, tom toms and a mallet she considered herself as a “time-keeper” for the band. Cymbals were a redundancy for her.
Her unique style, massive attitude and the ultimate cool factor make her a perfect role model for all future power drummers out there.
Drummer for a one-hit-wonder 60s Brit band, The Honeycombs, she is considered one of the first female drummers (The Ravens were the first, but we won’t be nitpickers). It has been said that she was the main inspiration for Karen Carpenter to pick up the sticks.
Although her contributions to women in music history has been somewhat diminished, she is still one of the original “chicks with sticks” who not only looked good, but was one helluva drummer as well.
Probably one of the best known girl drummers out there, Sandy was a drummer for The Runaways, the first all-girl hard rock band. Her drumming was powerful, intense and inspired many.
As Joan Jett said in one interview following Sandy’s premature death: "In 1975 I started The Runaways with Sandy West. We shared the dream of girls playing rock and roll. Sandy was an exuberant and powerful drummer. So underrated, she was the caliber of John Bonham. I am overcome from the loss of my friend. I always told her we changed the world." (Source: drummerszone.com)
My advice: Pick up The Runaways CD, listen to Cherry Bomb and listen for yourself what made Sandy so special and why I consider her one of my main drumming muses.
Who would you add on the list?
Wolfgang Frey on May 17, 2020:
Fay Milton!! The best ever. Janet Weiss, Dee Plakas, Sheila E, forget it.
Sina Doering on May 02, 2020:
And at only 20 Tues old!
Christopher Nowak on November 24, 2019:
ALICE DE BUHR from the very underrated rock group: FANNY?!
Glen west on September 02, 2019:
Sina she bloody awesome
Lou on June 06, 2019:
Janet Weiss. And L7s Dee Plakas. Probably not super technical etc. but such a feeling. My fave.
Filled on May 12, 2019:
Oh after approved by the author.
Hopefully the Ministry of Truth approves my comment.
Fuuuck you. Spinditty.com, you've been added to the community's Block list, good job.
Damn, Orwell warned us about your type. Hopefully you get starved out.
Caroline Corr on March 19, 2019:
Rock steady and beautiful behind a kit.
james palamara on January 14, 2019:
How can Kate Schellen Beck be forgoton from this list. She originated as the drummer for “ the Beasty Boys.” Later going to “ Lousicious Jackson”.
Wether or not you believe this, it’s simply fact. The music and influence of the beasty boy’s is legendary. And they begged her to stay with and later played with them on there accustic albums. ( if you have only heard the rap, your missing some amazing stuff.)
Douglas Teramoto on November 13, 2018:
Sina Doering still very young and not yet at full steam but still great. She will become epic if she can get in front of the right people.
Kate on September 30, 2018:
So what he's male? He's still incredible
Meatel cohan on September 24, 2018:
I think she the best
Renee Taylor, Gates, Coult on August 24, 2018:
Started in 1964. Self taught fantastic Funk, Blues, Jazz and all around drummer. Began in Trenton, NJ with a local band. Moved to LA, CA, in 1978 joined another local group where she picked up the real funk, blues and jazz. Became a more powerful drummer. Known for her heavy and syncopated right foot. School'ed by drummers for James Brown, Jimmy Hendrix, Earth Wind & Fire, Buddy Rich, Max Roach etc. Excellent 35 year drummer.
Moved to Las Vegas in 1982 joined a all girl band called Rhythm & Rouge and did Vegas circuit.
Nelia on July 07, 2018:
Phil DeCarlo on June 04, 2018:
Sean on May 12, 2018:
It's Janet Weiss, people
Barry on March 24, 2018:
Has no one ever heard of GIRLSCHOOL
Laura Shulman on February 14, 2018:
Lisa Elam on April 16, 2016:
Cynthia Blackman!!! Santana & Lenny !!!
GLJ on December 20, 2015:
Jen Ledger should have made the list
TJ on October 05, 2015:
How on earth did Sheila Escovedo not make this list, let alone the top two or three?
allan nelson on July 22, 2015:
I always liked Jan errico of the vejtables then the mojo men
Jo Jo Avallone on February 28, 2015:
Sandy Pesavento West lead the way for female rock drummers. Back in the 70s no other girl was playing the drums like she did. She put up with a lot of crap too I'm sure.... She did it first and she did it best!
Alan H on February 18, 2015:
Check out Hilary Jones. She is up there with many of the very best male drummers.
dada abosede on February 01, 2015:
What about Nigerians, u didn't include female drummers from Nigeria e.g Bostickz, topsticks, yetty sticks, hannsticks and lots more. Tnx
vitoblo on January 10, 2015:
Meg White soars above ANY who dared pick up a drumstick.
josh on December 24, 2014:
steven B on November 28, 2014:
Wendy on September 21, 2014:
Without a doubt Caroline Corr
Denise on August 09, 2014:
Stefanie Eulinberg from Kid Rock's Twisted Brown Trucker Band..she's awesome!
Sparky on June 14, 2014:
Sean on June 11, 2014:
Stefanie Eulinberg from Kid Rock's Twisted Brown Trucker Band no other female drummer comes close...checkout i dunno Bawitdaba, I Am The Bullgod, American Badass, Dark And Grey then best of all the drums to the ballad Abortion, just epic.
sparkii on March 26, 2014:
Laney V from The Yappers!!
Nadine on February 11, 2014:
Jen Ledger from Skillet!!
ngEdwin on June 15, 2013:
At the moment Senri Kawaguchi, only 16 yo, is possibly the best female drummer.
Ken on March 23, 2013:
Meytal Cohen, she makes it look so easy while really getting into her jam.
Check her out at meytalcohen.com
Nick on March 08, 2013:
Lindy Morrison of The Go-Between. Top Drummer!
rick duncan on February 22, 2013:
meytal cohen. best female drummer ever. check out her vidios.
Starlet42 on February 10, 2013:
Sheila... oh well, I think you got the point. lol
JayV on January 17, 2013:
There is Hannah Blilie from Gossip and Chloe from Chaos Chaos (formely Smoosh).
Koko on January 16, 2013:
I can't believe people don't know about Nao from Maximum The Hormone! She sings, plays so hard and sings good. Type Maximum The Hormone on YouTube. She will shock you.
AngryBird on January 06, 2013:
This list is sad and short-sided without Viola Smith, she was the female Gene Krupa for cryin' out loud! But judging from this list, I don't think anyone in charge here has an appreciation for the pioneers of Jazz and Rock music...
maria on December 30, 2012:
Elaine - Neon Trees :D she's so cute!
Lisa from New Jersey on December 09, 2012:
I was happy to come across this article, seeing as I am a female who plays the drums too! Sheila E. is my favorite drummer; she is incredible, and inspired me to continue playing after I stopped for a while.
Andrea (author) from Croatia on December 04, 2012:
Seems like I forgot a lot of them :)
But on the bright side - it adds up to the discussion
Sebastien Catrix from Paris, France on November 30, 2012:
How bout Terri Lyne Carrington?
Andrew L on November 21, 2012:
keith on October 29, 2012:
Pool on October 21, 2012:
Sheila E Glaimerous Life
Max S. on October 03, 2012:
Sheila E. Hannah Ford and Nia Lovelis
sara climie on September 17, 2012:
We can't forget about my inspiration: Sandra Alva
mi on September 16, 2012:
dawn richardson of the 4 non blondes, without a doubt....
Wayne Hancock on September 02, 2012:
Rachdrrrums on August 07, 2012:
Sheila E, Terri Lynne Carrington or Hannah Ford! :)
Vaughn on August 05, 2012:
Bvbluva on July 24, 2012:
John on July 10, 2012:
Try Fliss Kitson of the Nightingales...
LoreeC on June 27, 2012:
SHEILA E...can't believe she was missed
A rey on May 04, 2012:
I think jen ledger is one the best
Andrea (author) from Croatia on April 19, 2012:
So far Sheila E is leading the charts..and I didn't even include her.
My mistake you guys...but I do appreciate all the comments :)
Lv on April 18, 2012:
Sheila E without a doubt!
Joseph Jones on April 08, 2012:
I would say Suezette Quintanilla would be one of the best female drummers.
Lynn Dever on April 08, 2012:
Yeah, I've got to agree. Even though in my humble opinion Sandy West was one hell of a drummer, Sheila E. is meant to be up there with the other seven ladies. ;)
Andrea (author) from Croatia on March 13, 2012:
True...can't believe I forgot about Sheila E.
Latanya M Williams from PHILADELPHIA on March 09, 2012:
shelia E is one of the best female drummer of all time!