Counting Down The 12 Best Drum Solos (In Songs)

Disclosure: We may receive commissions when you click our links and make purchases. Read our full affiliate disclosure here.
  • We round up the 12 best drum solos of all time (used in context of actual songs)
  • A mix of rock, jazz and more
  • Also included — the longest drum solo ever!
  • Check out our separate post on whether drums are harder to play than guitar!

Everyone knows that laying down a badass drum solo is the pinnacle of musical achievements.

So we’re here to drop the greatest drum solos in songs on ya. because it takes an absolute beast to compose a drum solo that elevates a great song to a higher level.

We’ll evaluate each solo on technique, groove, and how iconic they are. 

If we missed one that should totally be on here, let us know in the comments below!

12 Best Drum Solos In Songs

12. Tool – Ticks & Leeches

There are so many Danny Carey moments that could be on this list. The man is a total monster behind the kit, and the solo that kicks off Ticks & Leeches from 2001’s Lateralus is his most iconic moment. 

When I was in high school, all the local drummers wanted to be able to play like Carey, and grooving the 7/4 solo in Ticks & Leeches was proof you had mean chops.

Carey is now past 60, and his solos on Tool’s 2019 effort Fear Inoculum show he hasn’t slowed down in the slightest.

Great moments include his solo over the heavy riff in Pneuma at 5:30 (as well as the buildup from 8:30) and the entirety of Chocolate Chip Trip. 

11. Black Sabbath – Fairies Wear Boots

We’ve included many rock drum solos here and a sprinkling of jazz drum solos. Black Sabbath‘s Bill Ward straddles both worlds and has left a legacy like none other.

Ward rolls out some classic drum breaks in Fairies Wear Boots, starting with the melodic tom opening and later the break at 1:02, which he solos several times in the song.

As Black Sabbath created heavy metal, Ward sounds like no other heavy metal drummer because he grew up on jazz and blues rather than rock or metal.

The way he adds ghost notes, unusual accents, and odd triplet grooves will throw any rock drummer for a loop when you try and learn this stuff because it’s so different from what you usually hear.

There are a ton of epic drum breaks on Sabbath’s Symptom of the Universe as well, which are done at an even more frantic tempo than Fairies Wear Boots. 

10. Nine Inch Nails – Piggy

This one makes the list for its iconic status and groove. The solo, performed by none other than frontman Trent Reznor, starts at 2:22.

It’s a brutish, raw assault on the drums that proves his talents lie far beyond singing and playing keys. 

It also shows Reznor’s ear for arrangement, as he leaves the opening quite sparse before kicking into gear and bringing the song to its climax.

The song is one of the few live drums takes on the entire Downward Spiral album and the only time Reznor ever performed live drums on a Nine Inch Nails song. 

The solo was born when Reznor was just testing the microphones in the studio, but he liked the results so much that he put it on the album.

9. Dimmu Borgir – Kings of the Carnival Creation

When Nicholas Barker jumped ship from Cradle of Filth to Dimmu Borgir in 1999, he hit like an atom bomb in the metal scene.

During his five years with Dimmu Borgir, he put down some of the most insane extreme drumming ever.

The ending of Kings of the Carnival Creation, which starts at 6:50, is an excellent example of his mind-blowing playing during this period.

He effortlessly blends blast beats with warp-speed fills to bring the song to its crushing conclusion.  

8. The Smashing Pumpkins – Tonight, Tonight

This one is a bit more song than solo than the other selections on here.

Jimmy Chamberlain shows off a superb command of dynamics in this performance, which opens the Pumpkin’s 1995 epic double album Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness.

Chamberlain makes his snare the lead instrument, and the genius of his approach is very subtle.

A typical rock drummer generally has two levels – soft and loud.

However, here Chamberlain shows off his impressive jazz chops, bringing the song to various nuanced peaks and troughs, perfectly accentuating the emotion that frontman Billy Corgan is expressing.  

7. Queens for the Stone Age – Songs for the Dead

Dave Grohl is one of the most humble guys in rock. From listening to him talk, you never guess he’s one of rock’s greatest living drummers. 

For the intro of Songs for the Dead, Grohl lays down a phat groove, and Bonham-esque fills that perfectly send the song into top gear for the main riff.

Grohl just goes total beast mode on the entire Songs for the Deaf album. His performance is a huge testament to how much he grew as a player since the Nirvana days.

Another great moment on the album is his impressive solo in the bridge of No One Knows, where he lays down a big groove with rolling tom fills.

6. Judas Priest – Painkiller

It doesn’t get much better than this. In 1990 when Judas Priest was ready to reinvent their sound for a new generation, Scott Travis was the perfect man for the job.

Earlier, Judas Priest drummers laid down a rock ‘n’ roll vibe, but Travis brought the band screaming into the new decade with his hard-edged, metallic approach.

Travis kicks off the song with a blazing double-bass solo, bringing the thunder for one of the greatest metal anthems ever put to tape.

5. Slayer – Angel of Death

Dave Lombardo is the complete package as a drummer, and nothing proves it like his legendary double bass solo in Angel of Death. In this live vid, it kicks off at 4:34.

The original solo is impressive enough, but as seen in the clip above, the Godfather of Double Bass would often extend it to calf-punishing lengths live. The stamina and power on display here are insane. 

I was lucky enough to see him pull it off live in Melbourne in the 2000s before he left the band for the final time, and it was one of the show’s highlights.

The solo is so infamous among metal drummers that Slipknot Joey Jordison openly admitted to ripping it off.

Jordison’s take on the solo, which began as a joke during Slipknot rehearsals, can be heard at 1:48 on Slipknot’s The Heretic Anthem.

4. Gene Krupa – Sing, Sing, Sing

Krupa masterfully leads his band through the dynamic changes of Sing Sing Sing in this live take.

Like Buddy Rich, he displays his ability to squeeze his kit for everything it has here, playing it in novel ways to create unexpected sounds.

Some jazz drum solos can get a bit dry, but Krupa keeps a sense of fun and camaraderie in the performance as he drives his band and the audience to greater heights.

Krupa’s 1937 studio recording of Sing Sing Sing with bandleader Benny Goodman was meant to be a commercial-friendly three-minute song, but Krupa simply refused to stop playing at the end, leading to an eight-minute epic, with the band following his lead.

3. Van Halen – Hot for Teacher

No drum solo list would be complete without the intro solo to Van Halen’s classic Hot for Teacher.

It’s one of the greatest drum solos in rock and certainly the most iconic. It doesn’t hurt that the song is a total beater too. 

The solo kicks off with a tom and double bass workout before moving to a light-speed shuffle on the ride cymbal.

Its almost unrecognizable as a shuffle upon first listen due to the speed and the unconventional ride pattern Alex Van Halen uses.

Outshining arguably the greatest rock guitarist of all time is quite a task, but Alex does it with style on Hot for Teacher.

2. Led Zeppelin – Moby Dick

This is widely regarded as one of the greatest rock drum solos of all time, for good reason. 

John Bonham shows here his unsurpassed groove when playing with a band, as well as raw power and control of dynamics, which generations of rock drummers have been trying to emulate.

He also famously plays his drum kit with his bare hands, starting at 5:15, creating a world music vibe and displaying his deep understanding of styles outside of rock music. 

Bonham also notoriously holds the record for one of the longest drum solos of all time.

On May 26, 1977, Bonham laid waste to his drum kit with a 36+ minute solo during the band’s four-night stint at the Capital Centre in Landover, Maryland.

In the video above, you can hear his famous drumming endurance effort in the video above, beginning with a short jam from 1:57:27 on. 

There are lengthier drum solos than this, but in terms of drum solos performed by drummers you know the name of, this takes the cake. 

1. Buddy Rich – Westside Story live

The late great Buddy Rich lays down one of the finest jazz drum solos in this live cut.

He shows supreme restraint, building up from a snare introduction, adding toms, and then very deliberately only adding cymbals more than three minutes into the solo. 

This amazing drum solo also shows off Rich’s creativity.

He squeezes every ounce he can out of his instrument, playing his sticks, different areas of the snare skin, and even playing the drum rims exclusively for part of the solo.

The song part of the solo kicks in at the end, with Rich’s big band bringing the thunder to bring the piece to its fiery conclusion.

Rich’s Westside Story medley took intense rehearsals across a month to perfect, and it became a staple of his live shows.

If you’re new to the drums, check out our guide to four key differences between the crash and ride cymbal here.