One of the unfortunate realities of the drum industry is that it’s male-dominated. There are many reasons for this, the biggest being that drumming is highly physical. This could potentially stop a lot of females from trying to play. However, nothing will stop women from achieving great things on the instrument, and we have a list of some of the best people to prove it.
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When thinking of female drummers, the first name that comes to mind for most people would undoubtedly be Anika Nilles.
Not only has she successfully broken onto the scene with a big impact, but she’s also encouraged a lot of drummers to broaden their knowledge of rhythms and subdivisions. Odd subdivisions like quintuplets and septuplets are her specialty.
She’s a German drummer and composer who first gained popularity from YouTube videos of her playing to songs she had written. She started drumming at the age of six and has been turning heads ever since.
Anika is backed by several high-end gear companies such as Tama, Meinl, and Evans.
I first became aware of Anika when I watched her YouTube video where she was performing an original song called Alter Ego. At first, I was blown away by the production quality. However, with more listens I started to really appreciate Anika’s musicality and I loved how perfectly the drum part had been crafted.
Fast forward a couple of years and I had to perform that exact song for a drum exam I did. I gained a whole new level of respect for Anika after learning to play the drum part note-for-note. Every song she has ever uploaded since then has been highly impressive to watch.
Her unique sound on the drums makes her one of my personal favorite drummers at the moment. Her dry cymbals, punchy drums, and complex drum phrasing make her a drummer to look out for.
Another female drummer that has gained huge popularity in recent times is Sarah Thawer. She’s well-known for playing complex rhythms and pulling influence from different types of World music. Along with her playing abilities, she’s also well-known for pulling the craziest drum faces.
She started drumming at the age of 2 and was playing gigs by the age of 5. So, even though she’s still young, she has a serious amount of experience behind her. She generally plays a lot of jazz and funk. Some notable artists that she has played for are George Watsky, Mark Lettieri, and Jane Bunnett.
Sarah plays Zildjian cymbals, Yamaha drums, and uses Vic Firth sticks.
I have a friend who studied at college with Sarah Thawer. She said that Sarah is one of the nicest and most genuine people you’ll ever meet. It sounds a bit crazy, but I can definitely see that through the way she plays the drums.
She stays authentically herself. She has a few videos on Instagram where she’s playing drums and singing or talking at the same time. I’ve heard some people say it’s a bit much, but I think those videos are pretty cool!
Moving onto a drummer with a lot more experience in the industry, Emmanuelle Caplette has been playing drums for multiple artists over the past two decades. She’s known for her laidback style. She plays extremely proficiently without making it look difficult at all. She also always has a smile on her face.
She studied pop and jazz in college and that background can definitely be seen in her playing. On top of being a busy performer, she’s also a successful drum teacher, teaching many students around the world.
Emmanuelle is an artist for Sonor, Sabian, Vic Firth, and Evans.
She has such a popular reputation that I remember knowing about her when I was a young student on the drums. YouTube and social media weren’t as prevalent back then, yet I still had a clear picture of who Emmanuelle Caplette was.
She has a fantastic e-book called ‘Smile! You’re Drumming’. The book is full of useful information and ideas regarding rudimental patterns and how to play them. I think that book perfectly represents how Emmanuelle Caplette plays the drums.
Cindy Blackman can comfortably be considered a drum legend. She made a huge impact as one of the first famous African-American female drummers in the 20th century. The biggest artist she played with was Lenny Kravitz. Her smooth feel behind the drums and solid grooves made her a huge asset to any band.
On top of being an excellent supporting drummer, she’s also done a lot of jazz projects as a bandleader. You don’t typically see female jazz bandleaders, so Cindy has been killing it on every front.
She currently plays drums for her husband, Carlos Santana. Cindy is one of Gretsch drums’ top artists.
I’ll never forget seeing Cindy for the first time in the ‘Are You Gonna Go My Way’ music video. It’s a song by Lenny Kravitz that my dad always used to play when I was growing up. I knew the drum part very well from listening to the record too many times. However, I had never seen the music video.
So, I was pleasantly surprised to see Cindy Blackman killing it behind the drum kit the day I finally did see the video. I thought it was the coolest thing. Her larger-than-life hair made her look even cooler.
Nicknamed ‘The Pocket Queen’, Taylor Gordon is famous for her tight grooves and solid feel. In a world of overplaying drummers, Taylor’s calm and collected approach to drumming is highly refreshing.
She first gained popularity on Instagram, posting videos of thick grooves and beats. However, she is highly accomplished in the touring world as well. She’s played for artists such as Michelle Williams, Beyonce, and Fifth Harmony.
Taylor was already playing drums in a church by the age of 7. She’s not shy of the instrument and has continued to grow her abilities over the years.
She’s endorsed by Tama drums and Paiste cymbals.
I once watched a full-length drum lesson that Taylor did on Drumeo (which is among my most favorite online drum lessons platforms, by the way). She has such great advice regarding groove and feel on the drums. Many of the tips she gave there I still use today. I find myself giving those tips to my students as well.
I could listen to Taylor Gordon playing straight eighth beats for hours. Playing with an incredibly tight pocket is not something every drummer can pull off. However, I think she does it flawlessly. She’s the type of drummer that you want to record on your album.
Terri Lyne Carrington
Any aspiring drummer will tell you that jazz is one of the hardest styles of music to get a grasp on. So, the fact that Terri Lyne Carrington is a famous jazz drummer just tells you everything. She has played with the jazz greats like Dizzy Gillespie, Herbie Hancock, and Stan Getz.
Terri has 3 Grammy’s behind her name and she is currently a professor at Berklee College of Music, one of the most prestigious music colleges in the world. When thinking of females who play jazz, no one does it better than Terri Lyne Carrington.
She’s endorsed by Yamaha drums and Zildjian Cymbals.
I feel that her precision and control behind the drum kit is incredibly impressive. Her musicality is also next level behind the kit. It’s not the easiest thing to sound musical on the drums. It’s not that type of instrument.
However, I think Terri Lyne Carrington thinks of herself as a musician, not a drummer. That’s the big difference. I think she’s a wonderful role model for any drummers trying to get into the jazz world, especially for girls.
Kristina Schiano got famous from posting drum covers on YouTube. With over a million subscribers, she has a huge fanbase thanks to her tight drumming and creative expression.
Although she isn’t as technically proficient as the other drummers on this list, she has focused on what makes her good and gained huge success from it. She still has a huge career ahead of her, but everything she has done so far has set her up for massive success.
She is endorsed by SJC Drums, Zildjian cymbals, Remo drumheads, and Vater drum sticks.
The fact that she has such a large audience on YouTube makes her a unique drummer on this list. The majority of her followers are most likely not even drummers. They’re just people who get entertained by someone playing the drums to songs that they know.
So, I think that she has led many young drummers to make the decision to give the drums a go. Even though her technical skills don’t yet match some of the other drummers on this list, I think she arguably might be one of the most influential drummers in the current Internet space.
I appreciate her work rate. I know how hard it is to create and upload high-quality videos. Somehow, she does it on a regular basis and she gets them out quickly.
Heading back into the realm of Instagram musicians, Jessica Burdeaux has made a name for herself with her constant uploading of “wow factor” videos. She has a solid feel behind the kit and is able to get a lot of notes out very cleanly.
She’s played with the 8G Band on Late Night with Seth Meyers as well as had her own educational episode on Drumeo. Some well-known artists that she has played for are Naia Izumi and her own band, City Mouth.
She’s endorsed by Vic Firth sticks and Remo drumheads.
I remember watching and being inspired by Jessica’s Instagram videos every day. She’s not as active on the platform anymore. However, I think it’s because she’s been given great playing opportunities and just doesn’t have as much time to post anymore.
She’s a solid player, so I can see how many high-profile artists would love having her on the kit in their band.
When YouTube drum covers became popular a decade ago, Meytal Cohen was the first female drummer to make a name for herself with them. However, she wasn’t just playing to straightforward pop songs like everyone else. She was tackling the highly complex progressive metal songs and smashing them in the process.
She has continued to develop her career since then and has even released her own studio album called ‘Alchemy’. Meytal’s cool composure when playing intricate drum parts is really something to look up to.
She’s endorsed by DW drums, Meinl cymbals, and Evans drumheads.
Meytal was the first female drummer I ever saw playing intricate metal songs with hectic double bass patterns. While I’d personally be busting my butt to play those tunes, she was doing it comfortably and with a smile the whole time.
Similar to Kristina Schiano, I think Meytal has been a huge reason for many young people deciding to start drumming. I also think Meytal has shown thousands of people that female drummers can easily slot into progressive metal bands.
She has several videos on YouTube that have over 10 million views. Those numbers are absolutely crazy to me and I take my hat off to her.
Nikki Glaspie has had huge success in touring and playing drums all over the world. Her drumming style is very tight, yet she can pull out crazy chops whenever she needs to. She’s played drums for Jay-Z, Kanye West, and Beyonce. With huge names like that behind her, you know that she’s the real deal.
She’s also a professional producer and arranger, meaning she’s loaded with all the necessary skills to thrive in the music industry.
Nikki endorses Zildjian cymbals and Yamaha drums, creating a drum kit setup that sounds fantastic wherever she plays.
Nikkie comes from the “shedding” culture in America. Drummers who come up like this often sit in rooms with multiple drum kits and shed with each other to share ideas. These drummers have an in-depth vocabulary on the drums and often end up playing with many high-profile artists.
I think that someone like Nikki would easily be able to hang with the likes of Aaron Spears and Eric Moore. Her drumming style is very similar.
Similar to Terri Lyne Carington, I know that Nikki sees herself as a musician first before a drummer. You can see it in the way she plays. I love her tight pocket and calm presence when she’s playing.
Another legend on the list, Sheila E has proved herself as a through-and-through performer for decades. She’s an actor, singer, and musician, performing wherever she can. She spent years playing percussion in The George Duke Band. However, her drumming skills became known to the public when she left that band and started a solo career.
She played a lot of tours with the famous artist, Prince. Her drumming perfectly suited the music.
Sheila has been a faithful Zildjian artist for many years.
Sheila E has one of my favorite MasterClass lesson packages (I’ve reviewed it in this post). In that pack of lessons, she shares so many insights on being a performing drummer and percussionist.
I love how she’s just as much of a percussionist as she is a drummer. I think that makes her unique on this list as most of the other drummers I’ve spoken about are pure drum kit players through-and-through.
She played drums with Prince, who is arguably one of the most famous artists out of any of the artists I’ve mentioned previously. Sheila E has had a very successful career. However, I think she’s still happy to keep going and achieving even more.
Finishing off the list is a drummer who isn’t as well-known as the others. However, Madden Klass’s drumming abilities put her right up there with all the best in the world. She plays extremely intricate patterns and feels right at home with any progressive rock or metal music.
Although Madden is still a student, she’s been getting a lot of recognition thanks to her endorsement deal with Meinl cymbals. Mike Johnston, a famous drum educator, has stated that Madden is the type of drummer you want in your band.
If you’re looking for some young and inspiring drummers to check out, Madden Klass should be at the top of your list.
She has played with artists such as Space Junk is Forever, Mike Doughty, and Wheatus.
Madden’s style of drumming is personally the most attractive to me out of all the drummers on this list. There have been so many times where I’ve watched one of her videos on Instagram and ran straight to my drum kit afterward to try and break what she was playing down.
I’m also a sucker for a good Meinl cymbals setup, and I think Madden has one of the best and unique sounding cymbal setups out there. She knows how to use the cymbals to get a fantastic sound out of her setup. It’s crazy to think that she’s already developed her personal drum sound at such a young age.
There are many more female drummers out there that are technically proficient and skilled. This list just includes the drummers who have made a huge impact on the drum industry as a whole.
Remember that it’s a useless exercise to compare drummers as everyone has a different take on the instrument. It’s not a race where one wins and the other doesn’t.
If you’re looking for some great drummers to listen to, not a single player on this list will disappoint you.