13 Best Female Drummers: Queens Behind the Kit

female drummers
(No licensable image available) Image by Alexey Turenkov on Unsplash.

Last updated on April 7th, 2023 at 10:39 pm

If you ask somebody to list their favorite drummers, usually they’ll mention Keith Moon, John Bonham, and others. Sometimes overlooked, though, are the great female drummers who have (wo)manned the kit from rock n’ roll’s inception (and even before).

Who are these stick-wielding queens? Find out on our list of the 14 best female drummers.

The Best Female Drummers

14. Jess Bowen

Jess Bowen is an Arizona native who got her start cofounding the pop band, The Summer Set, in 2007. To this day, she continues to keep a beat for Brian Dales and the gang, while also going on tour to drum for Stephen James, Lights, Jax, and others.


13. Taylor Gordon

Also known as The Pocket Queen, Taylor Gordon hails from New Orleans. She has played with Beyonce, Michelle Williams, and Stevie Wonder

Her mix of jazz, funk, and pop makes her one of the most versatile artists on this best female drummers list.


12. Anika Nilles

Who is the best current female drummer? Many would say Anika Nilles.

The German YouTube drummer’s first original composition, “Wild Boy,” was released in 2013 when she was 30.

Her “odd-timing and odd-grouping grooves” give her a fresh, funky sound that will inspire a new generation of female drummers.


11. Cindy Blackman

Cindy Blackman is one of many badass female drummers. 

Married to none other than Carlos Santana, Blackman’s innovative jazzy sound has been heard worldwide. 

These days she performs with her band, the Cindy Blackman Santana Quartet, and supports her husband on tour.


10. Meytal Cohen

Describing herself as “drumming up a better tomorrow,” YouTube drumming sensation Meytal Cohen started drumming at 18 in her homeland, Israel. 

After moving to the United States, her first taste of success came when she and two friends filmed a violin version of “Toxicity” by the heavy metal band System Of A Down to audition for America’s Got Talent.

The video proved hugely popular on YouTube, and her success on the streaming platform began. 

Cohen is a fast, fiery, loud drummer and a founding member of one of the few metal bands with female drummers, aptly named Meytal.


9. Senri Kawaguchi

Kawaguchi is a Japanese drumming sensation. Born in 1997, she learned to play the drums at five and has received many awards for her jazz and fusion drumming style. 

One of a small group of Asian female drummers, her solo recordings and collaborative works are immensely popular in Japan and abroad.


8. Viola Smith

Viola Smith, one of the first professional female drummers, enjoyed a successful career in orchestras and swing bands in a career spanning decades. 

A pioneering drummer in a male-dominated profession, she consistently appealed to the big bands of her day to hire female drummers. 

Her signature tune, “Snake Charmer,” shows off her brilliance. 

She often played on a massive 12-piece drum kit that earned her the right to work with the likes of Ella Fitzgerald and to be compared with Gene Krupa.

Related: The 21 Best Jazz Songs: A Definitive List 


7. Debbi Peterson

What bands have a female drummer? The Bangles are the first that comes to mind for many.

Also a vocalist and guitarist, Debbi Peterson began her musical career as the drummer for the popular girl band known for hits like “Walk Like an Egyptian.”

She launched a solo career after the breakup of The Bangles in 1990, but she is best known for her drumming skills during her time with the band in the 1980s. 

Her vocals and drumming on The Bangles’ cover of “Hazy Shade Of Winter” is phenomenal.


6. Sandy West

When she was 16, Sandy West co-founded the Runaways, the first teenage female rock band to attain commercial success, with none other than Joan Jett.

West was the only known female drummer at that time, blazing a trail for the other young female drummers who were still to come. 

Her pulsating, ferocious style is unmistakable on the hit “Cherry Bomb.”


5. Gina Schock

Gina Schock is best known as the drummer for the Go-Go’s, the popular all-girl punk and new wave pop group from the late 1970s and 1980s. 

Schock’s aggressive solo drumming performances often opened many of the band’s hit songs, and she has been described as the success behind the band. 

Her vibrancy and power make Schock one of the top female drummers of all time.

Related: 15 Best Female Pop Singers of All time 


4. Meg White

The White Stripes are one of the most celebrated bands of the 2000s. It’s no wonder they were nominated for the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame in their first year of eligibility. 

Though Jack White’s songwriting and personality led the White Stripes, Meg’s drumming gave the band their distinctive sound. 

Who is the most popular drummer? Many would say Meg White.

Related: Jack White’s Net Worth: The White Stripes, Solo Career, Third Man Record, and More 


3. Sheila E

Sheila E rose to prominence in the 1980s, first as a protégé of Prince and later as a successful solo artist. 

Her career has been long and exciting, having played with many greats like Prince, Marvin Gaye, Mariah Carey, Stevie Wonder, and Lionel Richie. 


2. Moe Tucker

When it comes to the best female drummers with unique sound and technique, the Velvet Underground’s Moe Tucker takes the cake.

She typically played standing up with an upended bass drum, playing it by hand rather than using a foot pedal, while hammering on tom-toms with a mallet in one hand and a stick in the other. 

How’s that for innovation?

Her singular style is one of the elements of the Velvet Underground that still makes their music so jarring and endearing today. 

If you want to hear the genius of subtle drumming, check out her work on Velvet Underground mainstay “Heroin.” 

Related: The 21 Best 60s Songs of All Time: Music That Defined a Decade 


1. Karen Carpenter

Karen Carpenter is mainly remembered for her singing, and rightly so, as she had one of the most beautiful voices in pop history.

It’s sometimes forgotten, however, that she was also a talented drummer. She even described herself as a “drummer who sang.” 

The clip of Karen’s drum solo in the first ever Carpenter’s television special in 1976 reveals her extraordinary talent. It is easy to see why so many still regard her as the best female drummer of all time.

You might also enjoy:

The Best 15 Female Country Singers of All Time: Who Made the List?

The Best Female Singers of All Time: No Auto Tune Allowed

15+ Best Songs About Cheating to Remind You That You Aren’t Alone 

Written by Anna Paulson


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