Nobody in the history of music has ever just picked up an instrument and learned completely by themselves. Observing others is one of the main way we can gain inspiration and see new techniques in action as we continue to develop our own deep groove drumming and overall drum skill. Now, with the abundance of media online, this opportunity is larger than ever. Unfortunately there is also a lot of noise and unhelpful content out there, so we are going to do our best to point you towards some phenomenal groove drummers you should definitely check out. I’m going to focus on more modern groove drummers, there are so many lists that go over the greats (Purdie, Gadd, Gordon, etc.).
1. Benny Greb – Dynamics
We won’t be saving the best for last in this list. There’s a low chance that you haven’t already heard about Benny Greb, but in the off chance that you haven’t we’re here to tell you that he is a must see. Known as one of the best clinicians / drummers alive, Greb has written books, albums, classes, and pretty much anything else you can think of if it’s related to the art of drumming. While he has plenty of paid resources dedicated to developing groove, you can honestly learn so much just from listening to his drum solos and other work. The main takeaway I got from his playing was how he uses dynamics to control the flow of the music. The way he places accents and varies his strike volume come together very nicely to create a distinct atmosphere, and give his playing a much more comprehensive and complete feeling.
I love the incredible groove he starts at around 1:15 in this video.
2. Chris Coleman – Intuition
Chris Coleman is another next level drummer and master of groove. After starting at a young age playing in school and gospel bands, he quickly advanced into the ranks of today’s great modern drummers. The thing I love about his drumming is he always plays just the right amount, never overplaying but always filling space and getting his chops in when necessary. His choice of fills always seem to perfectly match the energy of the music and other musicians he is playing with. Similar to Benny Greb, just watching some of his videos and listening to him play will help improve your drumming.
The fills he plays at the end of the chorus in this video (1:49 is the first one) are so spot on it’s ridiculous. They perfectly match the music being played and are just so clean.
3. Questlove – Pocket
Questlove gained immense popularity as the drummer for the roots, the in-house band for Jimmy Fallon’s talk show. While he isn’t a flashy player, Questlove plays in the pocket extremely well, and his playing fits so well with and complements the other musicians without going overboard. He truly understands the core job of a drummer, and exemplifies this in his playing. I recommended listening to his playing and trying to understand why he chooses to sometimes fill a space with chops and why most of the time he simply grooves with a simple yet effective drum beat.
Check out a phenomenal solo by Questlove here!
4. Taylor Gordon – Pocket
Similar to Questlove, Taylor Gordon is another player that plays extremely well in the pocket. Known as the “Pocket Queen”, she has an amazing feel to her playing and makes simple fills and riffs sound amazing. Honestly I think this is the turning point of a great drummer, someone who can take a simple arrangement and make it sound phenomenal. Taylor is a great example of how far a really solid foundation and a focus on the basics can take you.
Drumeo has a lesson with Taylor on developing pocket here!
5. Brandon Fraiser-Moore – Basic Groove
When you really get down to the basics, groove is the ability to connect with and lock in with the music being played. Brandon Fraiser-Moore provides a great example of this (along with some killer chops) on this Drumeo video. He’s a bit flashier than some of the other drummers we’ve covered, which highlights the point that there isn’t a set in stone right or wrong way to play the drums. There are probably a bunch of different drum beats and combinations on any given track that would sound good, so don’t focus too much on emulating one specific player or style. Instead, try to understand what they do well and apply this to further your own unique style and playing.
Check out one of Brandon’s solos here!
Hopefully this list helped point you in the direction of some great drum grooves and players. I know the title says “best groove drummers”, but really they are just some of my favorites and the ones that had the most influence on my own playing. In reality there are thousands of phenomenal drummers out there, and especially with the rise of digital technology they are more accessible than ever. Listening to other drummers is an effective way to learn drum groove, so hopefully you got something positive out of this!