15 Of The Greatest And Most Famous Female Drummers

Written by Dan Farrant

Despite there being as many, if not more, women in the world, when it comes to drummers, there’s a big difference. It’s thought that only 10% of drummers are female.

While they may not get as much recognition as their male counterparts, there are some incredible drummers that are women out there making their mark on the music world.

In this post, we’re going to take a look at the lives and careers of 15 of the greatest and most famous female drummers of all time. Let’s jump in.

1. Debbi Peterson

First up on our list is Debbi Peterson, who grew up in a musical environment where her sister, Vicki Peterson, was constantly jamming with other musicians. A Californian through and through, she soon leaned into the possibilities of a music career.

After forming her first band in high school, she began observing the greats and practiced till she mastered her craft. Later on, she and her sister, along with Susanna Hoffs and Annette Zilinskas, formed the Bangles. Peterson became their drummer and vocalist.

With the group, Peterson dropped a couple of successful singles in the eighties, like “Manic Monday,” “Walk Like an Egyptian,” and “Eternal Flame.” The latter song, earned them a Most Performed Song from the ASCAP Pop Music Awards.

In the late 1980s, the band went separate ways, but when they reunited in 1998, Peterson continued as their drummer and vocalist.

2. Sheila E.

Sheila E., whose birth name is Sheila Cecilia Escovedo, grew up in an artistic milieu in Oakland, California. Her father and many uncles were talented musicians with active, successful onstage careers.

By the time Sheila E. turned 20, she had already played with some of the biggest names in the scene, like Lionel Richie, Diana Ross, and Marvin Gaye.

Her powerful yet expressive style as a percussionist eventually led her to become a steady drummer in the George Duke Band. Later on, she toured with Prince, joined Phill Collins in various projects, shared a stage with Ringo Starr, and played with Hans Zimmer.

Sheila E. released eight successful albums and plenty of singles. She has also worked in other artistic endeavors, like “Sheila E. Teaches Drumming and Percussion” in MasterClass.

3. Bobbye Hall

Our third drummer, Bobbye Hall, didn’t grow up within a musical family or around the glam life of Tinsel town. Instead, she had a regular life in Detroit until her teen years.

However, Hall fell in love with rhythm and used everything as a percussion instrument. She played a number of percussion instruments over her career, from a full drum set to finger cymbals. Soon, she was skilled enough to attract a loyal following in nightclubs.

In one of her performances, she met with one of Motown’s execs, and he signed her off right away. The brilliant percussionist toured with the biggest stars of the 1970s and recorded with even more.

Hall held the beat for Bob Dylan, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, Joni Mitchell, and Rod Stewart, among hundreds of other artists. She also released one album called Body Language for Lovers, a compilation of soul-jazz instrumental pieces.

4. Honey Lantree

Honey Lantree was all set in life as a hairdresser in England when a chance encounter changed her life. Martin Murray, her boss and the owner of the salon where she worked, was very much into music and jammed with a few friends.

One night, Honey picked up the sticks and started drumming. She was so stunning that Murray instantly asked her to join his band. Their rehearsals soon developed into professional performances, and they became the well-known band, the Honeycombs.

Lantree’s success in the 1960s music scene was as impressive as her drumming style. Their greatest hit, “Have I the Right?” topped the chart in five countries and #5 on Billboard‘s Hot 100.

5. Meg White

Meg White’s early years in Detroit did not hint at her future as a rock star. She was a reserved and unassuming person who initially pursued a career as a chef.

However, her life took a different turn when she met Jack Gillis (later known as Jack White) and joined his band. Her innate talent for drumming and natural rhythm caught Gillis’s attention, and soon the couple formed their own band called the White Stripes.

The White Stripes gained widespread recognition for their unique sound, which was characterized by Meg’s raw and powerful drumming style. One of their most famous hits, “Seven Nation Army,” received multiple MTV award nominations and won the Best Single award at the 2004 Shockwaves NME Awards.

Meg’s contributions to the band were pivotal, and her drumming skills remain a defining aspect of the White Stripes’ legacy.

6. Linda McDonald

Impressed by the music of the heavy metal band Iron Maiden, Linda McDonald from Great Falls, Montana, studied music formally and learned multiple instruments like the piano, violin, and guitar, but had an affinity with the drums.

Following her studies, McDonald formed lots of bands, like Phantom Blue and the Little Dolls, but mostly moved on after a year or two. Her highest career point, however, was creating the Iron Maidens, an all-female band paying tribute to the original band.

With the Iron Maidens, she toured and released three albums and a video. Each one features selected cover tracks of Iron Maiden songs, while the video is of their Japan tour.

7. Sarah Jones

English singer and musician Sarah Jones was always into music since her early childhood. She learned how to play the piano, as that was the traditional way of approaching music.

Jones’s cousin taught her how to play the basic drum beats, and she soon was learning the instrument on her own. From jamming with the family, the young drummer started performing at local venues.

Eventually, she joined an electronic music band named NYPC (New Young Pony Club) in 2004. On the side, she also worked as a session drummer, touring around England, then the world, most notably during Harry Styles’s world tour, when she drummed for him and also provided backing vocals.

8. Carla Azar

Our next talented drummer is Carla Azar from Alabama. She plays alternative rock in full capacity, as she’s also a vocalist, guitarist, bassist, and her keyboard moves are not bad at all.

Azar is an active member of the electric music band Autolux, releasing singles like “Turnstile Blues” and “Brainwasher.” She has also drummed for a few notable music artists, like Jack White, in 2011 and 2012. 

Besides her lively musical career, Azar also found her way to the silver screen. In 2014, she worked in the movie Frank, side by side with the method actor Michael Fassbender.

9. Florrie

Before Florrie became a world-famous drummer, she was just little Florence Arnold, happily discovering life around Bristol, England. She went on a vacation with her family to Greece when she was six and returned back with a passion for drums. 

As a teen, Florrie was already forming girl bands and playing punk rock. She was soon a pro, signing contracts to record with big stars like Pet Shop Boys and Kylie Minogue.

The 1990s started the age of digital music, and Florrie rode the wave at its outset. She released 4 LPs and a few singles that became hugely popular right away.

In 2013, Sony featured Florrie’s hit single “Live a Little” in one of their ad campaigns. The following year, she signed a hefty contract with Sony Music.

10. Caroline Corr

If you know the hit single “Breathless,” you might be familiar with Caroline Corr and her siblings in the folk-rock band the Corrs. Caroline is the beats behind their world-famous songs.

Caroline’s parents were both very much into music, and they played folk songs locally. Her father taught the children various instruments and picked the piano for Caroline, but her heart was set on the drums though.

A good thing too; otherwise, the Corrs might not have become in 1990. Caroline and her siblings rose to fame, winning over 25 awards for their work, including a World Music Award for Biggest-Selling Irish Act.

11. Evelyn Glennie

The story of Dame Evelyn Elizabeth Ann Glennie is as inspiring and beautiful as her music. Glennie was born in Scotland to a family that was immersed in classical music.

Her father introduced her early on to the brilliant performances of Jaqueline Du Pre and Glenn Gould. The influences of both artists remained with Glennie, and she studied music within the most traditional and prestigious academies. 

However, at the young age of 12, Gennie lost her sense of hearing. But that didn’t seem to deter her at all. She played various percussion instruments aided by feeling the beat in all her body instead of just her ears.

She appeared in thousands of high-profile concerts, she played at the opening of the 2012 Summer Olympics, and she’s currently the Chancellor of Robert Gordon Uni in Scotland. She’s also a public speaker, philanthropist, and has her own line of jewelry.

12. Georgia Hubley

Along with her husband Ira Kaplan, Georgia Hubley formed Yo La Tengo, an indie rock band, in 1984. The group is known for their large work of cover songs, although they have released original songs.

Hubley drums for the group as well as provides other percussions. She also has a nice voice and doesn’t hold back at all in using it with her band. A multi-instrumentalist, she is talented with the keyboard and guitar, though she does not play the latter instrument with the group.

Aside from cover songs, Hubley and Yo La Tengo mostly play indie rock around the vibrant music scene of New Jersey. Their recent work was an album entitled This Stupid World (2023).

13. Cindy Blackman

Despite her traditional studies of music (both her grandmother and mom were classical musicians), Cindy Blackman fell in love with drums after watching a lively performance at a friend’s birthday party.

After gravitating towards jazz and rock, Blackman soon found herself sharing the stage with some of the biggest names. A chance encounter with Lenny Kravitz led to two decades of collaboration.

Still, Blackman managed to compose her own music and record and release numerous albums, both as a solo artist and in collaboration with others, like Santana, the Isley Brothers, and Mike Stern.

14. Karen Carpenter

Most might know Karen Carpenter as the amazing voice of the duo the Carpenters. However, did you know she drummed prior to this?

When she was younger, Karen didn’t think much of playing an instrument until high school. In an attempt to skip gym class, she joined the school band. She was given a glockenspiel to play, but after refusing, she was introduced to the drums instead.

A natural player with exceptional rhythm, Karen continued playing and perfecting her craft. She joined her brother’s group, the Richard Carpenter Trio, as their drummer, and they entered a Battle of the Bands in 1966, winning it.

Sadly, the group disbanded two years later. When she and Richard started the Carpenters in 1969, Karen showcased her other talent: vocals. The two then went on to be a pop sensation.

15. Brie Howard-Darling

We close our list with Brie Howard-Darling as the last drummer here. This California musician and singer-songwriter started her career when she was still a teen with the band the Kee-Notes.

Following the Kee-Notes, she joined Fanny and released a couple of charting albums. She left the group in 1974 and joined American Girls as their drummer.

Outside these bands, Darling has also toured with other notable artists as their drummer, like Cherie Currie, Robert Palmer, Jimmy Buffet, and Carole King. With the latter, she toured with for five years.

Currently, Darling is with Boxing Gandhis, a band she and her husband formed. On the side, she makes artistic cakes and has won the Food Network’s Cake Wars season 2.

Summing Up Our List Of Great Female Drummers

This list of 15 brilliant female drummers is absolutely inspiring. It proves that you don’t have to be a guy to create cool beats.

From heavy metal rock to jazz, each of the drummers here cemented their work in music history, either with their respective bands or by collaborating with other notable artists.

And the lovely thing is that there are many more that didn’t appear here. Let us know who we’ve missed, and we’ll add them here for you!

Photo of author

Dan Farrant, the founder of Hello Music Theory, has been teaching music for over 15 years, helping hundreds of thousands of students unlock the joy of music. He graduated from The Royal Academy of Music in 2012 and then launched Hello Music Theory in 2014. He plays the guitar, piano, bass guitar and double bass and loves teaching music theory.