Music History

Why was Neil Peart such an amazing drummer? Here’s a guide for non-drummers.

[This was my weekly column for -AC]

An old drummer joke has been circulating all week:

Q: How many drummers does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: Five. One to do it and four to talk about how much better Neil Peart would have done it.

There’s so much truth in that. Peart’s skills were among the best — maybe the best — the drumming world has ever seen.

I discovered Rush as a nerdy high schooler. When me and some buddies sat down one lunch hour to discuss forming a band, I went first, renouncing my time with the accordion and demanding to be the drummer. I took lessons, eventually acquired a stupidly large kit, and became a drum teacher during my university years. And the guy I tried to emulate the most? Neil Peart. It was always Neil.

I and millions like me studied his style, envied his precision, and marvelled at his coordination. How did he do all that?

But if you’re not a drummer or a musician of any kind, you may not understand why people made such a big deal about his abilities. Let me try to break things down for you.

Keep reading.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38031 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

4 thoughts on “Why was Neil Peart such an amazing drummer? Here’s a guide for non-drummers.

  • Neil was the Best!!! Any one that worked as hard as Neil did is and always will be the best!!!! I believe Neil thought one should do your best or don’t do it at all…RIP Mr. Peart…

  • Neil was the best he studied intensively and extensively. The guy put everything he could into what he did and it came out to be the best I was a fan of Neil since I was eight. I’m now 56 and I still listen to Rush I followed them all the way from their days a fly-by-night to their current album. They’ll never be anyone that will replace Neil in this kindness and his style he was one of a kind.

  • The best has no place in music. He was accomplished. I was never a fan of Rush or Neil Peart. However, I respect that others are big fans. His style was his. But, he did not define the genre. Carl Palmer, Bill Buford, Terry Bozio and Stewart Copeland were all contemparies and equally accomplished.
    May Mr. Peart rest in piece.

    • First year of college (1976). Math major sent to a fine arts school ?!? Spent my first semester stuffed in my closet with my amp and guitar trying to cover a band I hadn’t heard before. Couldn’t believe the way the band put together a mix like that. 2112 will always put me back into that closet.The best part the semester. Couldn’t get anyone to jam…no one would even try to play drums like Master Neil.
      Rest in Peace 🙏


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