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The 17 Greatest Songs with Drum Intros

25/07/2023

They often say the first 30 seconds is the most vital part of any song. It draws in the listener and can often determine whether or not you listen to the rest of the song. Well, what could capture the ears of the average listener better than an exciting drum intro?

We’ve compiled a list of the 17 greatest songs with drum intros, all suiting a range of levels, abilities, and genres. We’ll break down some of the classics such as “Superstition” by Stevie Wonder and “Rosanna” by Toto to help you learn a bit more about each song. And not only are they classics, but each song also has a stand-out drum sound, whether that’s a crisp snare sound or an intricate fill or beat.  

In a hurry? Here are our top 5 drum intros

  1. “Rosanna” by Toto
  2. “Umbrella” by Rihanna
  3. “Walk This Way” by Aerosmith
  4. “Brianstorm” by Arctic Monkeys
  5. “Superstition” by Stevie Wonder

The greatest songs with drum intros

1. “Young Folks” by Peter Bjorn & John 

This intro starts with a simple drum fill of five lots of quaver notes played on the snare and tom, and then two quarter notes played solely on the tom. This intro is played without any other instruments, and once this phrase is played, the whole instrumental part is introduced.

It’s a simple drum intro for beginners, although the tempo of the fill may be the trickiest part. For learning this fill, it may be beneficial to complete the fill at half the speed and gradually increase the tempo.


2. “Come Together” by The Beatles 

“Come Together” is perhaps one of the most popular drum grooves. The triplet fill around the kit perfectly complements the bass line. In fact, there’s a triplet on each part of the kit, starting with one on the drum rims, the hi-hat, and then one continuing around the toms. 

This song is one of The Beatles’ most iconic tracks thanks to the vocal rhythm and the climbing bass. The triplet drum groove is very different from the standard 4/4 that we are used to hearing in pop and a lot of The Beatles’ back catalogue. 

For this song, we recommend the Big Fat Snare Drum Quesadilla. Coming in a pack of four, it lowers the fundamental pitch of your drums, giving you that warm, ’70s tone. 


3. “Something Good” by  Alt J  

Perhaps one of the most obscure songs on this list, “Something Good” starts with the drums and a unique pattern between the snare and a percussion block. Similar to “Come Together”, the intro is a recurring groove until you reach the chorus.

This track is incredibly significant as it features a linear groove and is incredibly unique in sound. The BPM is 109 which is a much more relaxed tempo, this perfectly complements the whole vibe of the song, which has a sort of tension and release to it.  


4. “Rock with You” by Michael Jackson 

This opening fill is possibly one of the most recognisable drum licks. The drum intro features a kick on the first beat, followed by a flam on the snare to take you into the fill. One of the main features of this intro is in fact in the flam. And combined with the snare sound, it provides impact and really makes the fill stand out.

At 114 BPM this fill is a fairly easy one to carry out and is great to expand on and adapt to your own playing ability. 


5. “Run to the Hills” by Iron Maiden 

The intro to “Run To The Hills” is slightly different from the other drum intros in this article in that it starts off with a drum groove. The groove is sixteenth notes played on the hi-hat, a tom stroke on beat two, and an open hi-hat and kick on 4, followed by a tom.

One of the most significant parts of this song is the fact that the booming toms are all tuned low in pitch. This sound is typical of Iron Maiden with the drums being at the forefront of the track and the drum tuning and tones perfectly complementing the sound of the guitar.  


6. “Umbrella” by Rihanna 

The intro to “Umbrella” is instantly recognisable and often followed by waves of “uh huh uh huh”, but apart from being a catchy tune, “Umbrella” features possibly one of the coolest beats.

At 86 BPM, the song doesn’t sound like it should be a challenge, however, the main beat features sixteenth notes on the hi-hat, all played with the right hand. Depending on the strength of your right hand, this may be a slight challenge, so it’s recommended that you break the beat down and start at a much slower tempo. 

“Umbrella” starts with an open hi-hat and then goes into the main beat, finishing on the small snare pattern. The key part of this intro is the open hi-hat at the beginning of the phrase, whilst the beat in general is a classic hip-hop style beat. 

Top tip – if you’re struggling to play this at speed try using alternative R and L sticking.  


7. “Rock and Roll” by Led Zeppelin  

“Rock and Roll” by Led Zeppelin is one of the few Zeppelin songs that starts with drums.

With a BPM of 170, this intro is a great way to improve coordination. Throughout the intro, both hands are engaged and accented to form the general rhythm of the intro. The trickiest part of the intro is the last bar, as the previous pattern can make it sound like there is an extra beat. These accents then build into the start of the verse when the guitar riff kicks in.

For this track, the best results can be achieved through the Ludwig LM402 Supraphonic Snare. The aluminium shell delivers the bright tone suited best to this song and is, in fact, the same model that Bonham used for the majority of his career.


8. “All Along the Watchtower” by Jimi Hendrix  

“All Along the Watchtower” features a tom pattern that is played in conjunction with the guitar riff, replicating each other. This is an interesting feature of the song and a playing technique that is lesser seen in most songs. The intro starts with two snare drum flams followed by kick drums, and then the same pattern again, but with a tom fill integrated into it.

We chose this song because it perfectly encapsulates Mitch Mitchell’s drum sound and the work he did with Jimi Hendrix from the first beat of the bar.


9. “Rosanna” by Toto  

A popular drumbeat, “Rosanna” is a hybrid of two classic beats – the Bernard Purdie shuffle, which features on Steely Dan’s “Home at Last” and “Fool in the Rain” by Led Zeppelin. This beat is a halftime shuffle and features a combination of ghost notes and accents. The hi-hat pattern follows a triplet rhythm with a half-beat rest and a snare accent on the 3rd beat. The kick drum follows the bass guitar rhythm.

For this track, check out the Pearl Masters Maple Pure 22” 4pc Shell Pack in a Bronze Oyster finish. This drum kit delivers the perfect level of warm tonality that is ideal for a song like ‘Rosanna”. The rich qualities of the maple shell ensure the perfect level of brightness, sharpness, and character projected from the shells.


10. “Superstition” by Stevie Wonder 

A classic among funk bands, function bands – you name it, if there has ever been a more distinguishable drum intro than this one, it’s Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” and it packs a punch from the start. Starting with an accented snare pattern and then into an embellished groove, which is very similar to a shuffle.

One of the main benefits of this song is the fact that it’s so fun to play, and there is also plenty of room to improvise and expand your playing. The nature of the song gives you the opportunity to let your creative side flourish, so you can easily jam along. The 100 BPM delivers a comfortable tempo for any drummer’s ability.


11. “First Dates” by Blink 182  

Blink 182’s “First Dates” starts off with an open hi-hat snare kick snare pattern, and then into the snare pattern. This track has quite a fast BPM at 192. It serves as an essential introduction to drummers as Travis Barker, the drummer of Blink 182, has had a massive influence on many drummers today and is perhaps one of the most recognisable drummers of the modern era.

The stand-out feature of this track is the snare and tom pattern that erupts in the second bar. Travis Barker’s kit is from Orange County Percussion Drums, which he has used almost throughout his career. His kick drum features a medium tuning, while the snare has a high tuning, resembling the sound of a marching drum.

If you want to replicate Barker’s tone, try the Zildjian A 21″ Sweet Ride Cymbal – it was used by Barker during this period!


12.”Two Princes” by Spin Doctors 

With an intro like this one, once you’ve heard this song, it’s certainly one you’ll remember. “Two Princes” gets straight down to business with a drum fill on the snare, mixed with accented notes. The 104 BPM reflects the chilled-out groove that features in the rest of the song.

One of the standout features of this song is the snare sound, which is created by a tightly tuned drum and the use of buzz notes on the snare in between accents. Furthermore, the use of the kick in conjunction with the snare accents in the second bar of the intro provides a bigger impact and, therefore, stands out dramatically.


13. “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac 

The iconic intro to “Dreams” is made up of a snare and tom pattern. It comes in one and a half beats before the start of the bar. The standout feature is the crash on beat two of the second bar.

While only short, this intro is certainly an interesting one, as the placement of the crash isn’t in a place that you would normally expect. Furthermore, this intro is perfect for any drummer looking to improve their sense of timing, as the phrase starts and ends in an unconventional place.


14. “Brianstorm” by Arctic Monkeys  

“Brianstorm” offers a thunderous tom pattern with a BPM of 165. The intro has the same playing pattern repeated with kick drums on each beat and a snare drum on beats two and three. This is an instantly recognisable fill from the start and possibly one of the Arctic Monkeys’ most popular songs. Matt Helders, the drummer, delivers a powerful drum beat that stands out through the hectic tom fill.

We recommend the Premier Elite 20″ 4pc Shell Pack for this Arctic Monkeys track. The four-ply North American birch and maple construction delivers a full-bodied tone with plenty of presence, whilst chrome low-mass Elite lugs provide excellent shell resonance. 


15. “Paint It, Black” by The Rolling Stones  

This is quite a simple intro to replicate, with the toms and kick all being played in quarter notes on each beat, all in unison, while one of the toms plays eighth notes to fill in the space when the rest of the drums aren’t being played. “Paint It, Black” is one of The Rolling Stones’ older tracks, released in 1966, and its standout features are the thumping drums, which perfectly complement the strummed guitar pattern.


16. “Dani California” by Red Hot Chili Peppers 

This intro starts with a loose groove, a slightly open hi-hat with enough to create a sizzle. The main snare accents are on the 2 and the 4, with a slight buzz roll on the 4th beat. Buzz rolls are a classic feature from Chad Smith, and they play a big part in many grooves in the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ song catalogue.

The main groove also locks in with the bass line to perfectly complement each other and create a funky groove and feel. This song is a great choice to jam along to due to its loose feel and slow tempo. There are plenty of ways to expand and experiment with different fills and embellishments.


17. “Walk this Way” by Aerosmith 

A classic, this song can be identified from the first beat. The choked open hi-hat is simply iconic, and the hi-hats are played in eighth notes with a hip-hop-style kick drum pattern. Together, this beat is the standout feature of the intro to “Walk This Way”.

One of the unique things about this intro is that, like a few of the intros we have visited, the basis of the drum part is a simple hip-hop beat. However, the power of the groove and how well it fits with the funky guitar riff ensures that the beat, which is used in many other songs from different artists, is memorable and instantly recognisable.

From one drummer to another

Learning drum introductions and fills is a great way to improve your playing, and there are a few things you can do to help make the learning process easier. When tackling a drum phrase, break down the structure by going bar by bar and beat by beat, or try playing the phrase at a slower tempo. This approach allows you to grasp the feel, technique, and pattern while maintaining good playing habits.

Depending on your preferred learning style, having the drum notation of a song at hand can be helpful in learning those tricky drum parts. If the notation is unavailable, you can also write the phrase out yourself, ensuring you understand the rhythm and solidifying your understanding of music theory and structure.

Lastly, listen to the song and the drum phrase as many times as possible. This will allow you to internalise how it sounds, identify the phrasings being used, and become more familiar with the timings. Regularly listening to the song will reinforce your understanding and aid in mastering the drum parts.

Extra gear you might need 

There are many things that you may need to help you with learning these drum intros, such as spare drumsticks and sticks that are better suited to you. To complement your sticks, a stick holder may also be beneficial; this will give you a place to store your sticks instead of balancing them on your snare drum.

Other additions include a comfortable drum throne for you to practise in comfort – this will give you playing longevity and help you play for longer periods. Practice pads are a great addition too, as they allow you to focus on technique with minimal noise.

Lastly, ear protection is a vital part of any practice or playing regime – when you’re exposed to high-decibel noises such as acoustic drums – and is a really good habit to get into. There are many different types of ear protection, so it’s important that you choose the correct protection to suit you. See our guide to hearing protection to help you decide on the one for you!

FAQs

 What ’80s song has a drum machine intro? 

 The most notable ’80s song with a drum beat intro is “Blue Monday” by New Order. This track starts with a thumping 808 kick drum playing quarter notes. It then goes on to feature choked electric crash cymbals. 


Is there such a thing as a drum riff? 

Drummers use the term “drum phrase”, groove, or drum fill along with other terms. This is the drum equivalent to a guitar riff and is a short version of a long drum phrase that is often repeated. 


 What is the most sampled drum groove? 

The most used groove/beat is the Amen break from the song “Amen, Brother” by The Winstons. Variations of this song can be found in a lot of popular music, especially genres such as hip-hop and drum and bass. 

Final thoughts  

Overall, there are many great songs with drum intros that are instantly recognisable from the first beat! This can be as simple as a tight groove or a shirt drum phrase. We’ve broken down the elements of some of the greatest songs with drum intros, and all that’s left to do is put them into practice! If you enjoyed this article, make sure you check out our other article about 15 Easy Drum Songs for Beginners. 

 

Digital Marketing Apprentice

Laura is a Content Writer with 15 years of drumming experience. Laura's musical tastes range from Led Zeppelin to Phoebe Bridgers.

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2 Comments

  1. Lexi Ryedale

    Oh my, a list of greatest songs with drum intros which omits Owner of a Lonely Heart by Yes?!

    Admittedly it’s a sample (though I’ve never been able to spot exactly where in the source track it appears (Kool is back, by Funk, Inc.)) but still – what an iconic first four beats of a song!

    Reply
  2. Mpcalhounjr@gmail.com

    The Other One by Greatful Dead if you don’t know it no sense discussing this any further.

    Reply

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