Rock drummers used to become legends by pounding out epic arena solos. These days, players are just as likely to become famous by uploading covers of beloved songs to YouTube or Instagram, which can rack up huge numbers. When it comes to going viral, flair, originality, and a grabby conceptual hook can matter more than chops. Here are four online drummers who rose to the top.
The Hook: There are DIY musicians, and then there’s this YouTube drumming sensation, who rocketed to viral fame earlier this year with his spot-on prog and metal covers, played on a kit fashioned from literal junk: a snare and tom-toms made from plastic buckets and water jugs, metal pot covers used as cymbals, and even ingenious makeshift foot pedals for his “bass drum” and “hi-hats.”
The Backstory: A father of two living in Batu Lambang Village, at the southern end of the Indonesian island of Sumatra, the drummer — born Deden Pramana — was gigging at local weddings before the pandemic. Once Covid hit, he put together his now-famous scrap kit, which he claims cost him only around $7. The finishing touches? Fake cymbal logos, in the style of renowned manufacturers Paiste and Sabian, reading “Pasti” and “Gajian,” or, read together, “definitely getting paid.”
Key Video: Noy’s percussive batting average is shockingly high — and the unfurnished brick structure he performs in only makes his skills stand out that much more. It’s fun to watch him nail songs by Metallica and Muse, but his cover of Rush’s “Tom Sawyer” is the one we keep coming back to. It’s proof that you don’t need a tricked-out Neil Peart kit to play flawless prog.
“Wow” Moment: This past spring, Noy received a dream gift in the form of his first actual drum kit, thanks to the efforts of Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy, his idol since junior high (and the namesake of his first child). “I’ll take care of this, and it will be my motivation,” Noy wrote to Portnoy on Instagram, holding a cymbal Portnoy and Sabian had gifted him.
The Hook: It’s impossible to keep yourself from smiling while watching Nandi Bushell play the drums. Rock’s popularity has been on the decline in recent years, but apparently no one told the 11-year-old resident of Ipswich, England, who’s captivated the internet with her volcanically joyous covers of songs by Queens of the Stone Age, Rage Against the Machine, and other heavy hitters.
The Backstory: Bushell grew up with a rock-loving father who used to play her the Beatles at the breakfast table, and got her first drum set at age five. Jamming at home with Dad led to sitting in at local clubs, and once she started posting videos to YouTube, viral fame — and co-signs from everyone from Questlove to Dave Grohl — quickly followed.
Key Video: We love Bushell’s loop-assisted one-man-band renditions of rock staples like “Immigrant Song” and “Where Is My Mind?,” but the clip we keep coming back to is the one that originally caught Grohl’s eye: her 2019 cover of Nirvana’s “In Bloom,” where she grimaces along to the groove and punctuates her cymbal crashes and snare rolls with triumphant shouts.
“Wow” Moment: These days it’s fairly standard for viral drummers to earn co-signs from the famous artists they cover, but Bushell got something even better from Grohl: an actual original song about her, written and performed by the head Foo Fighter. Connecting with Bushell over Zoom, Grohl said it was like “meeting a Beatle.”
The Hook: Usually, it’s safe to assume that YouTube covers get made after dozens of false starts. But Larnell Lewis’ videos for the online outlet Drumeo up the stakes with a daredevil twist: He covers songs he’s never heard before he starts filming. Watching these videos isn’t just a chance to marvel at Lewis’ technical skill, it’s an opportunity to map out a pro’s musical thought process in real time.
The Backstory: Growing up in Toronto, Lewis learned gospel through his father, a music director at a Pentecostal church. He joined jazz-fusion crew Snarky Puppy in 2012. Since then, he’s performed on multiple Grammy-winning albums. (And he’s not the only drummer in his family: His brother Ricky gigs with the Weeknd.)
Key Video: “I know what you are thinking: There’s no way I haven’t heard this song before,” Lewis tells the camera before launching into Metallica’s “Enter Sandman.” “But I’m not lying when I say I’ve never heard or played this tune in my life.” Watching him navigate the song, with all its off-beat accents and quirky shifts, is like watching a supercomputer at work.
“Wow” Moment: Lewis’ “Sandman” video even spawned its own wave of reaction videos. It’s almost as fun watching fellow drummers watch him learn the song as it is to take in the original Drumeo clip. “I wonder if he’s gonna do another listen and write out a cheat sheet,” YouTuber Andrew Rooney wondered. “Dude got a photographic memory?”
The Hook: When watching YouTube covers, a musician’s unpolished, amateurish approach can be part of the charm. But from the time she first went viral, Japanese drummer Yoyoka Soma, then all of eight years old, was already scarily proficient. Kicking off her classic- and alt-rock covers with a sweet smile and a wave of her sticks, Soma proceeds to absolutely own each tune she tackles.
The Backstory: Soma was playing by age two and performing by four. A couple of years later, she joined her parents’ family pop band, Kaneaiyoyoka. Her 2018 performance of Led Zeppelin’s “Good Times, Bad Times,” from the all-female Hit Like a Girl drum contest, led to appearances on Ellen and encouragement from Dave Grohl.
Key Video: Even for seasoned drummers, reproducing John Bonham’s part on “Good Times, Bad Times,” at once intricate and crushing, is a serious challenge. But Soma’s take on the song feels almost eerily effortless. She doesn’t just nail the notes themselves; she also captures Bonham’s legendary laid-back groove, which drummers have struggled to copy for decades.
“Wow” Moment: In addition to her Grohl endorsement, Soma got a thumbs-up from none other than Robert Plant. “Whoa!” the singer exclaimed, as he watched her “Good Times, Bad Times” clip. “It’s like falling off a log for her.” Then, clearly delighted by what he’d seen, he added, “I know where she can get a good job.”
Two More to Check Out
Hyper-energetic young Long Island drummer Greyson Nekrutman regularly shows-off his eye-popping technique and world-class showmanship on his Instagram page, where he can be found covering everything from the revved-up swing of Buddy Rich to the choppy math metal of Tool.
On his Bonhamology YouTube channel, the John Bonham–obsessed George Fludas not only covers Led Zeppelin songs, he’s been known to cover entire Led Zeppelin shows, such as a two-plus hour 1973 gig, performed straight-through from beginning to end.