The Beat Goes On: A Look at the Evolution of The Who’s Drumming

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The Beat Goes On: A Look at the Evolution of The Who’s Drumming

The Who is a legendary rock band that has been making music for over five decades. Their energetic live performances and iconic songs have captivated audiences around the world. But who is drumming for The Who? This question has been a topic of discussion among fans for years. The drummer is the backbone of any rock band, and The Who has had several drummers over the years. In this article, we will take a look at the evolution of The Who’s drumming and the drummers who have played a vital role in the band’s success. So, get ready to explore the beat that keeps The Who going strong!

The Early Years: Keith Moon’s Wild Riffs

The Origins of The Who’s Drumming

The origins of The Who’s drumming can be traced back to the early 1960s, when the band was first formed. At the time, drumming was not given the same level of importance as other instruments such as guitar and bass. However, this changed with the arrival of Keith Moon, who brought a new level of energy and creativity to the drums.

Moon was influenced by the likes of drummers such as Ginger Baker and Mitch Mitchell, who were known for their innovative and unconventional styles. He brought this influence to The Who, and his playing quickly became a defining element of the band’s sound.

One of Moon’s most notable contributions to The Who’s drumming was his use of unconventional techniques, such as playing with his feet instead of using a bass drum pedal. This added a new level of dynamism to the band’s music, and allowed Moon to create unique rhythms and patterns that had not been heard before in rock music.

Additionally, Moon’s drumming was characterized by his use of loud, powerful hits and explosive fills, which added a new level of energy to the band’s music. This was particularly evident in the band’s live performances, where Moon’s drumming often stole the show.

Overall, the origins of The Who’s drumming can be traced back to the arrival of Keith Moon, who brought a new level of energy and creativity to the drums. His unconventional techniques and powerful playing style helped to define the band’s sound, and made him one of the most influential drummers in rock music history.

Keith Moon’s Unique Style

Keith Moon, The Who’s original drummer, was known for his wild and unpredictable style. He was known for his fast and powerful drumming, and his ability to incorporate unconventional sounds and rhythms into his playing. Some of his signature moves included smashing cymbals and using unconventional objects like garbage can lids and maracas as percussion instruments. His unique style was a key factor in The Who’s early success and helped to establish them as one of the most innovative and exciting bands of the 1960s.

The Transition: Kenney Jones Takes Over

Key takeaway: The evolution of The Who’s drumming has been instrumental in shaping the sound of rock music. From Keith Moon’s wild and unpredictable style to Kenney Jones’ more precise and technical approach, The Who has continuously adapted to the changing musical landscape. Today, Zak Starkey’s energetic and creative drumming style continues to push the boundaries of rock music.

The Aftermath of Keith Moon’s Death

The Shock and Sorrow of Losing a Legend

The sudden demise of Keith Moon on September 7, 1978, due to a drug overdose, left the world of rock ‘n’ roll and The Who’s fans in a state of shock and sorrow. His untimely death at the age of 32 not only robbed the world of a talented musician but also deprived The Who of their integral drummer. The news of Moon’s death sent waves of grief throughout the music industry, with many fellow musicians paying their respects to the legendary drummer.

The Challenge of Finding a Replacement

With the loss of their iconic drummer, The Who faced the daunting task of finding a suitable replacement to fill the void left by Keith Moon. His unique style and energy were irreplaceable, and it was evident that whoever would take over would have big shoes to fill. The band had to consider not only technical skills but also the ability to capture the essence of Moon’s contribution to the band’s sound and identity.

Kenney Jones: A Respectable Choice

After a period of uncertainty and mourning, The Who decided to bring in Kenney Jones, the former drummer of the Small Faces and the Faces, to take over the drumming duties. Jones was a respected musician in his own right, with a solid background in rock ‘n’ roll and a reputation for his powerful and precise drumming style. Despite the pressure of following in Moon’s footsteps, Jones was eager to join the band and contribute to their musical journey.

The Transition: Adapting to New Soundscapes

The integration of Kenney Jones into The Who’s lineup marked a significant transition in the band’s sound and identity. Jones’ drumming style differed from Moon’s in terms of technique and approach, which led to a change in the overall tone of the band’s music. While some fans were hesitant to accept the change, others embraced the new direction, eager to see what the future held for The Who.

The Continuation of The Who’s Legacy

Despite the loss of Keith Moon, The Who persevered, with Kenney Jones taking the helm as their drummer. Jones’ contributions to the band’s music, although different from Moon’s, helped shape the sound of The Who in the years to come. The band continued to create memorable and impactful music, proving that even in the face of adversity, their legacy could endure.

Kenney Jones’ Influence on The Who’s Sound

When Kenney Jones joined The Who in 1975, he brought with him a unique style of drumming that had a profound impact on the band’s sound. While Moon’s style was unconventional and unpredictable, Jones’ approach was more precise and technical.

One of the key ways in which Jones influenced The Who’s sound was through his ability to provide a solid rhythmic foundation for the band’s music. Jones’ drumming was characterized by his use of precise and complex drum patterns, which helped to create a sense of structure and coherence in The Who’s music.

Jones’ influence on The Who’s sound was particularly evident in the band’s later albums, such as “The Who by Numbers” and “Face Dances”, which featured more complex and polished arrangements than earlier recordings. His technical skill and precision allowed him to play intricate drum parts that added depth and texture to the band’s music.

In addition to his technical prowess, Jones also brought a new level of professionalism to The Who. He was a disciplined and dedicated musician who took his role in the band seriously, and his commitment to excellence helped to elevate the band’s overall performance.

Overall, Kenney Jones’ influence on The Who’s sound was significant and lasting. While his style was different from Moon’s, he brought a fresh perspective to the band’s music that helped to shape their sound in the latter years of their career.

The Modern Era: Zak Starkey’s Loud and Fast Beats

The Influence of Grunge and Alternative Rock

During the 1990s, grunge and alternative rock emerged as prominent genres in the music industry, significantly impacting the sound and style of rock music. These genres emphasized a raw, energetic, and often aggressive approach to music-making, which influenced The Who’s drumming style during the modern era.

Emphasis on Loud and Fast Beats

Grunge and alternative rock bands placed a strong emphasis on loud and fast beats, with drummers often using a heavily distorted, aggressive tone. This influence can be heard in Zak Starkey’s drumming style, as he incorporated faster and more intense rhythms into The Who’s music. His energetic approach to drumming reflected the new wave of rock music that was taking over the industry.

The Use of Distortion and Effects

Another notable aspect of grunge and alternative rock drumming was the extensive use of distortion and effects on guitars and drums. This trend led to a greater experimentation with sounds and textures in rock music, which can be seen in The Who’s music during this period. Starkey embraced these techniques, incorporating various effects and distortion on his drum kit to create a more dynamic and sonically rich sound.

Exploration of Non-Traditional Rhythms

Grunge and alternative rock bands also experimented with non-traditional rhythms and time signatures, breaking away from the traditional 4/4 beat that had dominated rock music for decades. This exploration can be heard in The Who’s music during the modern era, as Starkey incorporated more complex and unconventional rhythms into their songs. This allowed the band to push the boundaries of their sound and keep up with the evolving musical landscape.

In conclusion, the influence of grunge and alternative rock on The Who’s drumming during the modern era was significant. These genres encouraged a shift towards louder, faster, and more experimental rhythms, which can be heard in Zak Starkey’s drumming style. By embracing these new sounds and techniques, The Who was able to adapt to the changing musical landscape and continue to make an impact on the rock music scene.

Zak Starkey’s Contributions to The Who’s Music

As the son of The Who’s original drummer, Keith Moon, Zak Starkey had big shoes to fill when he joined the band in 1994. However, he quickly made a name for himself with his powerful and energetic drumming style, which brought a fresh sound to The Who’s music.

One of Starkey’s most notable contributions to The Who’s music is his ability to bring a modern edge to their classic hits. His drumming style is characterized by its loud and fast beats, which add a new level of intensity to songs like “My Generation” and “The Who’s Tommy.”

In addition to his powerful drumming, Starkey has also shown a great deal of versatility as a musician. He has incorporated elements of rock, punk, and even electronica into his drumming style, bringing a new level of creativity to The Who’s music.

Another significant contribution that Starkey has made to The Who’s music is his ability to seamlessly blend in with the rest of the band. Unlike some drummers who overpower the music with their playing, Starkey’s drumming is always in service of the song, adding to the overall sound without overwhelming it.

Overall, Zak Starkey’s contributions to The Who’s music have been significant and far-reaching. His powerful and energetic drumming style has brought a new level of intensity to the band’s music, while his versatility and ability to blend in with the rest of the band have helped to create a cohesive and dynamic sound.

The Current Lineup: Pete Townshend’s Vision

The Role of Drumming in The Who’s Music Today

The Who’s music today is a testament to the enduring power of drumming as an integral part of their sound. In the current lineup, the role of drumming is more pronounced than ever before, with the drummer playing a pivotal role in driving the music forward. Here are some key points to consider when it comes to the role of drumming in The Who’s music today:

Dynamic Energy and Drive

One of the most notable aspects of The Who’s music today is the dynamic energy and drive that the drumming brings to the table. From the opening notes of each song, the drummer sets the tone and establishes a sense of urgency that carries throughout the entire performance. Whether it’s the pounding beat of “Who Are You” or the intricate rhythms of “Baba O’Riley,” the drumming is always at the forefront of the music, providing a powerful foundation for the rest of the band to build upon.

Creative Flexibility

Another key aspect of the role of drumming in The Who’s music today is the creative flexibility that it allows. While the drummer is certainly an integral part of the rhythm section, they also have the freedom to experiment and push the boundaries of their instrument. From subtle fills and cymbal work to more elaborate solos and improvisations, the drummer has the opportunity to add their own unique stamp to each performance, bringing a sense of spontaneity and unpredictability to the music.

Musical Storytelling

Finally, the role of drumming in The Who’s music today is also about musical storytelling. Through the use of rhythm, dynamics, and texture, the drummer has the ability to convey a wide range of emotions and moods, from the aggressive energy of “Substitute” to the more introspective tones of “The Acid Queen.” By carefully crafting their drumming, the drummer becomes a narrator of sorts, guiding the listener through the twists and turns of each song and helping to create a rich and immersive musical experience.

Overall, the role of drumming in The Who’s music today is one of vital importance, providing the foundation for the band’s sound and allowing for dynamic energy, creative flexibility, and musical storytelling. Whether you’re a fan of classic hits like “My Generation” or newer material like “I Saw the Light,” the drumming is always at the forefront, driving the music forward and making it a truly unforgettable experience.

The Importance of Adaptation and Evolution

In order to stay relevant and continue to push the boundaries of rock music, The Who has always been open to adapting and evolving their sound. This has meant incorporating new musical elements and technologies, as well as experimenting with different song structures and lyrical themes.

One of the key ways that The Who has adapted and evolved over the years is through the use of new musical instruments and technologies. For example, Pete Townshend’s use of the synthesizer in the late 1970s and early 1980s helped to create a new sound for the band, and the incorporation of electronic drums in the 1990s allowed for even more sonic experimentation.

In addition to incorporating new instruments and technologies, The Who has also been willing to experiment with different song structures and lyrical themes. This has allowed the band to explore a wide range of musical styles and themes, from the political commentary of “Won’t Get Fooled Again” to the more introspective and personal lyrics of “Behind Blue Eyes.”

Ultimately, The Who’s willingness to adapt and evolve has been a key factor in the band’s enduring success and continued relevance. By staying open to new musical ideas and approaches, The Who has been able to continue pushing the boundaries of rock music and creating innovative and influential work.

The Future of The Who’s Drumming

The Legacy of Keith Moon and Kenney Jones

The Who’s drumming has been shaped by the unique styles and innovative techniques of its drummers, particularly Keith Moon and Kenney Jones. Both of these drummers have left an indelible mark on the band’s sound and continue to influence the music industry to this day.

Keith Moon, often considered one of the greatest drummers of all time, was known for his powerful and dynamic style. He brought a sense of excitement and energy to The Who’s live performances, utilizing his kit in unconventional ways to create a distinct sound. Moon’s approach to drumming was heavily influenced by jazz, and he incorporated complex rhythms and time signatures into The Who’s music. His influence can be heard in the intricate drum work on songs like “The Real Me” and “Baba O’Riley.”

Kenney Jones, who replaced Moon after his untimely death, brought a more polished and precise style to The Who’s drumming. While Moon’s approach was raw and spontaneous, Jones’ playing was more measured and controlled. He focused on providing a solid foundation for the band’s music, allowing the other members to showcase their talents. Jones’ playing can be heard on classic songs like “You Better You Bet” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”

Despite their different approaches, both Moon and Jones left a lasting legacy on The Who’s drumming. Their unique styles and innovative techniques continue to inspire drummers around the world, and their influence can be heard in the music of many contemporary bands. As The Who continues to evolve and innovate, the legacy of Moon and Jones will undoubtedly continue to shape the band’s sound for years to come.

The Influence of Modern Drumming Techniques

The Who’s drumming has always been characterized by its raw energy and power, but as time has passed, modern drumming techniques have had a significant influence on the band’s sound. In this section, we will explore how modern drumming techniques have impacted The Who’s music.

Incorporation of Electronic Drums

One of the most significant changes in modern drumming techniques is the incorporation of electronic drums. Many drummers, including The Who’s drummer, have embraced the use of electronic drums in their performances. Electronic drums offer a wide range of sounds and can be easily programmed to fit the specific needs of a song. This has allowed The Who to experiment with new sounds and textures in their music, adding a modern twist to their classic sound.

Use of Unconventional Percussion Instruments

Another trend in modern drumming techniques is the use of unconventional percussion instruments. In The Who’s music, this can be seen in the use of non-traditional instruments such as tambourines, maracas, and cowbells. These instruments add a unique flavor to the band’s sound and help to create a more dynamic and interesting rhythm section.

Emphasis on Precision and Technical Skill

Finally, modern drumming techniques have placed a greater emphasis on precision and technical skill. This is evident in the intricate drum solos and complex rhythms that are commonly featured in modern rock music. The Who’s drummer has embraced this trend, incorporating technical skills and intricate rhythms into their performances. This has helped to keep The Who’s music fresh and relevant, ensuring that it remains a vital part of the modern rock scene.

Overall, the influence of modern drumming techniques has had a significant impact on The Who’s music. By incorporating electronic drums, unconventional percussion instruments, and emphasizing precision and technical skill, The Who has managed to stay relevant and maintain their position as one of the most influential bands in rock music history.

The Impact of The Who’s Drumming on Rock Music

The Influence of Keith Moon on Other Drummers

Keith Moon, the drummer for The Who, was known for his unique style and powerful playing, which had a significant impact on the world of rock music. Many drummers have cited Moon as a major influence on their own playing, and his style can be heard in the music of numerous bands.

One of the key aspects of Moon’s playing that influenced other drummers was his use of unconventional drumming techniques. He was known for his ability to create a wide range of sounds on the drums, from quiet to loud, and he often used unusual techniques such as playing the drums with his hands or using unconventional drumming patterns.

Moon’s playing also had a significant impact on the visual aspect of drumming. His energetic and dynamic stage presence, which included smashing drumsticks and even destroying his drum kit, became a staple of rock concerts. Many drummers have followed in his footsteps, incorporating visual elements into their performances in order to enhance the overall experience for the audience.

Additionally, Moon’s contributions to rock music went beyond his drumming. He was known for his creative input in The Who’s music, and his sense of humor and personality helped to shape the band’s image. Many drummers have followed in his footsteps, using their creativity and sense of humor to help define the identity of their own bands.

Overall, Keith Moon’s influence on other drummers cannot be overstated. His unique style, unconventional techniques, and dynamic stage presence have inspired countless drummers, and his contributions to rock music continue to be felt to this day.

The Lasting Impact of The Who’s Sound on Rock Music

The Who’s unique sound, which incorporated Townshend’s innovative guitar techniques, Daltrey’s powerful vocals, and Entwistle’s unconventional bass playing, also extended to the drumming of Keith Moon. Moon’s style was characterized by his energetic and unpredictable playing, incorporating a wide range of dynamics and rhythms. His drumming was a crucial element in the band’s sound, contributing to their reputation as one of the most exciting and innovative rock bands of the 1960s and 1970s.

The Who’s drumming, and Moon’s playing in particular, had a significant impact on the development of rock music. Many bands were influenced by Moon’s style, incorporating his dynamic and unpredictable approach to drumming into their own music. In addition, Moon’s drumming was featured prominently in many of The Who’s most famous songs, including “My Generation,” “Pinball Wizard,” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”

Moon’s impact on rock music can also be seen in the evolution of rock drumming as a whole. Prior to Moon’s emergence, drumming in rock music was often straightforward and predictable, with drummers primarily focusing on keeping a steady beat. Moon’s innovative approach to drumming, with its emphasis on creativity and unpredictability, helped to redefine the role of the drummer in rock music.

Furthermore, Moon’s drumming had a lasting impact on the music industry as a whole. His innovative approach to drumming helped to push the boundaries of what was possible in rock music, paving the way for future generations of musicians to experiment with new sounds and techniques. Moon’s influence can be heard in the music of many later rock bands, including The Ramones, The Clash, and Nirvana, all of whom incorporated elements of The Who’s sound into their own music.

Overall, the lasting impact of The Who’s sound on rock music cannot be overstated. From their innovative use of guitar feedback to their groundbreaking drumming, The Who helped to shape the sound of rock music as we know it today.


1. Who is currently drumming for The Who?

The current drummer for The Who is Zak Starkey. He has been with the band since 1996, following in the footsteps of his father, Ringo Starr, who was a member of The Beatles.

2. Who were the original drummers for The Who?

The original drummer for The Who was Keith Moon, who was a founding member of the band. He played with The Who from their formation in 1964 until his death in 1978. After Moon’s death, the band auditioned several drummers before settling on Kenney Jones as their new drummer. Jones played with The Who from 1979 until 2015, when he retired from touring.

3. How has The Who’s drumming evolved over the years?

The Who’s drumming has evolved significantly over the years, particularly during the early days of the band. Keith Moon was known for his energetic and unpredictable drumming style, which often included unconventional techniques such as playing with his feet and using unorthodox drumming patterns. After Moon’s death, Kenney Jones brought a more traditional rock drumming style to the band, focusing on solid grooves and steady beats. With the arrival of Zak Starkey, The Who’s drumming has continued to evolve, incorporating elements of both Moon’s wild style and Jones’ more measured approach.

4. What makes The Who’s drumming unique?

The Who’s drumming has always been known for its energy and creativity. Keith Moon was a pioneer of unconventional drumming techniques, and his influence can still be heard in the band’s music today. Even after Moon’s death, The Who has continued to push the boundaries of rock drumming, with Kenney Jones and Zak Starkey bringing their own unique styles to the band. The Who’s drumming is also notable for its ability to support and enhance the band’s music, rather than simply providing a beat. Whether it’s Moon’s frenetic fills or Starkey’s dynamic grooves, The Who’s drumming has always been an integral part of the band’s sound.

Keith Moon’s Drumming (The Who)

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