What Are The Best Drum Intros?

When people think of great drum tracks, they’ll likely think of thunderous fills and breakneck speeds, but does technical proficiency really make the song great?

Unless a drum part is effective in supporting the song, is it not just trying to steal the limelight? With this list, I’ve attempted to highlight three well known rock and grunge tracks that effectively use a very simple drum intro to complement the piece as a whole, rather than just a badass drum fill or beat.

Photograph Author: JosuéJacob

And below these three I list nine of my all time favorite drum intro’s that I know you’ll recognize and enjoy.

Pixies: Where is my Mind?

This track is known for a lot of things, like: haunting backing vocals; Fight Club; making shit-tonnes of money; being butchered by open-mic singers ad-nauseam and so on.

Where is my Mind? is perhaps not known for having an epic drum intro, but what good would this list be if it had no left-field entries?

David Lovering keeps this intro simple and merely exaggeratedly crescendos snare drum (sixteenth note) semi-quavers, which contrasts very nicely to the acoustic guitar.

The drums signal the misdirect that is the quiet intro to the song, before dropping into the dissonant but somewhat sweet guitar line and pretty thunderously produced drums.

Where is My Mind? sticks out to me as having a great drum intro because of its incredibly effective use in the culmination of Fight Club (incoming spoilers if you haven’t seen this 18-year old film yet).

Much like the musical misdirect I just mentioned, the film begins to suggest a sweet, happy ending, with the main characters finally being on the same page, and like the song, the world is once again thrown into disarray as we see the consequences of the protagonist’s actions – namely several crumbling buildings, the detonations of which sync up perfectly with the aforementioned crescendo.

R.E.M.: It’s the End of the World as we Know it (And I Feel Fine)

A killer drum intro perhaps isn’t the first thing that springs to mind when one thinks of this track – more likely you’ll focus on it’s catchy-as-all-hell counter-melodic chorus or Leonard Bernstein.

All the other great parts of this song aside, the intro is just a shot of clever, unnecessary snobbery designed simply to throw people off. There’s a lot of ways you could write it – maybe it’s more simply written as 2 bars of 4 with a 1 beat pick up – but this is essentially what’s happening:

The rest of the band joins in on bar 3 and percussion-wise, the song remains pretty straightforward throughout. The addition of this extra beat in the second bar very much feels like REM saying “Well, we’ve written a really radio friendly, catchy song, but just to be awkward, let’s make the intro feel wrong.”

It’s reminiscent of the Outkast song Hey Ya, which is undeniably poppy and catchy too, though for some reason unbeknownst to anyone but himself, Andre 3000 introduces the song by counting in a bar of 3/4, before dropping into a standard 4/4 groove (with the odd bar of 6, sure).

This kind of thing has to be a wink to the musicians and over thinkers of the world, right? I remember playing Hey Ya in my college ensemble and having to explain to the singer about 7 times why “I keep coming in wrong.”

Anyway, I love this kind of intro that just messes with the listener for no reason and while it’s not quite as iconic as Final Countdown, it makes you think.

Nirvana: Smells Like Teen Spirit

Oh man. I know this is a cliché choice, but how can it be denied entry into this very prestigious list? Dave Grohl’s thundering intro to Smells Like Teen Spirit has to be considered one of the most iconic of all time, excluding Phil Collins’ In The Air Tonight, which arguably had a fair bit of help from a gorilla-toting Cadbury advert.

The story of this intro sheds a little light on its brilliance, which I either read in a rock biography or heard on Nirvana’s episode of Classic Albums. Cobain considered himself a bit of a drummer and speaking from experience, having the lead singer tell you how to play your instrument can be infuriating.

By all accounts, Cobain kept asking Grohl to play the intro again, giving very limited specifics on what was missing, so out of frustration, the Foo Fighters frontman went back into the booth and beat the drums half to death. That take is the one we’re all so familiar with and that also encapsulates Grohl’s early drumming style so perfectly.

Maybe it’s just a good story, but I still play this intro from time to time, so Kurt must have been onto something.

9 Of My All Time Favorite Drum Intro’s!

Some of my favorite drum intro’s come from bands such as Rush, and The Police, Dream Theatre, and many more. Here are just a few of my favorite drum intro’s of all time.

Limelight:

Technically, it’s a guitar intro. But this the drum part is also part of the intro and drummers worldwide are constantly practicing this off time intro.

Digital Man:

A huge sound from one the great drum legends.

Sprung Monkey:

Stanton Moore plays this intro shorter and just on the snare drum. Check it out. But this live version is a little longer and more interesting in my opinion.

D’yer Mak’er:

One of the most well known drum intro’s, ever.

Ghost In The Machine:

A short intro but it’s another well known signature intro that everyone identifies with.

Rock And Roll:

John Bonham is a legend, and his drum grooves and intro’s have a unique hard grooving sound. Many drummers try to emulate his sound. But you know a Bohnam groove and drum fill when you hear. And that says a lot.

When The Levee Breaks:

One of the best grooves of all time.

Take The Money and Run:

This is simply a killer drum intro and groove, all in one. The drum sound is fantastic.

Hot For Teacher:

I almost forgot this one! This is the hardest of all the drum introductions listed above. It’s played at about 180 bpm. It begins with a series of herta’s intermingled with singles and then a double bass drum shuffle is introduced. It’s so bad ass but at the same time technical and musical. Drummers have been trying to reverse engineer this drum part of decades.
 

Comment below and let me know what your favorite drum intro’s are!