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Ringo Starr remains one of the most famous drummers, and it’s not just because he was in the Beatles. His abilities behind the kit are first-rate, so much so that he was one of the only drummers George Harrison depended on during his solo career. Starr’s drumming skills are even more impressive when you learn one fact about him and the kit he’s used for decades.

Ringo Starr drumming during a 1965 Beatles concert in Italy. Ringo's drumming skills are even more impressive when you consider he plays a kit set up for right-handed drummers.
Ringo Starr drumming during a 1965 Beatles concert | Sergio del Grande/Mondadori via Getty Images

Ringo Starr was so good at drumming that other musicians praised him

Ringo was one of the only drummers George trusted to contribute to his solo albums. And it’s hard to listen to Beatles songs like “Come Together” or “Tomorrow Never Knows” and not be astounded by Ringo’s drumming. In both cases, the beats make the songs instantly recognizable.

Phil Collins, also known for his top-shelf skills on the skins, praised Ringo’s drumming. Collins, who was an extra in the A Hard Day’s Night movie, knew he was filming a Beatles movie because he recognized Ringo’s kit.

An urban legend held that John Lennon claimed Ringo wasn’t even the best drummer in the Beatles. That wasn’t true. John once said that, while not a technical wizard, Ringo was a talented and a damn fine drummer.

That praise for Ringo’s drumming skills overshadows one fact that makes his timekeeping even more impressive.

Ringo’s drumming is even more impressive when you learn he plays backward

Stringed instruments come in right- and left-handed versions. However, a drummer can rearrange their kit to suit the dominant hand. Ringo’s drumming skills are even more impressive when you consider he’s a lefty who’s played with a right-handed set-up for decades, as he told Conan O’Brien:

“I was born left-handed, and my grandmother thought that was not a good sign, and so she turned me right-handed. So I write right-handed, but anything else I do left-handed; golf and whatever. So I have a right-handed kit, but I lead with my left. It makes it weird because I need time to do a fill … [Conan’s drummer] can roll from the snare to the tom-tom to the floor tom, where I can’t do that because I’ve got to come under [my right hand] all the time. I can go this way [to my left] really good.”

Ringo Starr on his drumming technique

So why didn’t Ringo ever adjust his kit, especially after the Beatles made it big? It might have been because, after years of playing drums with a righty set-up, he became proficient leading with his left hand despite the challenges. The backward playing also helped give him a signature sound. 

“He would lead with his left hand, which most right-handed drummers, when you go around the drums, you lead with your right hand,” Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith said during a promo video for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (via YouTube). “And there is a different sound to it, a different feel to it.”

That different sound and feel contributed to some signature drum riffs, such as his mini-solo early in the Abbey Road song “The End.”

Are Paul McCartney and Ringo still friends?


Ringo Starr Left The Beatles Because He Felt Left out, Then Learned the Other Members Felt the Same Way

The Beatles split on less than perfect terms after nearly a decade making music — and history – together. Their time together as a quartet had run its course, but their shared history ensured each of them remained close with the others. That includes Ringo and Paul McCartney.

Paul once threw Ringo out of his house when the drummer tried to deliver a letter from the other three Beatles, but that moment of conflict didn’t sour their relationship. Before the band broke up, Macca said his drummer was a pro for never being late to rehearsals. 

They’ve made time to meet up socially and play together over the years. Just as George had Ringo lend his stickwork to his solo work, so did Paul. Ringo lent his drumming skills to several of Paul’s solo albums. And Paul and Ringo FaceTime each other on the regular when they’re not playing together or meeting for dinner.

Whether with the Beatles, solo, or with his All-Starr Band, Ringo Starr’s drumming skills have never failed to impress.

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