How to drum and sound like Queen’s Roger Taylor

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How to drum and sound like Queen’s Roger Taylor

Roger Taylor
Words by Christie Eliezer

“My mentor’s here tonight, Mr. fucking Roger Taylor.” the late Taylor Hawkins introduced the Queen drummer at a Foo Fighters show.

The circle turned. When Roger Taylor received his Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) at Windsor Castle in March 2022, he dedicated the honour to Hawkins who’d just died.

He explained that the Foos member had been a mentor to his own son Rufus.


Since 1970, Roger Taylor has been a mentor to many of today’s stars.

He was voted the eighth-greatest drummer in classic rock music history in a listener poll conducted by Planet Rock in 2005. 

Mostly through the 300 million records that Queen have sold, he has a personal worth of $200 million.

Different Story

Funnily, it could have been a different story. In 1968 the one time dentist student joined Smile, which included guitarist Brian May.

Smile didn’t amount to much but both players got noticed. When they split two years later, among the bands that offered Taylor a gig were Genesis.

But Taylor’s flatmate, aspiring singer Farrokh Bulsara (they met working at a weekend market) suggested he become their singer with a name change to Freddie Mercury, and the band becoming Queen.

Core Principle

Since then, Taylor has kept one core principle about his playing – knowing your place within the track and learning the song well.

He told Express, “As drummers, we drive the band, and I think the most important thing we can all do is play for the song. It’s not about showing off on your instrument. It’s about being aware of the whole song – not just the drum part.”

Great Songwriter

This has been made easier for Taylor because he’s also a great songwriter.

Among the songs he wrote, or co-wrote for Queen, were “Radio Ga Ga”, “A Kind Of Magic”, “Innuendo”, “These Are the Days of Our Lives” and “Heaven For Everyone.”

He’s not solely a drummer. In his solo albums, he plays keyboards, bass and guitar.

Keeping The Beat

But “We Will Rock You”, “Another One Bites The Dust”, “More Kicks”, “Stone Cold Crazy” and “A Kind Of Magic” are prime examples of how he keeps the beat, “hitting harder than anyone I know,” according to Brian May.

Queen wouldn’t have sounded as good with another skinsman, and it was the way his drumming made the music flow better through the many time changes and passages as not to turn off the listener.


The Approach

“I’ve always liked to use big drums. I like big, tuneful drums with a natural room sound, so the whole kit sounds balanced.”

“I wanted it to sound as though it were in a room and you were hearing the reverberation from the walls.”

All In The Wrist

 “If you’ve got decent wrists, which I think any decent drummer should have, the snap comes from there. That’s what makes it loud. 

“Also, you’ve got to be able to do perfect rimshots. That’s what makes the drums loud, not eight-foot long telegraph poles.”

Cymbal Minds

“I love cymbals, they provide wonderful dynamics. Quite often, I’ll overdub very specific cymbals. 

“Cymbals are very important; you have to know which ones to use in which places.”


He suggests thin ones, because “heads should be bright and responsive.”


“You have to pay constant attention to tuning.” In concert, he retunes his snare after each song.

“Most drummers don’t know how to tune their drums. 

“Keith Moon was one exception. He told me, ‘Just make the bottom skin a little tighter than the top skin,’ That’s how you get that ringing sound.”


“There’s something rather nice about spending the evening hitting things.”


As the video The Genius Of Roger Taylor showed, it was his technique and subtle touches which made him one of the greats and brought colour and texture to Queen’s diverse music.

One important element is the way he provides a greater punch to the backbeat.

He said, “By opening the hi-hat and closing it very fast, with the rimshot on the snare, on the backbeat, you can accentuate the backbeat even more.”


The video shows how this is most effective on “Play The Game” and “Somebody To Love”.

North American performer, author and academic Brandon Toews noted that Taylor’s canny use of cymbals is also important.

The video also gives example of his effects and samples (heart stereo panning for 30 seconds on “Fat Bottom Girls”) or the way he raced up the toms from floor to rack instead of going left to right.

Live Footage

It also recommends that if you want to study his technique, look at some of Queen’s live footage, as he often changes sounds to either increase the tension or complement Mercury vocals more.

Toews added: “Beer and drumming go hand in hand. 

“Roger Taylor was not an exception to that rule, as he would pour beer onto his floor tom whenever it required extra emphasis during a solo spot when playing with Queen.”


Although most aligned with Ludwig for most of his career, Taylor switched to DW who made some customised stuff.

They are mostly unavailable commercially except for the DW Roger Taylor “Queen Crest” ICON Snare Drum of which 250 were made.


Most of his stuff is custom-built to his specifications, but the kit is made up of items accumulated from different eras.

 26″ Custom Sleishman bass drum

14″ Ludwig tom

12″ Ludwig tom

16″ Ludwig floor tom

18″ Ludwig floor tom

King Pedal

Ludwig Speed ​​King pedal

5″ x 14″ Ludwig Supraphonic snare (from 1962)

Two Vintage Zildjian Ks

Two 15″ Avedis New Beat hi-hats


17″ K Zildjian crash cymbal

20″ K Zildjian crash cymbal

22″ K Zildjian ride

60″ Paiste gong

Vic Firth 5B-style sticks

He also has a Simmons electronic drum kit around his set-up, and uses a couple of RotoToms.

“Instead of using them as toms, I use them as timbales because they seem to cut through real nice.”


Born Roger Meddows Taylor on July 26, 1949, he went for a guitar at eight years old after seeing a cousin play it at a family get-together.

But he soon switched to drums because hit resounded better with his body, teaching himself, playing along to Beatles and blues records.

Christmas Present

For Christmas 1961 his father gave him a bass drum and a tom-tom for a total of £12.

The young boy then got himself a new Zildjian crash cymbal for eight shillings, and soon after a second tom-tom.

Shaped His Groove

Three drummers shaped his groove.

Keith Moon: “He played the drums like there’s no tomorrow, and his sound is unmatched in rock history. 

“You felt every hit he made. He doesn’t owe anything to anyone.”

Mitch Mitchell:  “You need to go back and listen to the early Jimi Hendrix Experience records.

He was my early role model. He played for the song, with strong jazz technique, and his hands moved so fast they were like a blur.

Perfect Precise

“Everything was perfect and precise, they were thought out and each one meant something. 

“His fills were fantastic, never flashy or overdone.

John Bonham: “He sounded like a thunder. He was the greatest, he did things on the kit that no one else could or even dreamt of.”


Queen have been making their presence felt in Australia since 1973, when their first album Queen sold 50,000 locally and over 3 million worldwide.

From 1974 their Australian popularity exploded with Sheer Heart Attack reaching 100,000 fans and A Night At The Opera was certified for 300,000 copies (their first Australian Number One album) after selling eleven million worldwide.


They had a nasty experience at the 1974 Sunbury festival from a well-juiced up crowd jeered at them.

According to road crews who were there, the crowd was getting irritated because the band delayed going on for half an hour because they had brought their expensive lighting production with them, and were waiting for the sun to set to give full impact.

The band apparently had not been provided with the on-stage towels they had requested, so their crews had solved the problem by going into their caravan and ripping down the curtains to make do.


Tensions rose between the Australian and English crews, and one of the MCs sneered on the mic, “Who needs these Pommie bastards” which led to jeers and anti-English rhetoric from the crowd.

But they continued to return, each time attracting younger and more fans.

Biggest Sellers

Their biggest Australian sellers were The Game (110,000), The Works (140,000) and Made In Heaven (100,000).

These respectively sold 9.3 million, 5.1 million and 9.5 million globally.


Streaming brought them to a bigger audience, with of course the Bohemian Rhapsody movie (which globally grossed over $1 billion) and the soundtrack shifted 140,000 here and became their second chart topper.

The soundtrack sold 24 million in the United States alone.

Song Sales

In 2018, the song “Bohemian Rhapsody” became the most streamed song from the 20th century, surpassing 1.6 billion streams globally across all major streaming services.

In 2021, it was awarded Diamond status for selling 10 million copies in the United States.

Guitarist Brian May said at the time, “Very happy that our music is still flowing to the max.”

Double Hit

“Bohemian Rhapsody” was a hit in Australia in 1976 and 1992 and sold close to 600,000.

In June 2024, the entire Queen music catalogue was sold to Sony for over $1 billion.


Aside from the millions he made with Queen and his solo work, Roger Taylor is also a film producer, a record producer and owns The Wild bar in Hollywood with a consortium including Queen singer Adam Lambert.

He has stately homes in England and Switzerland.

Car Collection

His car collection includes a blue 1960s Morris Mini, red 1975 Alfa Romeo Spyder, black  Porsche 356 Speedster, a red 1977 Ferrari 308 GTB, a green 1979 Aston Martin V8 Volente series 1, a black 1978 Mercedes 450 SL Roadster, orange 1980 Chevrolet Love truck, a blue 1981 Range Rover, army green Aston Martin DB 7, a black 1995 Mazda MX5, a grey BMW7, and a bright blue 2012 Porsche Panama Turbo. 

He has five children, from his two marriages.

The first was to one-time Richard Branson assistant Dominique Beyrand (1977 to 1988) after meeting her when Queen were putting together their 1976 concert at London’s Hyde Park.

Sarina Potgieter whom he married in August 2010, is a South African born producer and film/video maker.