While Starr himself has been the first to acknowledge the technical limitations of his drumming for the Beatles, the overall effect of his contribution has received high praise from notable drummers. Starr said, "Whenever I hear another drummer I know I'm no good. I'm no good on the technical things ... I'm your basic offbeat drummer with funny fills. The fills were funny because I'm really left-handed playing a right-handed kit. I can't roll around the drums because of that."
Martin's version was, "Ringo hit good and hard and used the tom-tom well, even though he couldn't do a roll to save his life", although Martin later added, "He's got tremendous feel. He always helped us to hit the right tempo for a song, and gave it that support — that rock-solid back-beat — that made the recording of all the Beatles' songs that much easier."
Martin praised Starr's drumming on Sgt. Pepper,
calling him "probably ... the finest rock drummer in the world today."
Lennon said, "Ringo's a damn good drummer. He always was a good drummer. He's not technically good, but I think Ringo's drumming is underrated the same way as Paul's bass playing is underrated."
McCartney sent Starr a postcard on 31 January 1969 (the day after the band's performance on the roof of Apple Studios), stating: "You are the greatest drummer in the world. Really."[nb 1]
Readers of Rolling Stone
magazine voted Starr as the fifth-greatest drummer of all time.
Drummer Steve Smith
extolled Starr's qualities beyond the technical, in terms of his musical contribution as drummer:
Before Ringo, drum stars were measured by their soloing ability and virtuosity. Ringo's popularity brought forth a new paradigm in how the public saw drummers. We started to see the drummer as an equal participant in the compositional aspect. One of Ringo's great qualities was that he composed unique, stylistic drum parts for the Beatles' songs. His parts are so signature to the songs that you can listen to a Ringo drum part without the rest of the music and still identify the song.
Starr influenced Phil Collins
the drummer for Genesis
, who said:
Starr is vastly underrated. The drum fills on the song "A Day in the Life" are very complex things. You could take a great drummer today and say, 'I want it like that.' He wouldn't know what to do.
In September 1980, John Lennon said this about Starr:
Ringo was a star in his own right in Liverpool before we even met. He was a professional drummer who sang and performed and had Ringo Starr-time and he was in one of the top groups in Britain but especially in Liverpool before we even had a drummer. So Ringo's talent would have come out one way or the other as something or other. I don't know what he would have ended up as, but whatever that spark is in Ringo that we all know but can't put our finger on — whether it is acting, drumming or singing I don't know — there is something in him that is projectable and he would have surfaced with or without the Beatles. Ringo is a damn good drummer.
Many drummers acknowledge Starr as an influence, including Steve Gorman
of the Black Crowes
, Don Henley
of The Eagles
, Dave Grohl
, Jen Ledger
, Max Weinberg
of the E Street Band
, Danny Carey
, Liberty DeVitto
of Billy Joel
's band, Nicko McBrain
of Iron Maiden
, Eric Carr
, Phil Rudd
, Orri Páll Dýrason
of Sigur Rós
original/former Dream Theater
drummer Mike Portnoy
, Pedro Andreu of Heroes del Silencio
In his extensive survey of the Beatles' recording sessions, Mark Lewisohn
confirmed that Starr was both proficient and remarkably reliable and consistent. According to Lewisohn, there were fewer than a dozen occasions in the Beatles' eight-year recording career where session "breakdowns" were caused by Starr making a mistake, while the vast majority of takes were stopped owing to mistakes by the other three members.
Starr is considered to have influenced various modern drumming techniques, such as the matched grip
, tuning the drums lower, and using muffling devices on tonal rings, as well as placing the drums on high risers for visibility as part of the band.
For the band's second recording session with Starr as a member on 11 September 1962, producer George Martin
replaced the studio-inexperienced Starr with session drummer Andy White
to record takes for what would be the two sides
of the Beatles' first single, "Love Me Do
" backed with "P.S. I Love You
Starr played tambourine on "Love Me Do" and maracas on "P.S. I Love You" for this session.
McCartney took over the drums on "Back in the U.S.S.R.
" and "Dear Prudence
" from the White Album
(1968) after Starr had walked out,
and also played the drums on "The Ballad of John and Yoko
", recorded on 14 April 1969, since only he and Lennon were immediately available to record the song.
Starr commented that he was lucky in being "surrounded by three frustrated drummers".