2013 marks the 40th anniversary of jazz fusion drummer Billy Cobham’s groundbreaking debut album Spectrum. Ever since his breakthrough in the early 1970s-as a founding member of the Mahavishnu Orchestra, and as a drummer/leader whose recordings and powerful, complex style of play exerted a strong influence on the course of jazz and jazz-fusion-Billy Cobham has remained a tireless musical explorer.  The 68-year-old Panamanian native is widely recognized as the genre’s best drummer of all time. Partly due to his work with Miles Davis, his style blends elements of jazz, rock and funk. Cobham spent his career creating a unique, fluid wall of sound that has influenced everyone from Omar Hakim of Weather Report to Manu Katche. Cobham  is one of the first drummers to play open-handed lead: In other words, he  plays on a right-handed set but leads with his left hand on the hi-hat instead of crossing over with his right (He also has his ride cymbal on the left side, instead of the traditional right). He typically plays with multiple toms and double bass drums and was well known in the 1970s for his large kits.

I first encountered his music unknowingly. My grandparents recounted a time in the early Seventies when their five-year old grandson was dancing ecstatically on avacado green shag carpet to “some drumming record.” As a child of the 1980s, that young man idolized Neal Peart, Stewart Copeland and Alex Van Halen. No matter who your hero, there is an origin to  any  art form . Cobham’s contribution has been finesse. He moves effortlessly around the set but generates a silky wall of sound that is melodic and not the least bit overbearing.



Billy Cobham is endorsed by Yamaha Drums and regularly uses Yamaha Maple Custom Absolute 9-piece kits with the following sizes:

24×16 bass drum (2x)

10×9 tom

12×10 tom

13×11 tom

14×12 tom

15×13 tom

16×16 tom

18×18 tom
Cobham has his own Yamaha signature snare model, consisting of an all maple 6-ply shell (14×6) with wood hoops, but he also uses a 14 x 6 1/2 Yamaha brass snare drum.



Billy Cobham is endorsed by Sabian Cymbals. His current setup comprises of:

14″ Vault Hats

16″ Artisan Crash

18″ Artisan Crash

20″ Artisan Crash

22″ Artisan Medium Ride

20″ HHX Chinese



Evans EMAD2 Clear (batter) and EMAD Reso on bass drums

Evans G2 Coated (top) and 200 (bottom) on snare drum

Evans EC2 (top) and G1 Clear (bottom) on toms



Vic Firth’s Billy Cobham Signature Model (SBC)