There are countless talented drummers out there in the world. It’s truly inspiring to see so many incredible musicians furthering the percussive arts, pushing the boundaries of what drummers are capable of.
In this article we’re going to be taking a look at some of the hardest songs to play on drums ever. Learning to play these songs is not for the feint of heart. These are indeed death defying displays of drumming!
The genres featured range stylistically from Jazz right through to extreme metal. All the songs contain extremely challenging aspects throughout. If you really want to push yourself creatively, physically and mentally then you could try your hand at learning some of these difficult songs to play on drums.
These songs require an exceptionally high level of finesse, control, technique and ability. A very strong understanding of time and metre helps too!
Without further ado, and in no particular order, here is my selection of some of the hardest songs to play on drums!
1. Rush – Tom Sawyer
Tom Sawyer is one of the most famous and difficult rock drumming songs of all time. We will all remember Neil Peart as one of the greatest drummers to ever grace this earth. His playing is simply phenomenal and full of power.
Neil Peart composed the drum parts so it would always be challenging for him to play. It is full of complex time signature changes, tricky fills and intricate hi-hat work throughout. I have just finished learning Tom Sawyer (which you can watch below) and I promise you it’s one of the most rewarding songs I’ve learned, but it requires real patience.
2. Meshuggah – Bleed
This extreme metal track by the Swedish metal band Meshuggah is a mesmerizing sonic barrage that demonstrates unbelievable limb independence and double bass drum pedal control.
The song is in 4/4 time, but Tomas Haake’s mind-bending polyrhythmic foot patterns would have you believe otherwise. If you have the foot speed, endurance and patience to learn this song then I wish you all the very best of luck learning this!
3. Snarky Puppy – What About Me?
Snarky Puppy is a Grammy award winning Jazz and Funk collective that combines an enormous range of eclectic influences for a truly dazzling musical display. Drummer Larnell Lewis exudes confidence with each drum stroke, and performs with complete dynamic control.
Whilst some of the drum beats may appear to be easy, the drumming in this song offers unmistakable creativity and his control is off the scale. What makes it even crazier is that Larnell only had 2 hours of practice before recording this, after learning the tracks on a flight.
4. Led Zeppelin – Moby Dick
John Bonham needs no introduction. His performance on Moby Dick is effortless, dynamic, powerful and expertly executed. Bonham channels his raw energy and passion with flawless technique! Even trying to emulate his style of playing is a difficult task.
Bonham’s distinctive powerful groove, combined with difficult time signatures, fast triplets, unsurpassed control and feel makes his playing a real treat for any drummer. Bonham even proceeds to play on the drums with his hands like bongos, which I don’t think many drummers would find easy to learn.
5. John Wasson – Caravan
Made famous in the iconic 2014 drumming movie ‘Whiplash’, the jazz drumming in Caravan is absolutely outstanding. The song is complex with numerous time signature changes and tempo fluctuations that require pinpoint precision. The drumming has a constantly driving feel with a fast tempo and rapid jazz cymbal work.
The limb independence required to perform this song needs to be extraordinary. In addition to this, the hand control, timing and feel are impeccable. The magnificent drum solo will also test your endurance and memory.
Dream Theatre – Dance of Eternity
Dream Theatre is unquestionably one of the most widely celebrated progressive bands of all time. The song ‘Dance of Eternity’ is a stellar composition that is both exhilarating and innovative. The performance delivered by each band member is simply outstanding. The song features some of the most complex time signatures including 7/16 and 11/4.
Mike Portnoy executes a myriad of time signature changes with expert fluidity, and blends powerful rock drumming with mammoth fills. The sheer number of time signature and tempo changes makes this an almost impossible song to learn on drums.
7. Animals as Leaders – The Woven Web
Matt Gartska skilfully blends intensity and precision with his captivating performance on the song titled ‘The Woven Web’. The drumming is extremely fluid, tight and technical.
With extreme alternating polyrhythms and with odd timing throughout, this is by far one of the most hard songs to learn on drums. You will need to have insane stamina to attempt this, as well as sublime bass drum control. Even counting some of the snare drum hits are a challenge!
8. Tool – Pneuma
Danny Carey’s level of precision on the drums is just absurd. The songs he plays are so physically demanding, yet he manages to play with such fluidity and confidence. He makes it look so easy! Carrey is a phenomenal drummer with amazing technique, rock solid groove and inventive playing.
Pneuma is an 11-minute monolith that has everything you want. You name it -epic drum breaks , drum fills , fluid time signature changes and highly technical polyrhythms played on an electronic drum pad simultaneously! Good luck giving this one a go!
9. Porcupine Tree – Anesthetize
Gavin Harrison is another one of my favourite drummers. He is one of the best modern drummers around and has a fantastic sound. You can count on the fact if he played it, then it’s going to be a hard drum song to play! He expertly blends groove, finesse and creativity in this drumming masterpiece.
What makes this one of the hardest songs to play on drums is the fact it’s almost impossible to replicate Gavin’s sound and control on the drum set. His dynamics, timbre, skill, consistency and precision makes him one of the most prolific drummers alive.
10. August Burns Red – Composure
Matt Greiner is one of the most precise and technically gifted contemporary rock/metal drummers around today! Composure is a masterclass in technical ability as well as being one of the most creative drum compositions I can personally think of.
The song is exceedingly difficult to play, but it is also very rewarding to learn. There are numerous time signature changes as well as rapidly changing complex kick patterns. This song really is a masterpiece for modern metal and the drumming performance is outstanding.