The 13 Hardest Songs to Play on Drums

hardest songs to play on drums

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.

With its mix of different time signatures, rapid tempo changes, and challenging fills, Tom Sawyer truly pushes the limits of technical drumming skills.

Neil Peart’s impressive display of precision and speed throughout this epic song has solidified his reputation as one of the greatest drumming virtuosos in rock music history.

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.

Tomas Haake’s drumming in this track is nothing short of extraordinary, showcasing his technical skills and precision.

The complex time signatures and intricate polyrhythms make it a true challenge for any drummer. Haake’s ability to maintain the relentless double bass pedal work while executing lightning-fast fills and syncopated rhythms is simply awe-inspiring.

The intense energy and demanding nature of Bleed have solidified it as a pinnacle of difficult drumming songs in the metal genre.

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.

Art Blakey’s “Caravan” is widely recognized as one of the most challenging drumming songs in jazz history. With its intricate rhythms and complex time signatures, this composition demands expert drumming skills and technical precision.

The song features 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 intense drumming arrangements in “Caravan” make it a true test for any drummer looking to push their limits and master difficult drumming songs. The magnificent drum solo will also test your endurance and memory.

Dream Theater – Dance of Eternity

Dream Theater 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 of Dream Theater 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 is one of the best drummers today, and is a prominent figure in the progressive metal genre.

He 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 time signatures 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

“Pneuma” is a testament to Danny Carey’s incredible talent and is a must-learn for any aspiring drummer looking to take their skills to the next level.

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.

Carey effortlessly navigates through challenging time signatures, delivering powerful and tight performances. His ability to seamlessly transition between different sections of the song showcases his virtuosity as a drummer.

The songs Carey plays are so physically demanding, yet he manages to play with such fluidity and confidence. He makes it look so easy! He is a phenomenal drummer with amazing technique, rock solid groove and inventive playing.

Carrey plays a unique drum set with lots of hybrid acoustic/electronic drumming elements, and he puts them to good effect in his drum parts on the Tool tracks.

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 odd time signature changes as well as rapidly changing and complex double bass drum patterns.

This song really is a masterpiece for modern metal and the drumming performance is outstanding.

11. Dance Gavin Dance – We Own The Night 

Matt Mingus, the drummer of Dance Gavin Dance, showcases his technical prowess in “We Own The Night.” With intricate drum patterns and complex fills, this song presents a challenging experience for any drummer.

Mingus’s precise timing and ability to navigate through different sections make this track a standout in terms of difficulty. As he effortlessly switches between dynamic drumming styles, it is clear that Matt Mingus is an exceptional talent on the drums.

12. The Mars Volta – Goliath

Goliath by The Mars Volta is another very challenging song to play on drums. The song features intricate and complex drum patterns that require immense technical proficiency and precision.

The drummer needs to navigate through fast-paced fills, unconventional rhythms, and syncopated beats as played by Thomas Pridgen.

Maintaining speed and accuracy while executing his challenging drum parts can be physically demanding and mentally taxing.

The Mars Volta is known for their use of unconventional time signatures, and “Goliath” is no exception. It incorporates odd meters and frequent time signature changes, requiring the drummer to have strong rhythmic awareness and the ability to adapt quickly.

13. Polyphia – G.O.A.T

Polyphia’s “G.O.A.T” is without a doubt on of the hardest songs to play on drums.  The complexity of Polyphia’s music and the technical proficiency required by their drum parts make it a challenging endeavour.

Polyphia is known for their intricate guitar work and complex compositions that blend various genres like math rock with elements of trap and EDM.

The intricate guitar riffs and unconventional time signatures found in their music pose a significant challenge for even high-level drummers in terms of maintaining precise timing and executing intricate drum patterns.

Furthermore, the fast-paced tempo, intricate fills, and dynamic shifts commonly found in Polyphia songs demand a high level of technical skill, coordination, and stamina from drummers.

The song “G.O.A.T” likely presents similar challenges, making it one of the hardest songs to play on drums within Polyphia’s repertoire!

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