Top 10 Hardest Songs to Play on Drums

Any songs you just can't play on drums? Check and see if they are on the list and add them if they aren't.
The Top Ten
1 Dance of Eternity - Dream Theater

Easily the most challenging song I have come across. I have seen multiple transcripts of this song and it is mind-blowing. While Neil Peart's parts for various Rush songs are amazing, my hat goes off to Mike Portnoy for this masterpiece. I'm actually surprised to see that Pull Me Under is this far up on the list. Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence should at least be in the top 25, as well as A Change of Seasons. Let me know when Avenged Sevenfold writes a song with some 7/16 measures as well as 5/8 and some 11/4.

The hardest thing about this song by far is remembering how to play it without having to stop and squint at the music. It's basically 6 minutes of playing pretty much randomly timed drum beats at about 200 different speeds and time signatures. If you're trying to play it without listening to it in the background, then good luck...

I learned the whole song (minus the straight double bass patterns that are in it, as I play single pedal and improvise with those parts on the bass drum), and it only took me 2 months. Dance of Eternity is probably the most rhythmically complex piece of music I've ever attempted. Props to Portnoy on this one. A true drum masterpiece.

2 Bleed - Meshuggah

My top 10 (with short explanations):

1. Bleed - Meshuggah (This song has the hardest polyrhythms out there and requires insane endurance to get through this 7 minutes of hell. Although there is like a 45-second break at around 5 minutes, that's all you get before going into more hell).

2. Dance of Eternity - Dream Theater (This song features incredibly baffling time signatures that change every bar and has some of the most difficult transitions out there. This is Bleed's closest competitor by far).

3. La Villa Strangiato - Rush (Try playing insanely fast '16th notes' on the hi-hat, intricate hi-hat 'chokes', and fast tom rolls for nine minutes consistently, and you will understand the difficulty of this song).

4. Moby Dick by Led Zeppelin (This song is by far the greatest drum track of all time. That title is not there for no reason. It features difficult polyrhythms at high tempos, odd time signatures, kick-ass triplets which are also insanely fast, and is extremely fun to play and learn).

5. Lateralus - Tool (There is no explaining the reasoning for this song's difficulty. Just go try to learn and play this for yourself, and you will understand why it is on this list).

6. Dyers Eve - Metallica (One of Metallica's best drum tracks, this song includes very high tempos, some of the fastest double bass out there which lasts for around 15 seconds each time, and after each long and fast double bass measure, very intricate and fast bass and snare playing).

7. Tom Sawyer - Rush (Rush's best song, this song requires great speed in all departments. You are required to play fast '16th notes' on the hi-hat while playing intricate bass and snare patterns. On top of that, fast tom rolls and, at around 2 minutes in the song, an extremely fast drum solo. Good luck).

8. Good Times Bad Times - Led Zeppelin (A very short, yet tricky Led Zeppelin track, this song not only has tricky timings and measures but requires you to be... more

3 Moby Dick - Led Zeppelin

Now, when I'm talking about Moby Dick here, I'm referring to the live version of it (Live at Royal Albert Hall, 1970). In that case, the song needs to be number one. The hard time signatures, the insanely fast triplets, the bongo style playing (with your hands), all of these factors make the song difficult as hell to play. Now, when it comes to the studio version of it, it deserves to be around number 6 or so.

There HAD to be a Led Zeppelin song in the top 3, or this wouldn't be a list. John Bonham was the greatest drummer of his time and changed rock 'n' roll drumming forever. This song's drumming though, oh my god.

There are a lot of songs harder than this one, but it should be way higher on this list.

4 Hot for Teacher - Van Halen

Alex Van Halen used four kick drums to play the intro. Unfortunately, using four is technically impossible for a single drummer to play. This was achieved through layering the track.

One thing: Tom Sawyer is probably the most overrated drum set tune ever. I know 6-year-olds who can play it. It was actually assigned that everyone at my music school should know how to play Tom Sawyer on drums. Hot For Teacher has herta-triplet grids in the intro, and you also use your feet to play it as well. This is the hardest, fast, hard, and fun once you get the hang of it.

Note to the people saying it's average. Note, it has an incredibly fast double bass part that will drain the blood out of your legs the entire way through.

5 La Villa Strangiato - Rush

I honestly don't understand at all why there are so many Avenged Sevenfold songs on this list. Yes, the Rev is dead, but let's be honest, he is nowhere near the magnitude of Neil Peart or Mike Portnoy. I know people who play fast. Hell, I can play fast. It's not that hard. The hard part of drumming is being technical and about composition, not repeating the same exact thing through verses and choruses, or little fills, but being able to tell a story with your drumming. The Rev should not be on this list.

As for Rush songs, La Villa Strangiato is easily their hardest song. Tom Sawyer is difficult, yes, but it also has a lot of fills. To quote Neil, "There are no mistakes, only new additions."

If you don't believe me, ask any REAL drummer out there about this song. They'll tell you for themselves.

In Beyond the Lighted Stage video on Rush, they interviewed Mike Portnoy and he said, "The first time I heard RUSH, I said they're incredible. I became obsessed, they were my Gods." Although he's awesome, Neil Peart is still the original and best. Great tributes on the video from real drummers, too... And they all say this is by far the hardest song to play.

6 Lateralus - Tool

Ok, let's be completely honest here. Danny is king. To this day, I have only seen about three people successfully cover his hard songs. Triad? Ticks & Leeches? Have any of you even tried to play some of these songs? You really have no idea what you're voting on if you haven't tried to play some of these songs. All those other drummers come and go. Drummers like Danny Carey only exist once in a trillion years.

I've been playing for years and years and have studied the greats. I can play almost all of the top songs on this list. Well, except Bleed. I'm still tightening that one up. Damn you, Tomas! Anyway, try playing Triad. Danny overlaps polyrhythms like a drum machine with a swing knob. I have never encountered more challenging technique, patterns, polyrhythmic structure, and swift dynamics than in any Tool song. Danny Carey is probably the best drummer in the universe right now. I'm just happy he's here on Earth!

7 Ticks and Leeches - Tool

I have had a great time learning pretty much all of Dream Theater's songs, including the whole Scenes from a Memory Part 2 album, as well as Part 1: Miracle and the Sleeper. The Enemy Inside was another fun one, but now I have run out of songs from Dream Theater. Thank God Tool was created. Danny Carey is amazing, and I have learned Schism, and Ticks and Leeches already. I'm excited to see what's next. Also, RIP Neil Peart. Another drummer I learned from.

Wow. Does anyone know why Tom Sawyer is up so high? I mean, there are plenty of much harder songs than that one. This song is absolutely one of them. And one more thing I don't understand is why Hell's Kitchen and Metropolis Part 1 by Dream Theater are not even on this list.

This song is the craziest song ever made on drums. The song is loaded with polyrhythms and is extremely hard to play. Danny is the drum god. Neil Peart's Tom Sawyer is good and all, but Tom Sawyer doesn't compare to the complexity of any Tool song.

8 The Violation - Fleshgod Apocalypse

First of all, I want to say that I agree with this being really hard to play. This kind of speed takes years to develop. But why this song? The drumming isn't really harder than a lot of technical death metal or blackened death metal like this, but this is the only song like this I see on the list. So, I'm just wondering why this one is considered harder than the rest.

If you listen to Dying Fetus and Behemoth, you'll find this song is faster than pretty much every single one of their songs. Only Kollias has a chance against Paoli's constant blast beat at nearly 300 bpm.

Extremely fast double bass drumming. This song's a leg killer! If you don't believe it, just give it a listen.

9 21st Century Schizoid Man - King Crimson

I can't believe nobody has commented on this song. I am a lifelong drummer, and the power and expertise put into driving the drum fills in the solos and 'mirrors' part of the song is dreadfully difficult! It takes raw energy to perfect, but also precise timing at the same time. Plus, it was one of the very first progressive rock songs.

A combination of progressive rock and jazz, with absurd fills dancing between unbelievably technical and fast-paced percussion.

Insanity and brilliance often come together, hey!

From the list they have, this is probably the best. A lot on this list are easy. Some are actually a joke. They do not even list Cream with Baker, which really makes the list a joke to pro drummers.

10 Good Times Bad Times - Led Zeppelin

One of the finest drum parts ever. I like the 16th notes on the bass drum. I never fail to enjoy the drums on this song. I have been lucky enough to cover this in bands too, and I must add it is my favourite drum part to cover. Often, non-drummers do not understand why as it is all in the feet.

If you listen closely, especially towards the end when it is easier to hear clearly, he plays rapid triplet notes with his bass drum. These notes are more difficult to get right than Tom Sawyer, and they are also very easy to mistime. There is also more feel than a lot of other drummers in this song. On top of that, John Henry Bonham was 19 when he recorded this song.

Simply the best.

Best,

A

I'm 15 and have been playing drums for almost 5 years now. I've been taking lessons for that time too and still am. I know that's not a very long time, but I have wanted to learn this song ever since I started playing drums. Every year, my drum teacher has a recital sometime in the summer, and I am definitely going to ask him if I can learn this song when that time comes.

The Contenders
11 Beast and the Harlot - Avenged Sevenfold

Oh geez. I've been playing metal drums for roughly two and a half years, and this is just one of those songs where, the first time I heard it, it was so catchy I said, "Man, this song is probably insanely difficult to play," and yes, yes it is. I mean, double kick drums at 155 BPM sporadically throughout five and a half minutes, crazy fast drum solo, a tricky hand/foot pattern at the chorus to master. It's got everything a standard metal song should have, but it raises the bar.

It's one of those things where it is easy to learn, hard to master. In fact, I am still trying to get it down, but take note: this song takes some serious stamina. But fun as hell, and that's what matters.

After about two minutes of playing the song, your legs start to die. While Beast and the Harlot are harder songs to play, they produced even harder songs like Nightmare, Save Me (multiple time signatures going at once), A Little Piece of Heaven (kick beat changes constantly), Blinded in Chains (192 bpm while having the kick changing beats).

12 A Little Piece of Heaven - Avenged Sevenfold

I am a drummer myself, and this is a great song to play on drums, with a hilarious video at that. The greatest and hardest part of this song is the intro. Its double bass and complicated beats are amazing.

This is a prime example of what legitimate complex drumming is.

It's pretty hard.

13 Kascade - Animals As Leaders

I'm sorry to be so narrow-minded, but nothing even comes close to the difficulty of just about every Animals as Leaders song.

Just look at the transcription, damn.

This is one of the hardest ones I've tried!

14 Tom Sawyer - Rush

As a drummer, I can say that of all the Rush songs, this is the least difficult in terms of fancy fills and drum knowledge required to play. However, there is still a ton of this in the song. It's more of a test of endurance. You have to play fairly fast 16th notes with one arm, or else the song doesn't really work. It is simple at first, but once you're about 1/4 through the song, the fills kick in, and then your arms really start to get strained. It took me a while as a young drummer to really master this song, and to this day it remains one of the most difficult songs to play in my repertoire.

Way ahead of time! Incredible. You can put that solo against any other today. It created a new type of drummers! It may not be the toughest, but it's just too relevant.

Dream Theater is hard to play. However, this song is pure endurance. Try it for yourself. I could almost play it before, but now my arm can't take the pressure.

15 Through the Fire and Flames - DragonForce

Has anyone even heard this song? This deserves to be WAY higher on the list. The tempo marking is so high, and the double bass grooves are extremely intensive. I don't see how even things like Moby Dick could beat it, honestly.

The thing about this song isn't that it's technically hard. It's just blast beats. But those blasts are at 300 bpm, so it's very tiring and requires an inhuman amount of stamina. I know that I wouldn't be able to go through the whole song.

The drums in this… Oh my god, this has got to be the hardest song in the world on drums.

16 Endeavor - T.R.A.M.
17 Adam's Song - Blink 182
18 Cafo - Animals as Leaders

Although a lot of these songs are known for their speed, technicality, and odd time signatures, it doesn't compare to this song, which combines this, and extreme alternating polyrhythms, with odd timing on every single drum played at one point. By far the most challenging AAL song to play on any instrument.

I don't know about the other drums, but I try to play the intro with double stroke rolls on the left hand, which makes it nearly impossible to do very cleanly. The rest of the song might not be as funky with timing as 'Tempting Time', in my opinion, but it's still really challenging.

It's a difficult combination between double bass and the changing time signatures. Also, you will need some great stamina to play the whole song. I learned the song in 6 weeks but have had problems with being too tired to finish it. Technically, I have mastered it, though.

19 Inamorata - Animals as Leaders

One does not simply think that other songs can be as difficult as this.

20 The Enemy Inside - Dream Theater

Lol, what is wrong with people? A Blink 182 song in front of a Dream Theater song. Also, who the hell said Lars Ulrich can actually play drums? (Metallica fanboys).

21 The Carbon Stampede - Cattle Decapitation

I don't know why people call this "noise". I could just as easily call the music that's very popular now noise, but that's just opinion. This song requires more musical skill than 100% of songs these days.

22 The Betrayal - Fleshgod Apocalypse

One of my favorite songs... A little plain at the beginning, but at the 3-minute mark, it's just hell! Very powerful!

23 Silent Flight Parliament - Between the Buried and Me

Uh, this should be in the top 5, if not the top spot. And for that matter, where is Melting City?

24 YYZ - Rush

From the indisputable #1 drummer of all time, the Professor Neil Peart excels here with the range of drumming elements lifting the difficulty beyond just speed work as exhibited by some songs higher on the list.

While this is definitely not their most difficult song (

go listen to La Villa Strangiato, which is higher on the list), it's certainly harder than Tom Sawyer - I learned that in a month, after playing drums for only a year.

Definitely takes the cake for the hardest Rush song. They straight up play the song's title in Morse Code as a beat.

25 Beyond Bludgeoned - Brain Drill

How can the drummer do this? This song must leave the drummer's hands broken! This should be at least in the top 3! This is way harder than Dance of Eternity.

This sounds almost like George Kollias of Nile, which is a huge compliment.

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