The 10 Hardest Songs to Play on Drums

Son of Vistalite Black

Well-known Member
Nic Collins -- who you may know as the half-brother of "Emily in Paris" star Lily Collins -- inspired this ranking when he was named the second-ranked "Best Prog Drummers in the World Right Now" in last year's MusicRadar.com fan vote.

"Drummers, we love to make lists and to talk about who’s better than who," said Collins, who was subsequently named the drummer of Mike + the Mechanics, the world's blandest band. “I don’t necessarily think I would agree with the progressive list though. One of my heroes, Gavin Harrison (of Porcupine Tree) was, like, fifth, and I felt like that should not be the way it is.”

With all that in mind, let's have a look at the "Hardest Songs to Play on Drums" from Ranker.com, which orders its list based on actual votes from drumming experts and Internet randos from across the world. Here are the Top 10:

10. "21st Century Schizoid Man" -- King Crimson -- Michael Giles -- Apparently, he hated touring.

9. "Hot for Teacher" -- Van Halen -- Alex Van Halen (Some Internet denizens claim the song starts not with drums, but the exhaust sound of a Harley-Davidson or Lamborghini).

8. "Lateralus" -- Tool -- Danny Carey -- Lateralus is not in the dictionary!

7. "2112: I. Overture, II. The Temples of Syrinx, III. Discovery, IV. Presentation, V. Oracle: The Dream, VI. Soliloquy, V11. Grand Finale" -- Cornelius Ellwood Peart -- In some cultures, playing all 20.33 minutes of "2112" while in a car with your wife automatically initiates divorce.

6. "Ticks & Leeches" -- Tool -- Danny Carey. Son of Vistalite Black vows to never again get drawn into a conversation about music with a Tool fan. Tortuous.

5. "Moby Dick" -- Led Zeppelin -- John Bonham -- The legend: A very young Jason Bonham asked his dad to play "the long song," then said "It's big. Like Moby."

4. "Tom Sawyer" -- Rush -- Peart.

3. "Bleed" -- Meshuggah -- Tomas Hakke -- SoVB will not repeat the story of Hakke's drum stick here.

2. "Dance of Eternity" -- Dream Theater -- Mike Portnoy -- An apotheosis of guitar and keyboard twiddling. Noodly-doodly.

1. "La Villa Strangiato" -- Rush -- Peart -- Translates to "The Strange Village," Man.


Notes:


1. There's a surprisingly high level of unanimity about drumming's hardest songs:
1a. Zero to Drum's "11 Hardest List" includes 1. Dance of Eternity, 2. Bleed 3. Moby Dick.
1b. Eric Singer's "17 Hardest" includes 1. YYZ, 2. Moby Dick, 3. Bleed.
1c. TheTopTens' Top 10 includes 1. Dance of Eternity, 2. Bleed, 3. Moby Dick.

2. For Hep Cats who wish to turn us on to some burnin cool tunes with hot tubs originally filmed in black and white, that's not this list.

3. Ranker's full list contains 27 songs. The latter part of the ranking is light on participants, yielding oddities like "Roxanne" and "Adam's Song," the second of which has the vocal tone of an entitled teenager objecting to being asked to mow the lawn. https://www.ranker.com/list/hard-songs-to-play-on-drums/ranker-music
 
Good list.
To me, "hard" is subjective. Some can play Tom Sawyer with no issue, others can't get past the first part.

I've been trying to get Subdivisions down for 15 years. It's clear I know the framework of the song, but the details elude me.
So I keep trying.
 
Kind of a dumb list. I can already see right away that 21st Century Schizoid Man is hardly the hardest King Crimson drum song, let alone of all genres. Maybe the hardest on that first album, but once Bill Bruford jumped in the band, all bets were off.

This is really hard to quantify. Half of these don't compare with half the stuff Max Roach was playing in terms of technicality. Its basically a semi-popular rock/metal list.
 
Kind of a dumb list. I can already see right away that 21st Century Schizoid Man is hardly the hardest King Crimson drum song, let alone of all genres. Maybe the hardest on that first album, but once Bill Bruford jumped in the band, all bets were off.

This is really hard to quantify. Half of these don't compare with half the stuff Max Roach was playing in terms of technicality. Its basically a semi-popular rock/metal list.

Weirdly, though, there's wide agreement on this set of tunes:


Electronic Drum Advisor -- 12 of the Hardest Songs to Play on Drums
1. Dance of Eternity - Dream Theater
2. La Villa Strangiato - Rush
3. Moby Dick - Led Zeppelin
4. Ticks and Leeches - Tool ]
5. Bleed - Meshuggah

TakeLessons.com - The Five Hardest Drum Songs

  • “La Villa Strangiato” – Rush
  • “Moby Dick” – Led Zeppelin
  • “Ticks and Leeches” – Tool
  • “Goliath” – The Mars Volta
  • “Sedation Deprivation” – Nerve (Jojo Mayer)

Music Strive -- Most Difficult Ones to Play


Drumhelper.com -- Hardest Songs to Play on Drums

Tom Sawyer
Bleed
Snarky Puppy -- What About Me?
Moby Dick
Caravan (Whiplash version)


Eric Singer (Ericsinger.com)
1. YYZ
2. Moby Dick
3. Bleed
4. One -- Metallica
5. Tom Sawyer
 
Again, they're all list of semi-popular rock/metal songs. Tom Sawyer is hardly the hardest Rush song (its like the only one I can play, haha....), would anyone genuinely believe it's harder than, say, YYZ?
 
I really hate these kinds of lists, because they're nothing but clickbait. Not to mention something like The 10 Hardest Songs to Play on Drums is nearly impossible to quantify, thus making it impossible to put together an accurate list. Plus, if you look past the myopic view of just rock songs, you'll see that every single song on that list is nothing compared to playing something like this. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

 
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I thought this would be our own lists that we made up

some thoughts:

9. "Hot for Teacher" -- Van Halen -- Alex Van Halen (Some Internet denizens claim the song starts not with drums, but the exhaust sound of a Harley-Davidson or Lamborghini).

it was written to sound like the motor of a Harley from what I have read

about the Rush ones, this is to show how subjective "hardest to play to is", and not me bragging. And it is also not a dig on my 2nd father: Neil Peart. It is actually a compliment to him because it forced a young me to foresake all else and fall in love with music and drums. It forced me to go beyond my "average" ability.

7. "2112: I. Overture, II. The Temples of Syrinx, III. Discovery, IV. Presentation, V. Oracle: The Dream, VI. Soliloquy, V11. Grand Finale" -- Cornelius Ellwood Peart -- In some cultures, playing all 20.33 minutes of "2112" while in a car with your wife automatically initiates divorce.

I could do this song by the time I was a sophomore in HS in 85; all I did was come home from school in my middle school years and play along to albums. It was serious study....
4. "Tom Sawyer" -- Rush -- Peart.
1. "La Villa Strangiato" -- Rush -- Peart -- Translates to "The Strange Village," Man.

same with these....

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

2. "Dance of Eternity" -- Dream Theater -- Mike Portnoy -- An apotheosis of guitar and keyboard twiddling. Noodly-doodly.

I was able to play along to this by 93-94...I love playing to that whole album...the day I could do Metropolis Part 1 was pretty memorable for me back then

Notes:

1. There's a surprisingly high level of unanimity about drumming's hardest songs:
1a. Zero to Drum's "11 Hardest List" includes 1. Dance of Eternity, 2. Bleed 3. Moby Dick.
1b. Eric Singer's "17 Hardest" includes 1. YYZ, 2. Moby Dick, 3. Bleed.
1c. TheTopTens' Top 10 includes 1. Dance of Eternity, 2. Bleed, 3. Moby Dick.

2. For Hep Cats who wish to turn us on to some burnin cool tunes with hot tubs originally filmed in black and white, that's not this list.

3. Ranker's full list contains 27 songs. The latter part of the ranking is light on participants, yielding oddities like "Roxanne" and "Adam's Song," the second of which has the vocal tone of an entitled teenager objecting to being asked to mow the lawn. https://www.ranker.com/list/hard-songs-to-play-on-drums/ranker-music

it might more appropriately be called "Generation X's 10 hardest drum songs" b/c I can think of a jillion songs now that make these look like warm-ups
 
I really hate these kinds of lists, because they're nothing but clickbait. Not to mention something like The 10 Hardest Songs to Play on Drums is nearly impossible to quantify, thus making it impossible to put together an accurate list. Plus, if you look past the myopic view of just rock songs, you'll see that every single song on that list is nothing compared to playing something like this. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.


that a young Horacio "El Negro" Hernandez right? He is a very cool guy. I got to meet and work with him several times back in the early 2000's. Stooopid independence!!!!
 
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that a young Horacio "El Negro" Hernandez right? He is a very cool guy. I got to meet and work with him several times back in the early 2000's. Stooopid independence!!!!
Yes, that’s him. His 4-way independence is legendary, and for good reason. I can probably play or at least learn all of the songs in that Top 10 list, but there’s no way I could even approach playing this song at that level and with that degree of independence.
 
The only two songs that I can think of:

1) Billie Jean.

It's virtually impossible for me to replicate that feel.

2) La Grange.

The continual snare shuffle at that speed scares me.
 
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everything from Mahavishnu's 1st Inner Mounting Flame
 
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These lists are usually made up of songs that I cannot play, I have played all of these on the list though!


9. "Hot for Teacher" -- Van Halen -- Alex Van Halen (Some Internet denizens claim the song starts not with drums, but the exhaust sound of a Harley-Davidson or Lamborghini).
I learned it in two weeks of shedding and when i returned to rehearsal, the gutar player said he couldnt handle it so we dropped it

7. "2112: I. Overture, II. The Temples of Syrinx, III. Discovery, IV. Presentation, V. Oracle: The Dream, VI. Soliloquy, V11. Grand Finale" -- Cornelius Ellwood Peart -- In some cultures, playing all 20.33 minutes of "2112" while in a car with your wife automatically initiates divorce.
I played along to the cassette ( I know) after school on this one till I learned it completely. I loved playing the entire side, I was drenched with sweat every time.
4. "Tom Sawyer" -- Rush -- Peart.
HAHAH the first time I heard this, i was acutally making out with my girlfriend and this came on her clock radio...when he played the drum break, I stopped dead and sat there in stunned silence until she said something. it felt life changing and I went out, bought the album and played along.
1. "La Villa Strangiato" -- Rush -- Peart -- Translates to "The Strange Village," Man.
I played along to Exit Stage Left and learned the live version of this one
 
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