The 9 hardest songs to play on drums (2023)

Turn on the radio or randomly select any song on Spotify and chances are you're hearing the same thing. Boom chick boom chick. Well damn Willakers, the drummer plays a 4/4 offbeat. What a surprise!

The fact is that the times of 4/4 (and ¾ and 6/8 I think) are just the standard times that almost everyone is used to. From K-Pop to Death Metal, this is what most people are used to. And there's nothing wrong with that.

Apart from the drummers, it can be pretty boring. So some musicians go a different way. Play with speed, polyrhythm, odd time signatures and changes, and precise stops and starts. Improved his technique to create the craziest and most difficult songs to play on drums.


  • What does "hard" mean in battery mode?
  • Take 5 – Dave Brubeck Quartett (Joe Morello)
  • Caravana - Art Blakey y los Jazz Messengers (Art Blakey)
  • Gathering of Spirits - Mahavishnu Orchestra (Billy Cobham)
  • 777-9311 - The Weather (Jellybean Johnson/David Garibaldi)
  • Die Villa Strangiato – Rush (Neil Peart)
  • Dance of Eternity – Dream Theater (Mike Portnoy)
  • All Things Dead – Ursprung (John Longstreth)
  • Don Caballero 3 – Don Caballero (Damón Che)
  • Biblical Violence - Hella (Zach Hill)
  • Are you ready to play drums?
  • The Hardest Songs to Play on the Drums: Final Thoughts

What does "hard" mean in battery mode?

The 9 hardest songs to play on drums (1)

Good question. Is it just the complicated stick work? Is extreme speed and endurance in the kit? Or does it keep time in a swirling jumble of changing signatures?

If you answered "All of the above" then I think you are right. You can play a boring rhythm super fast. You can also play a ridiculously complicated rhythm slowly. But what's really difficult with drums is segmenting your brain. Getting all four members to play different things is something. Getting them to play in different rhythms is something else.

This is polyrhythm...

Play multiple rhythms at the same time. Knowing where to land the beats and keeping your limbs essentially working independently is an incredible skill. Some drummers can play four voices with their hands and feet, which would confuse four people playing separately.

Counting is also crucial. Drummers who can speed up, slow down, stop and start and even play loud fills but always know where the beat is is amazing. Whether you're soloing on an awkward beat or playing a song with 100 changes, some drummers are certainly nothing short of superhuman.

Here are some of themThe most difficult songs to play on the drums, for various reasons, but it is by no means an exhaustive list; Don't forget to add your favorites.

Take 5 – Dave Brubeck Quartett (Joe Morello)

Let's start with a journey back in time. Maybe back to a simpler time, but full of experimentation and creativity. Dave Brubeck, like other hep-jazz celebrities, experimented with odd-time compositions. By odd I mean for example 9/8, 7/4 and 13/8. But "Take Five" in 5/4 time is by far his most famous recording.

In the Dave Brubeck Quartet, legendary drummer Joe Morello maintains an incredibly steady 5/4 time signature throughout the song. Even if he's been solo for a while, you know he has a weird rhythm in his head that makes him go everywhere.

The basic rhythm is not that complicated. But playing with it creatively, sometimes even throwing sticks and playing with his bare hands, has made Morello's work notorious here. Try playing along and see how long you can last before getting lost in the hypnotic rhythm.


Joe Morello is aJazz Drum Legend, which takes complex stick work and swing rhythms to a whole new level. And it's kind of powerful too. look at thatamazingly alonewhere it will be released for a full seven minutes. Oh, and did I mention he was practically blind too?

Caravana - Art Blakey y los Jazz Messengers (Art Blakey)

It's not common for a drummer to be a bandleader. But when you're as talented as Art Blakey, it makes sense that you should take the reins. The 1962 albumcaravanby Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers showcases his incredible skills in the hard bop genre.

Listen to the title track "Caravan". Blakey plays some amazing polyrhythmic delights on parts of this track. He leads his band with an incredibly dexterous right hand in the gait and drums and bass drums that seem to come from a completely different song. At the same time of course.

Blakey then alternates between mallets and drumsticks while playing a solo that seems to overwhelm human ability. And in the end we return to the craziest polyrhythms. Go ahead and try to play along.

Gathering of Spirits - Mahavishnu Orchestra (Billy Cobham)

After the 1960s opened the door to creativity, largely thanks to massive drug experimentation (but that's another story), the 1970s turned into a boom era. New electric and electronic instruments became popular, as did more direct and heavier styles of rock.

The Mahavishnu Orchestra consists of masters of their instruments. Guitarist John McLaughlin, keyboardist Jan Hammer, bassist Rick Laird and violinist Gerry Goodman formed a jazz, folk and rock fusion band.

They played spacey, psychedelic and jazz compositions that showcased their individual skills. But drummer Billy Cobham was the glue that held things together.

A master of fusion...

On "Meeting of the Spirits", just one of his epic tracks, he maintains control of the 6/4 time signature. Completing and soloing all the time but letting the other members shine.

Cobham plays with a power and confidence that has allowed him to become the greatest fusion drummer. do you see thatLive-VersionMusic to hear Cobham's massive beats.

777-9311 - The Weather (Jellybean Johnson/David Garibaldi)

Here's a slightly unexpected song on this list. 777-9311 (that's eleven, not one) is a track produced by Prince for the band The Time in 1982. This is a time when funk became popular and electronic instruments appeared in popular music around the world. Location.

The beat of this cheesy track was actually written on an old drum machine by Tower of Power's David Garibaldi. But we don't know if he ever played. However, The Time's drummer Jellybean Johnson certainly did. And what an achievement.

That beat is weird...

Featuring a simple kick drum pattern but some very unsettling hi-hat rhythms. It seems like it should be impossible for one person to play, hence the drum machine composition, but people have and do.

Jellybean Johnson, left-handed drummer extraordinaire, performs liveHere, who shows himself to be at least half machine, half human. As a side note, don't put your real phone number in a song. Maybe her Insta handle, but not her number. Trust me.

Die Villa Strangiato – Rush (Neil Peart)

At the same time that jazz was becoming fusion and funk was approaching pop, rock was growing. And Rush, arguably the greatest Canadian rock band of all time, has worked hard to create their own complex compositions.

One of these, the nine-minute "La Villa Strangiato" (An Exercise in Self-Indulgence), is arguably where drummer Neil Peart shines the most. This song starts out floating before building into serious rock beats. This is Rush "Prog Rock" at its finest, weaving together 12 different parts of this song based on guitarist Alex Lifeson's dreams.

The counters come and go. Peart plays complex polyrhythms when needed and straight-forward rock when needed. This song is as much a memory and counting exercise as any.technical batterywork. But having a great mustache probably helps, too.

Dance of Eternity – Dream Theater (Mike Portnoy)

We can't talk about ithard drum songsNot to mention the theater of dreams. If Rush is Prog Rock, then Dream Theater is Progressive Metal. And by progressive metal I mean heavy and heavy, but full of complexity and ultra-creative songwriting.

"The Dance of Eternity" has to be one of themThe hardest songs to play for any drummer.. Working with the guitar doesn't seem too easy either. In just over six minutes, superhuman drummer Mike Portnoy smashes time signatures like they're going out of style. It really is an amazing memory exercise. Here is an example portion of time signature sequences:

4/4, 3/4, 7/8, 5/8, 3/8, 7/16, 2/4, 5/4, 6/4, 12/8, 5/16, 9/8, 15/ 8

No problem, right? Okay, come on, I want to hear you play. No mistakes until the end. If so, congratulations, you've mastered one of the most difficult songs to play on drums. I would forget my name if it wasn't on my underwear.

All Things Dead – Ursprung (John Longstreth)

Alright, let's get heavy. After Dream Theater there are many contenders for fast, booming, thundering metal drumming. I think Origin drummer John Longstreth throws in a pretty solid challenge to all comers.

On the track "All Things Dead", the opener of the 2014 albumubiquitousalbum, this heavyweight drummer goes through an avalanche of rapidly changing beats. It does everything so incredibly fast it can sound like machine gun fire. But believe me, it's technically brilliant.

Here is oneDrum focused version of the songif you want to focus on their sick beats instead of the screeching vocals. Longstreth's explosive abilities must be among the fastest in the world. And this tank-like drummer plays what can only be described as combat boots. Intensive!

Don Caballero 3 – Don Caballero (Damón Che)

Don Caballero may not be a household name like many of the other bands we've seen so far. But that doesn't mean they aren't amazing. This progressive post-rock group is known as one of the original inspirations for the math rock genre. And drummer Damon Che was the heart of this band.

Che's style was as eccentric as his setting. He played the deepest snare drum I've ever seen and crouched over it like a gorilla. He used mostly cheap broken cymbals (or smashed cheap cymbals) and bumped into a shelf of huge toms and even rototoms.

A drummer of destruction...

He broke basically every rule of preparation and technique in the book and still played masterfully, which amazes me. Did you put your kit together so badly just to add an extra challenge to your drumming genius?

In Don Caballero 3, Che goes through complex tribal polyrhythms as if nothing happened. This epic 9 minute song has many tempo and rhythm changes but plays them effortlessly. Create transitions that make a lot of sense but nobody would think of.

Biblical Violence - Hella (Zach Hill)

If Don Caballero was like the grandfather of math rock, California band Hella is the germ of several generations. The duo Zach Hill and Spencer Siem belt out fast and furious compositions that make little sense to the average passer-by.

"Biblical Violence" from Hella's 2003 albumhold your horse, is a perfect example of his frenetic style. Parts of this song make sense and even fall under what would be classified as "beats".

However, other parts are so fast and blurry it's like getting caught in a tornado. Maybe the hint is there. But I doubt you'll survive if the hand of God or Hella tears down your house.

Playing this music requires biblical perseverance...

This route, which is just over three minutes long, is a real marathon. I can't imagine being able to keep up with that drumbeat for more than a minute and I'm fooling myself with that minute.

Zach Hill, also known for his work with Death Grips, is an athlete, pure and simple. His touches are so quick, intricate, and powerful that I doubt they can be imitated. That's why it's easily one of the most difficult songs to play on drums.

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The Hardest Songs to Play on the Drums: Final Thoughts

So here is my list of what I think are theThe most difficult songs for drummers to play.. Some of them are simple counting tasks. Others are complex polyrhythms that their members face in an eternal struggle. Others are epic marathons of skill, speed and drum memory.

If you can play at least one of the songs on this list, I would say you are a top notch drummer. If you can handle some of these, you must be famous. And if you can make all these crazy beats, you're not human. So better try to find out which planet you are from.

I'm sure there are other incredibly fast, heavy, and frighteningly complex songs that could be added to my list. But right now my brain hurts. I'm gonna sit back and listen to some cool easy 4/4 rhythms for a while.

Until next time keep it up.

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