Deceptively Hard Pop Songs:

It can be quite an unsettling thing when you go to play a song you assumed was comfortably within your wheelhouse, only for it to all go wrong. And even worse when putting practise time and effort into a track, only to find you STILL can’t play it. It goes from throwaway pop tune into the ‘shedding’ pile along with those Vinnie Colaiuta transcriptions! Embarrasing right?
I guess so… or maybe it’s an epiphany that making simple tunes sound and feel great is an absolute art form. And those drummers who are good at it deserve respect and further study. Okay i’m just gonna scratch the surface here on tracks that humbled me in the practise room or on stage.

I know this list could be hundreds or thousands of songs long. There is an argument to be said that ANY song is difficult to play well and I would tend to agree (especially very slow ballads and shuffles).
There are of course pop songs with notoriously difficult drum parts, Toto’s ‘Rosanna’ springs to mind. But i’m going to focus on some tracks that presented (or still present) a very real and UNEXPECTED challenge for me and in doing so try and understand why.

Smells Like Teen Spirit (Dave Grohl): The combination of 1/4’s on the hats and dotted 16ths on snare and bass in the chorus groove required tonnes of practise for me. Especially because the Hi Hats are sloshing it’s easy to lose accuracy. The lack of ‘connective tissue’ on the hats makes it a good challenge.

Don’t Stop Believin’ (Steve Smith): When I first heard this I thought it was drums AND percussion. I was wrong. The four on the floor groove is played left handed. The added ride and tom melody is played with the right hand. I had a go at this song here! 

Royals (Lorde): Electronic grooves can be difficult to emulate at the best of times. This one features a fast bass drum pattern and a broken Hi Hat part requiring lots of independence.

Ain’t Nobody (JR Robinson): Groove-tastic, and wickedly hard. I actually gave up on this one.

(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life (Paul Leim): What… the…? Seems nobody puts baby in the corner OR can play this on drums. If you can, please teach me! This is a doozy.

All Night Long (JR again): Now i’m hoping the tom in the verse groove on the ‘a’ of 3 is an overdub? Right? If not how…? But that aside, the groove is just beautiful. Silky hi hat work is still JR’s trademark for me and this is a perfect example of why. This is my version of it here, haha.

Please leave a comment with tracks that caught you off guard!

Take care and keep choppin’
Andrew

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