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10 great Rock pieces to play on the drums

Written By
Gwenn Daniel
About the author
Passionate about music from her childhood, Gwenn Daniel studied the piano at the conservatoire while also maintaining a steady stream of musical activities beyond this. This young piano teacher's constant lively curiosity encourages us to discover music from all eras and in all styles. She is now putting her literary and musical talents to the service of Tomplay and enjoys helping you discover the history of the great classics and guiding you through the vast choice of scores offered by Tomplay.
Date published
15/11/2019
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10 great Rock pieces to play on the drums

Through the context of their composition, discover or re-discover ten great Rock pieces which have marked the history of music. For each piece, we have included a link to the drum scores available in several levels, from beginner to upper advanced. Each arrangement contains two modes: a score mode with the notes written and an improvisation mode. In both modes, you will have the possibility of playing the drums part accompanied by a professional recording of the rest of the Band. 

 

1. Proud Mary – Creedence Clearwater Revival

▶️ Play “Proud Mary” on the drums

50 years ago, Creedence Clearwater Revival lit up the stage at Woodstock! In 1969, the group were among the unmissable artists of the time: in the United States, they were selling more records than the Beatles. That evening, they went on stage four hours late and quite wound up. They played the timeless “Proud Mary” and won over the festival crowd.

Also known as “Rolling on a River”, the song tells the story of a young woman who leaves her back-breaking job and takes the steamboat down the Mississippi. Contrary to what you might think, Proud Mary is not the name of the main character, but that of the boat!

 The sounds of the Bayou inspired John Fogerty to compose this title, which is also the theme of the album Bayou Country. “Proud Mary” was released in January 1969 and met with immediate success to such a point that, since this time, it has been covered by a whole bunch of artists and is still played today.

 It became a major title at the end of the '60s and took the group, with its Blues and Country influences, into the pantheon of the greatest American Rock groups. When they split up in 1972, Creedence Clearwater Revival had made their own permanent mark on the history of Rock ‘n Roll.

 The American musical series Glee transformed this Rock hit into a very rhythmic gospel song! It’s this catchy version of “Proud Mary” that we’re inviting you to play on the drums. Check out our arrangements in several levels, including some special improvisation scores, and take advantage of the high-quality accompaniment.

 

2. Immigrant Song – Led Zeppelin

▶️ Play “Immigrant Song” on the drums

“We come from the land of ice and snow.” This is the beginning of the lyrics of “Immigrant Song”, which come in following a wild musical introduction!

Jimmy Page's staccato guitar riff, together with Robert Plant’s screaming vocal and John Bonham’s galloping drum rhythm, sets up a warlike, almost barbaric atmosphere from the very first seconds.

In 1970, Led Zeppelin gave a concert in Iceland during the period when the sun still shines at midnight. Fascinated by the world of the Vikings, Robert Plant wrote his introduction imagining a Nordic chief going off to war on board his drakkar. He declared that the song was intended to be “powerful and fun”. Job done!

Released on the album Led Zeppelin III, this piece has become a classic and for two years the group used it as an opening number in almost all their concerts.

Check out the Tomplay scores of “Immigrant Song” for the drums in several levels and play accompanied by the high-quality play-along recording. You can improvise thanks to the TomImprov scores included and take advantage of the many other Tomplay functions.

 

3. Beds are Burning – Midnight Oil

▶️ Play “Beds are Burning” on the drums

The members of the group Midnight Oil are among those artists who have been able to demonstrate the union of a strong melody and a strong message. Since the release of their first album Diesel and Dust in 1987, they have always shown their commitment by dealing with social or political subjects in their songs.

Powered by Peter Garrett's passionate vocal performance, “Beds are Burning” highlights the tragic plight of Australian aboriginals, the Pintupi, the first known people on the Australian continent, who were displaced from the desert to make way for military firing ranges and dispersed into the Northern Territories.

Garrett was inspired to write the emblematic phrase “How do we sleep while our beds are burning” during a visit to an art exhibition retracing the history of fascists, Mussolini and the partisan retaliation, during the Second World War, to which an Italian expression meaning “How can you sleep when the beds are on fire? was linked.

He declared: “In retrospect, it’s the song we were born to record. It has all the elements to make it work, strong rhythms, a good melody and punchy lyrics, while remaining very Australian. Who would have thought that one song about the rights of Aboriginal title lands would have gone so far?”

Indeed, this title is still timeless and has made Midnight Oil one of the most famous Australian groups internationally. Check out the Tomplay scores of “Beds are Burning” for the drums in several levels, and play accompanied by the high-quality recording by professional musicians.

 

4. Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door – Bob Dylan

▶️ Play “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” on the drums

 

The Guns ‘n Roses version of “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” is probably more well-known than the original, written and recorded by Bob Dylan for the trailer of the film Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid.

The screenwriter knew Dylan and had asked him to write several songs for his film. He was conclusively won over hearing him sing “Billy” and even offered the singer a role.

There is no doubt that the song evokes a certain spirituality, but few agree about its real meaning. “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” is played when the sheriff, the hero Pat Garrett's friend, is mortally wounded during a gunfight with his childhood friend’s gang, both of them having grown up together but having taken different paths.

So, is it the sheriff’s last testament, regretting not having followed his heart into a life of crime? Or a pacifist song relating to the eternal question of travelling towards paradise or hell? Everyone has their own interpretation!

Check out the drum scores of “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door" in several levels, play accompanied by the high-quality recording and take advantage of the many Tomplay functions.

 

5. Highway to Hell – AC/DC

▶️ Play “Highway to Hell” on the drums

It is said that after their exhausting 1978 tour the AC/DC guitarist Angus Young declared that it was a true “highway to hell” and that Bon Scott scurried off to use these words to write “Highway to Hell”, a pure incarnation of Rock ‘n Roll attitude!

In reality, the story is much more down to earth: “Highway to Hell” is the nickname of a motorway in Australia which leads to a bar called The Raffles.

But although Highway To Hell was the record which propelled AC/DC to star ranking, it also characterises the last glory days of Bon Scott. On 19th February 1980, less than one month after the end of the Highway To Hell tour, the singer was found dead in London after a night’s drinking.

Although it didn’t reach the sales levels of Back in Black, the following album, Highway To Hell is considered by “purist” fans to be the true AC/DC classic.

Check out the scores of “Highway to Hell" in several levels for the drums, use the Tomplay functions to help you get the piece into shape and play accompanied by the high-quality recording.

 

6. Personal Jesus – Depeche Mode

▶️ Play “Personal Jesus” on the drums

During the ‘80s, Depeche Mode significantly evolved their musical style and marked a turning point in their career: they went from a synthesised pop group to one of the greatest alternative groups in the world, aided by Martin Gore’s introspective and affecting lyrics.

In “Personal Jesus”, released on 29th August 1989 and which became one of their greatest successes, the group’s usual electronic sounds give way to an efficient guitar riff.

To promote this new title, Depeche Mode’s Mute label published small adds in some local papers entitled “Your Own Personal Jesus” printed in white on black, accompanied by a telephone number. If you dialled the number, you could hear the new song at the other end of the line!

This advertising fed a rumour that the song was about the merchandising of religion. In reality, Martin Gore explains that Elvis Presley’s wife wrote in her book that living with Elvis was like living with Jesus at home and this was the inspiration behind the title “Personal Jesus”.

“It’s a song about the fact of being a Jesus for someone else, someone who gives you hope and care. Priscilla Presley tells how Elvis was her man and her mentor and how the heart of everyone can be God for someone else; it’s not a very balanced way of seeing someone, is it?“

 The song has been covered by many artists, but for very distinct reasons. Johnny Cash declared that he found an undeniable religious dimension in the lyrics. As for Marylin Manson, he thinks that the title is characterised by a powerful sexual attraction.

Check out the Tomplay scores of “Personal Jesus” for the drums in several levels, annotate your score, play accompanied by the high-quality recording and slow down the tempo to suit you.

 

7. Smoke On the Water – Deep Purple

▶️ Play “Smoke on the Water” on the drums

Its guitar riff is without doubt the most famous in the History of Rock! “Smoke on the Water” by Deep Purple, released in 1972 on the album Machine Head, needs no further introduction. But do you know its history?

Originally, the group should have recorded their album at Montreux Casino in Switzerland. Before starting the session they went to a Franck Zappa concert there, but after a distress flare was fired inside the Casino by a member of the audience, the building was set on fire!

The mythical phrase “Smoke on the Water“ in fact illustrates the sight of the smoke spreading out over Lake Geneva, also known as Lac Léman.

They took refuge in the Grand Hotel, closed for the Winter season, where the album was finally recorded in December 1971 using the Rolling Stones’ mobile studio, as mentioned in the song’s lyrics.

It also talks about Claude Jobs, founder and director of the Montreux Jazz Festival and show organiser, using the name “Funky Claude“. He saved the lives of some children during the fire and helped the group find a new place to stay.

As for Franck Zappa, he unfortunately lost all his equipment during the fire and even broke a leg several days later during a concert in London. A tough time for the artist!

The members of Deep Purple didn’t immediately recognise the song’s potential and hardly played it during 1972. The single was only released in the United States in 1973 and it became the Rock hymn for a whole generation!

Check out the Tomplay scores of “Smoke on the Water” for the drums in several levels, annotate your score, practice in a loop and play accompanied by the high-quality recording.

 

8. Smells Like Teen Spirit - Nirvana

▶️️ Play “Smells Like Teen Spirit” on the drums

 

The Nirvana hit “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is 28 years old! Forever one of those Rock groups having marked the History of music, Nirvana had a difficult start: tomatoes were thrown at them during their performances as their style was much too grunge for the time.

During one drunken evening in 1991, a friend of Kurt Cobain wrote “Kurt Smells Like Teen Spirit” in marker pen on the wall of his bedroom. The singer then put this phrase to music, convinced that it described perfectly his rebel spirit.

In reality, his friend was simply referring to the brand of deodorant, “Teen Spirit” which Kurt Cobain’s girlfriend was using at the time!

This very Pop-sounding song influenced by The Pixies was one of the last written before Nirvana went off to California to record the album Nevermind. It was introduced by Cobain as follows: “We have several new songs for you and we also have Dave Grohl - he’s the best drummer in the world!”

Through “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, the group’s leader and singer wanted to denounce some apathetic, smug young people who wallowed in mediocrity. He didn't count on the young people he was aiming at, who interpreted this as an encouragement of their attitude, which made the song so successful and pushed Kurt Cobain to permanently stop playing it towards the end of his career.

In spite of this, it is one of Nirvana’s most popular titles, if not the most famous, and propelled the group’s members to star ranking. An indelible trace which has survived the young Kurt Cobain, who died young, like many musicians, at the age of 27.

Check out the drum scores of “Smells Like Teen Spirit" in several levels, play accompanied by the high-quality recording and take advantage of the many functions offered by Tomplay.

 

9. With a Little Help From My Friends – Joe Cocker

▶️ Play “With a Little Help From My Friends” on the drums

On 17th August 1969, Joe Cocker played a Beatles piece, "With a Little Help From My Friends", on stage at Woodstock.

Although sceptical at first, Paul McCartney said of his performance that: "He changed the song into a soul hymn and we're eternally grateful to him for it". Joe Cocker’s cover version reached the top of the charts in the USA and England and made an impression on the Beatles.

John Lennon and Paul McCartney had written it in 4/4 time, but Joe Cocker recorded in a 3/4 waltz rhythm. In his studio version, you can hear Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page on the guitar, Procul Harum’s BJ Wilson on the drums and a Gospel choir singing the backing vocals.

This success forever marked the singer’s career. Check out the drum scores of “With a Little Help From My Friends” in several levels and play accompanied by the Tomplay professional recording.

 

10. Hey Joe – Jimi Hendrix

▶️️ Play “Hey Joe” on the drums

During the summer of 1966, Jimi Hendrix played at the Café Wha? in New York with his then group.

Chas Chandler, the bassist with the Animals, in the process of converting to become a band manager, was present at the performance. At this time, he was obsessed by a song, an American popular ballad written by Billy Roberts and covered unsuccessfully by many artists: “Hey Joe”.

He was looking for the perfect artist to record the song, which tells the story of a man running away to Mexico after having killed his unfaithful wife and her lover.

Hendrix performed “Hey Joe” on stage that day. Chandler completely fell under the charm of Hendrix’ talent and style, who was already playing solo guitar with his teeth.

The next day, Chandler organised a trip to London in order to have the song recorded, which launched the career of the Black Elvis beyond the shores of America.

On Sunday, 18th August 1969, Jimi Hendrix closed the Woodstock Festival with a more than two-hour long performance. At the time, he was backed by his group Gypsy Sun and Rainbows. From the second piece on, Hendrix started playing with his teeth. He finished with “Hey Joe”, which Bob Dylan would sing in the same way as Hendrix from then on.

Check out the Tomplay scores of “Hey Joe” for the drums in several levels and play accompanied by the high-quality play-along recording. You can improvise thanks to the TomImprov scores included and take advantage of the many other Tomplay functions.

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