This was not an easy list to make. I am a guitar fanatic, and I look up to a lot of guitarists, many of whom I consider masters of the instrument.
And even though I love the less discussed and intimidating guitar players, such as Scott Mishoe, Scotty Anderson, Stephen Taranto, Roy Marchbank, and more, I decided to make go for some relatively well-known songs for this list.
However, I did include some lesser-known guitar songs I believe to be truly insane. So…
Whether you’re a music fanatic or a guitar player, here’s a list of the top 10 hardest guitar songs to play.
Table of Contents
1. Steve Vai – Juice
Steve Vai is a true pioneer of shred rock guitar, and it would feel wrong not to include him on a list like this one.
Choosing Steve Vai’s hardest song was also a difficult choice, but I decided to choose Juice.
Some other candidates for hardest guitar songs by Steve Vai included Blue Powder, Fire Garden Suite, and Bad Horsie, but Juice was the song that had it all.
To play Juice you need impeccable legato skills, a killer rock tone, an ear for bending and harmonics, a strong grasp on tremolo bar techniques, and a well-seasoned picking hand.
2. Eddie Van Halen – Eruption
Eruption is the “original” hardest song on guitar, and it still holds up today.
Even though every guitarist and their dog has learned how to tap the guitar, this solo helped in the cementation of the technique and inspired a generation of technical innovators.
On top of being a technically difficult piece for both the left and right hands, it’s difficult to replicate this song note-for-note because of the effects being used throughout the song.
3. Animals As Leaders – CAFO
One of the newest progressive metal bands on the block is Animals as Leaders.
Animals as Leaders have “thumped” and “djented” their way to the top of the modern progressive metal scene. And in the process of doing so, they’ve released some of the hardest guitar songs in progressive metal history.
And one song in particular that helped bring them to fame is CAFO.
Even though they’re well known for the guitar playing of maestros Tosin Abasi and Javier Reyes, pay attention to their next level drumming as well, done by Matt Garstka.
4. Jason Becker – Perpetual Burn
It was tough to choose between Yngwie Malmsteen and Jason Becker, but Jason is one of my musical heroes, so I had to put him on this list.
And while Jason Becker may have more technically difficult songs than Perpetual Burn, such as Mabel’s Fatal Fable, Perpetual Burn is one of his most famous and revered songs.
Here’s the original version of Perpetual Burn.
Here’s a spectacular cover of Perpetual Burn by Jeff Loomis. It showcases the technical skill level required to play such an incredible neoclassical masterpiece.
5. Dream Theater – The Dance of Eternity
Dream Theater needs no introduction, and neither does their guitarist John Petrucci.
Dream Theater has a plethora of songs with difficult guitar solos and unison lines, but Dance of Eternity is difficult overall for all instruments because of the song’s sheer volume of different time signatures and sections.
I’d argue that Dance of Eternity is one of the hardest guitar songs to memorize, and may have the most difficult set of time signatures in metal guitar history.
6. Buckethead – Jordan
Yeah, we all remember this song from Guitar Hero 2, but have you tried to play it on a real guitar?
Well, if you have, you’ll know that Buckethead didn’t make it easy for us to play.
First and foremost, you need a kills witch to play this song.
Secondly, you need to learn Buckethead’s “Nubbing” technique to play this song. Nubbing is his multi-finger chromatic tapping technique.
Aside from being an awesome showcase for technical prowess, the song is unique and freakin’ cool. Check it out.
7. Jon Gomm – Passionflower
As fun as electric guitar is, I had to include this modern acoustic guitar song by the mighty Jon Gomm.
It’s certainly one of the hardest acoustic guitar songs I’ve come across, but it’s also beautiful and soothing!
Jon Gomm uses a lot of crazy guitar techniques in this song, including the use of banjo tuners for pitch shifting, multi-finger tapping, and percussive acoustic techniques.
8. Shawn Lane and Brett Garsed – Hey Tee Bone (Mark Varney Project)
I couldn’t make a list of hardest guitar songs without including Shawn Lane and Brett Garsed.
Seriously, they’re legends. Brett Garsed is a legato legend, and Shawn Lane is a speed legend.
Aside from being technically adept, they were key contributors in the evolution of jazz fusion guitar.
And as a side note, I could put almost any song from Legato Records onto this list.
Without further ado, check out Hey Tee Bone by the Mark Varney Project.
9. Allan Holdsworth and Frank Gambale – Rocks (Mark Varney Project)
Rocks is the first song on the famous jazz fusion guitar album “Truth in Shredding”.
The song features blazing amazing phrasing from two of the greatest jazz fusion guitarists ever, Allan Holdsworth and Frank Gambale.
Between Allan’s crazy legato playing, and Frank’s monster economy picking licks, you’ll hear solos unlike any you’ve heard before.
Here’s the full album, and like I said earlier, Rocks is the first song. The whole album is worth a listen, though!
10. Guthrie Govan – Waves
Guthrie Govan is known in nearly every guitar circle around the world, and he’s regarded amongst many to be the greatest guitarist alive.
Guthrie has great improvisational skills and can play about any genre out there.
On top of being a great improviser, he’s a unique composer that doesn’t stray away from sounding like a traditional rocker but never sounds like a cookie-cutter guitarist.
Conclusion: Top 10 Hardest Guitar Songs
These songs you looked at today display decades of progress and innovation in music and guitar playing.
And even if there aren’t the hardest guitar songs by your standards, that’s okay, because it’s subjective at the end of the day.
Let me know what you’re top 10 hardest guitar songs are in the comments below!