We’re all at different levels as guitarists. However, no matter how good a player we are, there will be a bunch of guitar songs that are very hard to play. That’s why I decided to compile a short list of what I think are the most difficult guitar songs, regardless of your level.
So, let’s get straight to it and take a look at the first song…
Top 75 Most Difficult Guitar Songs
Eruption by Van Halen
Eddie Van Halen is frequently credited for coming up with a new way of playing. The two-handed tapping technique may or may not have been his idea; he claims to have seen Jimmy Page tap one note when he saw Led Zeppelin play live. But that was only one tapped note, not a whole piece of tapped notes. Regardless, with the 1978 release of “Eruption,” we undoubtedly got to hear a flawless performance of this new technique.
It was a ground-breaking recording that changed guitar playing for nearly every guitarist. For Metal and Rock guitarists, tapping would eventually become commonplace and a must-have technique to be mastered.
“Eruption” brought us not only tapping but also the liberal use of arpeggios along with wide-interval playing to a stunned set of fans and the music world at large. The technical skills required to play this song would take years for many to master.
It’s a hugely important song…
But it was never released as an A-side. Although, it later featured on the B-side of the single “Runnin’ With the Devil,” which was released as a single from the album, VanHalen, later in the same year.
It could be that “Eruption,” with a guitar solo lasting one minute and forty-two seconds, was not seen as single material. However, at least the release as a B-side gave fans the chance to buy it rather than the album.
Not that it stopped 17 million people from doing just that.
The Mystical Potato Head Groove Thing By Joe Satriani
Joe Satriani was one of the most influential guitarists of his time. He is a fifteen times Grammy-nominated guitarist and has sold over ten million records. Plus, he has also toured and collaborated with a ton of superstar bands and musicians.
Along with Van Halen, he helped to develop the new wave of Rock guitar playing. Interestingly, he claims to have used tapping as a technique even before Van Halen. He also claims that he first heard it from Wishbone Ash’s guitarists.
Without the luxury of the internet at the time, it’s hard to say who came up with tapping first. However, it’s fair to say that, most probably, a few stumbled across the idea at pretty much the same time.
Life’s little mysteries, I guess…
“The Mystical Potato Head Groove Thing” was one of Joe Satriani’s most challenging songs to play on guitar. He wrote it whilst under the influence of some kind of narcotic which explains a lot.
Released in 1989 on the album, Flying in a Blue Dream, it’s a must-listen for any aspiring advanced guitarist.
Tender Surrender by Steve Vai
Steve Vai is probably the most famous of Joe Satriani’s guitar students. Kirk Hammett may have one or two things to say about that, but for most of us, we’d agree that Steve Vai is the better guitarist.
Since turning up at Joe Satriani’s house as a fourteen-year-old schoolboy with guitar in hand and no strings, Steve Vai has come a long way. This, in no small part, is down to his insane practice routine. Typically, he’d spend ten hours a day playing guitar during his student days which quite frankly is incomprehensible.
One of the most technically proficient guitarists of all time. “Tender Surrender” puts all his skills on display, and in places, those skills are utterly and completely mind-blowing.
Although it’s one of the most difficult guitar songs to play, it starts easily enough, and quite honestly, eighty to ninety percent is more than playable. But, the last ten percent. That is where things are super tricky.
Downright nuts, if you ask me…
The speed of the arpeggio runs, and tapping is crazy. Plus, the fluidity and accuracy are completely off the scale. To get close to the sound is kind of doable, but to sound so good is truly bonkers.
It was released as the last track on the 1996 Alien Love Secrets album. The track is a five-minute “eargasm,” but the best version is live.
Texas Flood by Stevie Ray Vaughan
Stevie Ray Vaughn, I believe, was the greatest Blues/Rock guitarist ever. His timing, finger strength, sense of rhythm, and sheer musicality were incredible.
Over his entire career, you’d be hard-pressed to find a single mistake despite frequently improvising long and complicated solos. No matter where he was in a song, he always appeared to know right where he was going.
This was some feat considering he was often drunk and completely wasted on drugs. But he was a guitar maestro.
Not condoning that sort of thing, just sayin’…
“Texas Flood,” released in 1983 from the album of the same name, might not be the most difficult guitar track ever, but it’s not without its challenges. To play it with style and aplomb is a tall order. And if you don’t believe me, give it a try. Still easy?
Now change your strings to 13s, play whilst singing, and finally do all of that and make it sound great whilst paying behind your back. And I don’t mean playing behind your head, just so we’re clear.
You can’t do it? Thought not, and that’s why SRV was a guitar God.
Jordan by Buckethead
Buckethead has some serious chops. His technique is excellent, and many of his songs showcase this extraordinary talent. This is no more so than when he performs “Jordan.”
The track was never released as a part of an album. It came out in 2006 on Guitar Hero II as a playable tune. Because of its popularity, it was released three years later as a downloadable piece of music, but it was never available in physical form.
Very ahead of its time in that respect…
“Jordan” contains some super-fast licks and runs that would challenge even the best guitarist. There’s plenty of tapping and crazy hammer-ons and pull-offs when it lets rip about halfway through. As if all that isn’t enough, there are also offbeat rhythms and extensive use of a pitch shifter.
It is a killer track, and if it’s your kind of thing, you should also listen to “Night of the Slunk,” which was released in 1999 off his album, Monsters and Robots.
Cowboys from Hell by Pantera
The Crusade by Trivium
Miserlou by Dick Dale
For the Love of God by Steve Vai
Through the Fire and Flames by DragonForce
Cliffs of Dover by Eric Johnson
Technical Difficulties by Racer X
Black Star by Yngwie Malmsteen
The Dance of Eternity by Dream Theater
Canon Rock by JerryC
Caprice No. 24 by Niccolo Paganini (arranged for guitar by Julian Bream)
Always with Me, Always with You by Joe Satriani
Glasgow Kiss by John Petrucci
La Grange by ZZ Top
Far Beyond the Sun by Yngwie Malmsteen
Surfing with the Alien by Joe Satriani
Tender Surrender by Steve Vai
Seize the Day by Avenged Sevenfold
Under a Glass Moon by Dream Theater
Satch Boogie by Joe Satriani
Paranoid Android by Radiohead
Flight of the Bumblebee by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (arranged for guitar by Steve Morse)
YYZ by Rush
Mr. Crowley by Ozzy Osbourne (featuring Randy Rhoads)
Bad Horsie by Steve Vai
Scarified by Racer X
The Trooper by Iron Maiden
The Glass Prison by Dream Theater
Stratosphere by Stratovarius
Blue Powder by Steve Vai
Waves by Guthrie Govan
Thunderstruck by AC/DC
One by Metallica
The Extremist by Joe Satriani
Sails of Charon by Scorpions
Snow ((Hey Oh)) by Red Hot Chili Peppers
Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin
Clap by Steve Howe
Cliffs of Rock City by Paul Gilbert
Snowball of Doom by Racer X
Paranoid by Black Sabbath
Voodoo Child (Slight Return) by Jimi Hendrix
Black Magic Woman by Santana
Aces High by Iron Maiden
Midnight by Joe Satriani
More 25 Most Difficult Guitar Songs
- Fives by Guthrie Govan
- The Faded Line by Lamb of God
- Megalodon by Mastodon
- Outworld by Outworld
- Floods by Pantera
- The Light and Shade of Things by Fates Warning
- War by Meshuggah
- Summer Song by Joe Satriani
- Dream Theater by The Dark Eternal Night
- Guthrie Govan by Wonderful Slippery Thing
- In Flames by The Jester Race
- Steve Vai by The Attitude Song
- Iron Maiden by Hallowed Be Thy Name
- The Faceless by Autotheist Movement II
- Muse by Knights of Cydonia
- I Am the Black Wizards by Emperor
- Death by Symbolic
- Trivium by Ascendancy
- Eric Johnson by Manhattan
- Periphery by Have a Blast
- Revocation by Across Forests and Fjords
- Paul Gilbert by Frenzy
- Animals as Leaders by Physical Education
- Slayer by Angel of Death
- Necrophagist by Fermented Offal Discharge.
Interested in Playing the Guitar?
If so, take a look at our detailed articles on Amazing Acoustic Guitar Solos You Must Hear, Easy Electric Guitar Songs for Rock & Metal Beginners, Easy Songs to Learn on the Electric Guitar for Beginners, and How To Practice Guitar Chords for more useful information.
Also, check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Parlor Acoustic Guitars, the Best Hollow And Semi-Hollow Guitars, the Best Jazz Guitars, the Best Blues Guitars, the Best Acoustic Guitars Under $500, and the Best Guitars For Small Hands you can buy in 2023.
And don’t miss our comprehensive Squier Affinity Telecaster Review, our Schecter C1 Platinum Review, our Epiphone SG Special VE Review, our Fender American Professional Jazzmaster Review, and our Epiphone Les Paul Custom Pro Review for more great guitars currently on the market.
Most Difficult Guitar Songs – Final Thoughts
So, there you have it. It takes years to master the guitar, but I’m sure you’ll agree these five of the most challenging guitar songs would stretch even the most proficient player. This was only a short list, so apologies for any glaring omissions, and I hope you enjoy having a go at least one or two of the songs.
Until next time, keep on playing.