Neil Peart has left behind a gigantic body of work that ensures his legacy will live on in perpetuity. In the following pages, we’ll dig into some of the deeper cuts from Neil’s illustrious catalog with Rush.
“Cygnus X-1,” A Farewell to Kings
This song opens with a tight and funky pattern that weaves through an array of time signatures (6/8, 7/8, 6/8, and 4/4). Each of the measures is identical for the first six 8th notes, with the open hi-hat repeated once in the 7/8 and twice in the 4/4. On the first pass, there’s a bar of rest between each beat.The song then explodes into a frantic 11/8 that’s action-packed with cool groove and fill variations.
“Distant Early Warning,” Grace Under Pressure
“Far Cry,” Snakes & Arrows
Neil throws down an intense ending to this track as he solos over the hits. He starts with accents poking out of a quiet snare roll that progress into a flurry of toms, kicks, and crashes, until finally closing with a frenzy of gong drums and double bass.
“One Little Victory,” Vapor Trails
The intro to this song features a driving double-bass groove where Neil matches his hands to his kicks with 16th-note singles. The right hand goes back and forth from the hi-hat to the snare as Neil accents a set of syncopated rimshots that poke through subtle ghost-note chatter.
“The Necromancer,” Caress of Steel
In the middle of this epic track, Neil sets up a 12/8 section with a pattern that’s based on a two-over-three polyrhythm. For every three 8th notes, there are two equally spaced snare hits, creating a hypnotic feel. Through this section, Neil plays grooves and fills that highlight both sides of the polyrhythm.
“Jacob’s Ladder,”Permanent Waves
At 5:15 in this song, the meter shifts between 6/8 and 7/8. (This section can also be counted in 13/8.) In the first eight bars, Neil dances around the pulse. As the section intensifies, he starts to play the China on the beat and then off the beat a couple of bars later.
“Natural Science,” Permanent Waves
At 5:29, the feel flips from what seems like 6/8 to funky triplets in 4/4. The 6/8 feel is created with the ride cymbal. By playing every other triplet note, Neil ends up with three evenly spaced ride hits over two beats. That creates six evenly spaced hits through the measure of 4/4, which simulates a 6/8 ride pattern.
“La Villa Strangiato,” Hemispheres
The final section of this song (5:51) is where things really get crazy. Opening with a driving tom beat in 7/8, Neil expands the same idea to 4/4 when the bass enters and powers through some syncopated shots. All of a sudden we’re then confronted with a swing section that explodes into some incredibly strange shots, beats, and blistering fills. Pay special attention to the swing hi-hat pattern, where Neil plays solid 8ths with his right hand and fills in additional notes with his left.