Dream Theater “The Dance of Eternity” – Sheet Music, Time Signatures, Analysis & More

Jordan Rudess  /  Pop/Rock  /  UPDATED Mar 1, 2024

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Few songs are as epic as Dream Theater’s “The Dance of Eternity.” It’s one of their most iconic tracks, and it features a virtuosic piano part that spotlights the keyboardist. For much of the band’s history, that keyboardist has been Jordan Rudess—a Juilliard-educated pianist who has been voted “Best Keyboardist of All Time” by Music Radar Magazine.

This post is a treat because we have Jordan Rudess himself breaking down the keyboard parts! And if you want to learn the song yourself (warning: it’s not for the faint of heart), go to the Pianote Members Area to download a note-for-note transcription. Not a Member yet? Enjoy a free trial on us!

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The Intro

We begin with trippy time signature changes right off the bat, jumping from 4/4 to 7/8 to 3/4 over and over.

Sheet music extract from "The Dance of Eternity" by Dream Theater.

The repeating, rapid scale figure is based on the Phrygian mode. The Phrygian scale starts on a minor 2nd, creating a dark and mysterious sound. It’s part of what makes “The Dance of Eternity” so intriguing from the start.

Composure. Practice. Meditation. It’s all highly recommended.

Jordan Rudess

The Ragtime Section

One of the neatest things about this song is the cheeky ragtime section. It’s unexpected for a metal song, but it adds such an iconic twist!

Man with goatee playing keyboard in studio with screens.
Jordan Rudess showing off his keyboard chops at our studio.

In “The Dance of Eternity,” Jordan took the very “serious” and “metal” riffs John Petrucci (Dream Theater’s guitarist) was playing and played it with a honky-tonk sound, causing the entire band to crack up.

The hardest part of this section is probably the chromatically ascending octaves. (Octaves are pretty common in ragtime).

The Piano/Guitar Solo

This is perhaps the most technically challenging part of a technically challenging song! For Jordan, headspace is really important when you’re performing a song like this, especially if you play in a stadium with thousands of people.

Jordan establishes his fingering first. Then, he thinks about how he will breathe and stand during the performance. “All that is really, really important.”

You really want to practice not only just the finger motions of it but also you need to practice the headspace that you want to play it in.

Jordan Rudess

The Unison and Thirds Section

This section begins with a unison guitar and keyboard riff. The guitar and bass keep going in unison, but the keyboard starts introducing thirds and fourths…which are not easy to play fast!

The “Weird” Section

Yep, Dream Theater calls this the “weird” section! When Jordan Rudess joined the band, he brought with him a wide range of influences. He wanted to add something harmonically different to the song, hence this weird section—with its strange and augmented, surreal sound—was born.

Man with goatee in leather jacket playing and leaning over keyboard in studio.

I’ve been in the band for 25 years now and I think they’re still coming to grips with my creative thinking.

Jordan Rudess

The Unison/Time Signature Section

A question that gets asked a lot is: how many time signatures are in Dance of Eternity? We counted 127!

This particular section near the end of the song has a lot. We go from 4/4 to 3/4 to 12/16 to 10/16…and then to 5/16 and 6/16!

The Outro

The outro is refreshingly simple with a memorable theme. There are still time signature changes though, just to keep things interesting! Then, the song ends on an elegant, arpeggiated C-sharp minor chord that transitions us into the next song.

We hope you enjoyed this breakdown of a musical beast! Here’s the song in full for your listening pleasure.

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