Archive for February, 2013

Art of Writing Drum Notation – Lesson IV

Posted: February 2, 2013 in Articles, Lessons

Welcome back to Lesson IV on the Art of Writing Drum Notation!!

To get started, let’s review and discuss NOTE VALUES, SYMBOLS & TERMINOLOGY:

In the picture below A, you will see a cheat sheet to explain the values and definitions of both the notes and rests.

A.) Drum Notation 1

To become a proficient writer, you will need a working knowledge of note values and corresponding rests, etc. Slowly, you will learn to equate the values of the different types of notes (note values), then ad stems & flags.  You will be amazed at how quickly all this will come together if you just continue to doodle with the notation possibilities. The picture below (B.) will help in playing bass & ghost note patterns. The top line is the most common way you’ll see drum music  written out. The 3 lines below the top line are various forms of filling up the sixteenth note pattern. The reason they’re different is they are used for other instruments for longer sustain of notes. To drums a hit is a hit (unless playing Jazz).

In the diagrams B & C, you will notice we circled the 1 (one),  e (eee),  + (and),  d (dah). The circle indicates when you hit the drum.


B.)Drum Notation 2            C.)  Drum Notation 3


Each line of music on the music staff is supposed to tally with the time signature.  It is math and everything must add up.  For example, if we break down the Sixteenth (16th) Notes  – in a measure of 4/4, there is sixteen (16) sixteenth notes, they are subdivided in 4 groups of 4. In 2/4, there are two (2) groups of 4, in 3/4, three (3) groups of 4, etc. Remember also, that each note value has a corresponding rest. Rests allow us to remain silent or skip a note, yet account for the time in such a way that everything will still add up and match the time signature we are in. See the picture below:


Drum Notation 4


Drum Notation 5

This stuff is a tad dry but you are going to need it!

Many people have a difficult time with this area of study.  If you are one of those, take heart!  Just try to get a general idea of how the different types of notes are used to describe different rhythms within a steady tempo.  If you tend to freeze up with all this just keep thinking . . . it will all come together slowly. A good way to look at the music is to break it into sections, DON’T look at the entire line or page, it will overwhelm you. Instead look at each section (as seen below in parentheses).

drum notation 6

NOTE: You will also find it VERY helpful to count the beats out loud  – Example saying 1, e, +, d when playing and accent louder the beat your playing (1, e AND, dah). This will help develop your ear!

As always please call me with any questions you may have and keep Drumming!!

Brett – 602-843-3114 or visit me online at