Drum Notation and Reading Basics
Music is written on a staff (a set of five horizontal lines with notes written on them).
The notes typically represent a different musical pitch but in drum notation, they
represent what drum or cymbal to play. Here is a chart of standard drum set notation.
Rhythms are written as a combination of notes and rests. Notes represent sounds
of a certain duration and rests represent silence of a certain duration. So you play
the notes and don’t play the rests but they both last for a specific amount of time.
Here are the different types of notes and rests and how long they last.
So in the amount of time it would take to play 1 whole note, you could also play 2 half
notes, 4 quarter notes, 8 eighth notes, 12 eighth note triplets, and so on.
Tempo is how fast or slow a piece of music is. This is measured in beats per minute,
usually quarter notes. A metronome (a device that generates a pulse) is a good tool for
establishing the tempo of a song. You can set most metronomes to play the different
subdivisions (quarter notes, eighth notes, etc.) at any particular tempo.
The time signature of a song is written as a fraction and specifies how many beats are
in each measure and what note value gets the beat. The bottom number indicates what
note value gets the beat while the top tells you how many of those beats are in a
measure. So if you have a time signature of 5/4, this tells you that there are five
quarter notes in a measure. Some examples would be:
The C (common time) is the same as 4/4
and the C with a slash through (cut time)
is the same as 2/2.
Dynamic markings indicate how loud or soft to play. The six main ones are:
pp = pianissimo (very soft)
p = piano (soft)
mp = mezzo piano (medium soft)
mf = mezzo forte (medium loud)
ff = fortissimo (very loud)
> = indicates an accent. Play notes with an accent louder than the others.
Measures (or bars) are separated by bar lines. A double