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Practice blog - Introducing Drum Kit Notation

posted 7 Sept 2014, 01:21 by Chris Morris

Because we've had such a high number of new pupils recently, a lot of you are still coming to terms with drum kit notation, so for this week's practice blog, I thought I would focus on explaining a few basic things about notation to get you started. This blog will also be good revision for pupils who have been coming for a while, especially those of you who have just been guessing at what these dots mean!

First of all, here's a handy drum key:

This is obviously for quite a huge drum kit. At Dundee Drum Academy we don't use a china, splash, tom 3, tom 5 or left bass, so for the purposes of getting started, you can ignore these (although they may come in handy later on).

At Dundee Drum Academy, I also write the cowbell in a slightly different place – it's the same shape but I usually write it in either the ride cymbal or hi-hat space. This kind of thing is really common in drum kit; depending on what book you're using, the author might for instance swap the hi-hat and ride cymbals around. Don't panic though, there is always a drum key like the one above to help you out.

Also, “tom 4” refers to the floor tom, and in some drum keys you might see the bass drum referred to as the “kick” drum. Quite a silly name really, but it's becoming more common among musicians.

As I've said to a lot of you this week, drum kit can be quite a difficult instrument to get your head around initially because as there are so many drums and cymbals, you have to learn a pretty big amount of notes to begin with. Don't worry about it though, take your time and learn what each symbol represents. Here are a few handy pointers to keep in mind:

  • The second tom is written on the second space down. It's the only drum that's written on a line as opposed to a space.

  • The bass drum is written right at the bottom of the stave, just as the bass drum is right at the bottom of the drum kit.

  • Cymbals are written as crosses and drums are written as dots (there are some exceptions to this but you can follow this rule at the beginning of tuition!)

  • A triangle or a diamond shape usually indicates a high pitched sound such as the cowbell or the bell of the ride cymbal.

I've written down a drum key for all of you new pupils over the past couple of weeks. If anyone else thinks they might benefit from one to practise with just let me know.

Just a quick note to finish with this week, most of you by now will have heard about the Christmas Concert we have planned for December. I'm glad that there's been a buzz about this and as soon as I know how many of you can play, we'll get a programme sorted so we can show off all of your wonderful talents!

See you all again soon,