How Do I Read Drum Set Music?

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Drum set music places empasis on beats instead of tines, meaning you may have to read drum set music differently. Translate drum sheet music quick with help from a professional drummer in this free video.

Part of the Video Series: Drums
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Video Transcript

Hey everybody, this is Nate Morton. I play drums with Cher and I live in Los Angeles, California. And this is how to read drum set music. Rhythmically, reading drum set music isn't that much different from reading piano music or reading clarinet or reading tuba in the sense that the note values are still the same, we have half notes, whole notes, quarter notes, half note rest, whole rest, quarter rest and it's actually also similar in the sense that it's typically written on a staff which consists of five lines, four spaces in between the lines. The primary difference is that when you're reading piano, those lines and spaces correspond to notes on the piano for example. or when you're reading oboe or clarinet, you know, or saxophone notes on that instrument. With the drum set, those lines and spaces correspond to instruments on the drum kit. So for example, typically, if you're looking at five lines and spaces like this, this would be your typical staff. Oftentimes, you're going to have the kick drum here on your bottom space. So, any notes written down here are going to be on your kick drum. Typically, you're going to have your snare drum in the second from the top space and then, you're going to have your high hat up here in the top space. So, if you see music written out for drum set, it might look a little something like this. There we have some notes here, right; this is going to be eighth notes on the high hat. Maybe you've got your snare drum here and you got your kick drum down here. And so that's the way a typical drum set pattern might look. So, what we see here is that we've got eighth notes in the high hat, with our kick drum playing beat 1 and beat 3, our snare drum playing beats 2 and beat 4. Right? So, we got a little something like this. One and two and three and four, and one and two and three and four, and one. So, you maybe thinking, well, what about if there's toms, what about if there's right cymbal, how do you right your crashes? Well, those things just fall typically within the five line staff and the four spaces and they maybe written; you know, a tom maybe written on the second from the top line. Maybe if you've got three toms, you may use the three middle lines; these maybe where you write your, your toms if you have tom rhythms. If you have a crash, it maybe written up here, above the staff. But the point is, typically these things all correspond lines and spaces to instruments around the kit and that's basically the way that it's put together in terms of reading drum set music. So, I am Nate Morton and that's how to read drum set music.


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