Technique Tuesday: Reading Drum Set Music

kick snare drum kit female drummer floor tom together

As a self-taught drum set player, receiving sheet music is one of the most intimidating things that can happen. Especially because you’re sight-reading not only for one instrument, but technically 2 or more.

All drums and cymbals on a set are assigned a line or a space on the staff. Generally, you’ll see a hi-hat/ride, bass, snare, and three toms in drum set music. If there’s anything extra, like a cowbell or hi-hat splash, it’s usually explained as a side note.

Above is an example of what the music would look like; this is just a simple 2 & 4 snare rock beat.

Spaces spell FACE, from bottom to top. The “F” is bass, and the “C” is snare. Lines are a little trickier. From bottom to top, it’s EGBDF – “Every Good Boy Does Fine.” The top tom is “E,” the middle is “D,” and the floor tom is “A.” The Xs (on a high “G”) are hi-hat, though they could also be ride. The final note in this beat, an X on a high A, is the crash. NOTE: Some people will write grooves differently, even though this is the more widely used way.


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