Gear Review: Groove Scribe – The Free Transcription Tool That Will Change Your Life

By JJ Jones

Imagine if you merged notation software with a drum machine and got a universally accessible, infinitely changeable, instantly sharable, online transcription tool that was free and easy-to-use. Sound too good to be true? Meet Groove Scribe, the new browser-based drum notation tool developed by Modern Drummer’s 2016 Clinician/Educator of the Year, Mike Johnston, in conjunction with famed web programmer Lou Montulli.

Don’t Know Drum Notation? No Problem!

To make and share grooves, just fill in the blanks and Groove Scribe creates the notation for you. This is done through a grid of dots (see Fig 1) where each dot corresponds to a beat subdivision (e.g. quarter, eighth, sixteenth or thirty-second notes). You fill in the dots and they appear on the notation staff below. Hit the spacebar to play it back, and use the bpm slider to set the tempo.

GS - basic rock beat hi-res
Fig 1

Share Your Grooves

Incredibly, you can instantly share your groove creations with anyone, anywhere. Groove Scribe creates a unique URL link that will open up and play your transcription in any online web browser window. And, it can be modified without changing the original—just hit Share again and another unique URL is created.

Efficient Practicing is a No-Brainer

I have a document that contains the Groove Scribe links for all my drills, exercises, and songs. When I sit down to practice, I just open each link in a browser window and play along, using each transcription as a template and changing the speed or individual notes as needed. No more thumbing through drum books and sheafs of notation printouts, everything I need for practicing is at my fingertips – and, I can access it anywhere I have an internet connection.

JJ’s Kick Drum Practice Routine

Transcribe (and Hear!) Difficult Drum Charts with Ease

Got a complex drum chart? Transcribe it onto the grid and hear it back in minutes, then play along at any tempo. The hi-hat and snare have multiple sounds to choose from (open, crash, rimshot, ghost note, etc), you can add toms and sticking patterns, choose the time signature and note values, and copy, add or delete measures. You can even add swing, export to MIDI and print to a PDF.


As an educator, Groove Scribe has completely revolutionized my Skype lessons. I can transcribe a beat, song, or exercise for a student, email or text the link to them immediately, and they are playing along in seconds. PDFs, printouts and expensive notation software are no longer necessary. Equally importantly: my students are using Groove Scribe on their own – since it’s free and easy-to-use for even the most basic beginners – and it’s teaching them how to transcribe beats and read drum notation as they use it!

Create and Compose

Create your own grooves by filling in the dots and substituting different sounds and orchestrations on the kit. Groove Scribe also has built-in grooves like the Purdie Shuffle, Bossa Nova, and foot ostinatos like the Samba, so you have a jumping off place for creating your own beats. Using mixed subdivisions, e.g. triplets and non-triplets, in one measure is difficult (but doable), and you can’t string together measures with different time signatures, but these are some of the few limitations of this awesome invention.

  • Here’s a groove I compased solely on Groove Scribe by morphing a basic 8th-note rock beat into a complex 16th-note linear beat:


Groove Scribe is the ultimate drum notation and playback tool that has changed my life as a drummer and educator. What can it do for you?

Check it out at:

JJ Jones is an internationally touring, Berklee-trained drummer and educator. She has played with folk-pop darlings Girlyman, singer/songwriter Lucy Wainwright Roche, comedian Margaret Cho, LA’s riot-pop band WASI, and Egyptian revolutionary Ramy Essam, among many others. She is the founder of

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  1. Thank you JJ for this info. I’ve literally been looking for years for a drum notation app that is this easy and in-depth. I’m so impressed with all the options and detail that went into this. It’s totally great!!

    -Frank Ferraro
    (Lincoln, NE)

    1. Awesome! So glad you’ve discovered Groove Scribe! It’s a game changer, for sure, and so great for pros and beginners alike.

  2. An incredible resource, been looking for something that works like this for years, thanks

    Is there a way of exporting the transcription and putting it into a page format on a word processor?

    1. Cool, so glad you discovered it! While there is no export function, per se, you can go to “Print” at the bottom, and print it as a PDF file.

  3. I’m looking for something like this, but that can transcribe from drum audio….. a pipe dream I’m sure m- but I’m curious to see what this software can do as I would like to properly notate the drum notation that I play for each song in the band I am in.

    The downside is that I don’t read that much notation these days, but kinda want to have something that lasts, other than an mp3.

    Though I will definitely be using this software to find out what tempo our music is played at, so I can record the drum track properly at least.


    1. Yeah, I’m pretty sure a program that transcribes drum parts right from an audio file doesn’t exist yet (but probably will at some point! 🙂 ). In the meantime, what about a free app like Tempo SloMo that slows down songs without changing the pitch? That’s what I use to transcribe difficult parts and songs since it makes it so much easier to hear all the separate hits.

      As far as not reading/knowing drum notation, one of the most powerful things about Groove Scribe is that you *don’t* need to know notation to use it. You just fill in the grid and it makes the notation for you. And I agree about having something that lasts. Notating your parts and then printing them (not to mention, being able to access them anywhere, anytime, on the web), is a great idea.

      Good luck! 🙂

  4. This a fantastic tool. Amazing! Cant thank you enough. I have started transcribing some Indian beats from exercises shown by Sarah Thawer on Drumeo channel on Youtube so that I can program them on my Yamaha PSR S910 Keyboard and this tool is making all that happen.

    One quick question: Is it possible to print the notation and the drum roll at the same time?

    1. So glad to hear this! (And I love Sarah Thawer – she’s one of our faves around here, and her Drumeo performance was AWESOME.) As far as printing in Groove Scribe, you’ve probably discovered that you can print the notation as a PDF. The only way I’ve found to print both the notation and the grid together is a screen shot. Cheers, and enjoy!

      1. Hey Rithwik – Which transcription are you wanting to see? I’m pretty sure I give URL links in the article for Groove Scribe transcriptions of everything I mention. Just let me know and I’d be happy to share! jj

  5. This was absolutely awesome for my 6 year old to learn some new beats and string together old ones while staying on tempo.

    1. Matt, this is great to hear. And I love knowing that a 6-yr old can use it! Perfect application of an awesome tool. I’ve got a 9 yr-old student — this gives me motivation to get her using it. Thanks!

  6. Thanks for this share JJ (and Mike!). Awesome tool that blends nicely from the grid notation that I use with students into stave notation… and that I can give to students straight away! What a find 🙂

    1. For sure, Craig. I checked out your website and it seems Groove Scribe might be like a digital version of your Drum Notation Pad. — super cool! I teach via Skype, and it’s amazing to be able to send students an interactive transcription link they can open within seconds. Total game changer. Thanks for writing, and hope is going well! jj

  7. Yeah, I was looking for this and found it … ‘though : Where’s the hihat foot? Am I missing a button (or are you) ?

    1. John, if you click on the word “Kick” on the left side of the grid, a pop-up menu will appear. You can choose “HH foot #’s ON” or “HH foot &’s ON”.

    1. So awesome! Love to hear this. I also use it to loop things I’m working on – grooves, fills, patterns… It’s SO much better than playing to just a click.

  8. Looks pretty darn good. Just started looking for a quick and accurate way to transcribe patterns for a corporate wedding band I mercenary for. 4 sets no rehearsal. Need some charts and fast.
    My question is how do I open the hats?

    1. Hey Peter – remember that Groove Scribe isn’t the best thing for writing full charts, it’s more for transcribing parts and fills, using in place of a metronome, playing back notation, etc. That said, if you’re just transcribing the beat for each song and certain sections as a learning and mnemonic device, it’s awesome. To open the hats just right-click on a hi-hat X in the grid to see all the sound options (this works for the snare as well – you can get rim shots, ghost notes, cross-stick, etc).

  9. Thank you for this fantastic program. I’m wondering if there is any way to write a ride cymbal pattern? Also, if I am just playing my foot on 2 and 4 or upbeats on the hi-hat, is there a way to indicate that? Thanks again!

    1. So glad it’s helpful! The hi-hat on the top line of the grid can be changed to an open hat, ride, crash, stacker, cow bell, etc, by right-clicking on top of any “x”. The snare also has different sounds by using the same method. A hi-hat with the foot can be notated by right-clicking on top of any of the kick beats in the grid.

  10. Great tool. Will you be adding odd time signatures or allow for odd groupings like 5 over 4 for example? Wonderful tool and idea. ~ Thanks

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