Drum Kit Notation, An Introduction

A brief introduction on drum kit notation.

If you would just like a quick overview of the notation guide for drumscore.com you can find it here. To make organizing our guide to parts of the drum set tidier I have split this section up over several pages. You can find links to the pages listing spefic parts of the kit below.

On a pitched instrument, notes are positioned on the stave according to there pitch. The stave being the five horizontal lines you see on a piece of sheet music. Although a drum kit is not a pitched instrument, a similar concept is used. Notes are placed on the stave and this signifies which part of the kit is played. Generally, the higher on the stave a note is, the higher pitched it is. This isn't a strict rule though.

Notation for the drum kit is a little uniques because as well as using different positions on the stave, different Note Heads are also used to show differences in voice. A good example of this is the difference between drum and cymbal notation. Generally drums will always use a sold circular note head where as cymbals will usually be an 'x'.

There are a lot of different opinions on how exactly drum kit should be notated and there isn't really a set template. Most transcribers agree on a basic template but many relatively recent additions to the standard set such as the china cymbal, percussive items and electronic pads don't have a set notation. Certain techniques such as hitting the ride on the edge presents a similar problem. What is listed here is the notation guide specfic to drumscore notation. I am always open to discussion about why I chose some of the notation I did, I can be contacted on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for this purpose.

In the pages below we will discuss in detail all the parts of the kit used in drumscore.com transcriptions and the notation for them. I have ordered the page into 'drums', 'cymbals' and 'percussion'.


Text your knowledge with our Parts Of The Kit Quiz.