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How to Read Drum Lesson Sheet Music

Learn how to read drum lesson sheet music from drum expert Jason Gianni in this Howcast video.


Just like with any instrument, reading is an essential part of learning, and the good thing is about the drum is all based around rhythm, and rhythm happens to be an essential of every instrument that you play. Everybody has to learn the basics of rhythm, the basics of counting, and the type of notes you're dealing with, and what better start than with a drum set, or a drum, which is the basis of rhythm. When you read music, you're dealing with a variety of type of notes.

Normally you will start with something like a whole note, which is worth four full counts and usually takes up one full measure of music, and it works like math where you divide the whole note in half, and you get two half notes, and the half note would fall on beat one and beat three of a measure, so there'd be two of them, one, two, three, four, and there are your two half notes. The half notes are divided into four quarter notes, each one gets divided, and you get two on this side, two on this side, you create four quarter notes, and those usually fall with the count of the measure, one, two, three, four.

If you're ever listening to music, you hear a musician count off, one, two, three, four, that's typically what quarter notes are. Then each quarter notes divide down into single eighth notes, so now you have eighth notes for the measure, and those are counted with ands in between each note, one and two and three and four and. Then eighth notes are divided down as well, and those turn into sixteenth notes, sixteen of them in a measure, and they're accounted with some extra syllables, and they would sound something like one ee and a two ee and a three ee and a four ee and a, one ee and a, and after that you could divide notes further into thirty-second notes and sixty-fourth notes, but that gets a little fast for the rhythmic scales. So it's best to just understand the notes that I gave you, especially for the quarter notes to the sixteenth notes.

Now with drumming what you're doing is you're taking a variety of rhythms and you're putting them on top of each other, so each limb is playing a different rhythm. For instance, high hat will play eighth notes, one and two and three and four and, bass drum will play some of the quarter notes, maybe on one and three, one, three, and the snare drum will answer on two and four, two, four. And if you ever see them on a staff of music, the high hat will be written on the top, with x'es on the notes, the snare drum will be written in-between as a blackened note head, and the bass drum will be written below as a blackened note head, and they fall on top of each other.

So if you just understand the subdivision of notes, and how they line up with each other, you could begin to start playing drumbeats right away.

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