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Reading Drum Music
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Reading drum sheet music can and is often glossed over or skipped completely for a lot of today’s modern drummer. The benefits of reading drum music are immense and once you have the basics down you can pretty much work it out for yourself from there.

Being able to successfully sight-read a piece of drum music is not going to happen overnight, but the good news is that it is significantly easier to pick up and to read than scores or charts written for melodic instruments (piano,guitar etc). Having an experienced teacher is always a great place to start, but if that is not an option there are various guides and tutorials out there that can help you just the same.

The beauty about reading drum music is that each drum/cymbal/percussive instrument has its own place on the stave (the five horizontal lines on which the musical notes are written), which is why it makes it a lot easier to read quickly than melodic instruments. Generally, the lower the note is placed on the stave, the lower the drum will be on the drum kit. For example, the bass drum is written on the bottom ‘F’ on the stave, and is generally the lowest note on a score of drum music. The bass drum, as many of you would be aware, sits on the floor. The lowest drum physically gets the lowest place on the stave, see how that works? Another example of this is the snare drum. The snare drum in terms of height is in the mid range. On the stave the snare drum is written on the middle ‘C’.

Besides knowing which drum goes where on the stave, there is a lot of general music theory that also needs to be learnt. For example, note duration, rests, dynamics, ties, repeats, coda’s etc. A lot of this stuff can become overwhelming for the beginner drummer, or the inexperienced drum music reader, which is why having a good source to learn from is a very good idea. And no, you don’t need to spend $20+ a week for drum lessons if you want to learn to read music. There are many guides out there that can teach you to read drum music, and they actually come pretty cheap, (your looking at around $5 - $15).

In conclusion reading drum music is not something that can be picked up instantly, but the benefits of being able to read drum music are immense. From learning songs and grooves to writing your own to share with other drummers, not to mention being able to read scores is a must for pro drummers looking for studio work and especially drum teachers. My suggestion is to work at it, don’t become overwhelmed, just work through all the concepts at your own pace, and things will come together sooner than you think.

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