Can you read sheet music?

BerendMeijer

Junior Member
Hey everyone,

I was wondering, can you guys read sheet music?

If you can't, does it frustrate you or isn't it a problem?

And if you can read notes, do you feel like it accelerates your skill development?


Im doing some research for a project for the University of Amsterdam (Netherlands), trying to find problems that frustrate drummers.
I've been playing drums for about 15 years and this is one of the things that frustrates me. I can read simple sheet music, but reading more complex parts are just too hard to read.
 

Skate

Senior Member
I can slightly. If I don't understand, and I ask, then I feel stupid that I hadn't realised, it's like a Coldplay song, I can't understand a word that Chris Martin says, but once I look up the lyrics, I wonder how I didn't understand.
 

Magenta

Platinum Member
I played piano before I played drums, so yes I can read sheet music, including orchestral scores.

I did an experiment with my drum teacher on this very subject. I wanted to know if I learned faster/better by ear or by eye, so he taught me a piece that was new to both of us, that he'd learned by reading the music but that he taught me by playing it to me.

I found the piece much, much easier than he did - in fact I liked it while he hated it.

I tend to turn to sheet music for the parts that I can't quite get the hang of or get into my head, so that I can play them over and over knowing I'm getting them right, until such time as I have properly assimilated them.

For me, I find drum music more of an aide-memoir than actual music (such as piano music), possibly because drums are less of a stand-alone instrument than the piano, and for that reason I find it much more difficult to turn the dots on the page into real music.
 

STXBob

Gold Member
I was wondering, can you guys read sheet music?
Yes.

And if you can read notes, do you feel like it accelerates your skill development?
Yes.

It's easier for me to grok a part reading than it is watching/listening. I mean, there might be a bar or two of a particularly nasty piece with which I seek help from another person. But that's only happened a few times in my career. Usually I'm okay just working through it.

Also, reading music allows me to technically improve because I don't need to be in the same place as an instructor. I can get exercises/etudes from anywhere and practice them.

I can read simple sheet music, but reading more complex parts are just too hard to read.
Change a few words in this sentence and the solution to the problem becomes obvious.

Think of it like this: "I can play simple single-pedal bass drum rhythms, but not more complex stuff."

What takes you beyond that? Practice! Practice, practice, practice. :-D
 

Boomka

Platinum Member
Hey everyone,

I was wondering, can you guys read sheet music?
I wouldn't have a playing career if I didn't.

And if you can read notes, do you feel like it accelerates your skill development?
You still need to practice skill but reading helps in that it opens up access to all the available study material and written repertoire. I find it also helps me when I can take complex coordination conundrums/ideas and write them out so I can visualize them.

Im doing some research for a project for the University of Amsterdam (Netherlands), trying to find problems that frustrate drummers.
I've been playing drums for about 15 years and this is one of the things that frustrates me. I can read simple sheet music, but reading more complex parts are just too hard to read.
It takes practice and experience, just like other skill development. They aren't "too hard", they're "unfamiliar". :)
 

Naigewron

Platinum Member
I can read music, but it's been at least 15 years since I used it actively (playing piano and in marching bands). I'm guessing that I'm nowhere near as fluent as I used to be (especially if I were to try and play a piece I've never seen or heard before), but I can definitely still make sense of a piece of sheet music and work out how to play it or how it would sound.

Playing in your typical rock n'roll band, it's never been a requirement to be able to read music, but in general I find that having knowledge about music theory (subdivisions, time signatures, scales, chords, etc) comes in very handy when communicating with band mates or producers.
 

Chollyred

Senior Member
I play percussion in a large church orchestra and often (usually) have to sight read the parts. With all the time changes in orchestral music, it's critical. We may get to run through it once before having to perform it.

I don't remember the last time I saw a score for a drum set. Very few, if any, of the contemporary music arrangers know anything about playing drums. Sometimes we'll get a rhythm section score to at least know where some of the breaks and dynamic changes are.

I definitely feel reading helps with time signatures and communicating with other musicians.

In the rock band I play with, I don't write out the drum parts, but sometimes print out the lyrics and put in notes where breaks, fills, or critical parts are.
 

FritzDrummer

Senior Member
I can. I learned to read sheet music from day one. It greatly helped me through Jr. High and High School. I received many more opportunities in Jazz band because I was one of the few that could read music. Obviously you still have to practice to become better, but it definitely helps if you can read music. I don't use it as much anymore with my current band, but I still use it occasionally on some parts I struggle with.
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
I wouldn't have a playing career if I didn't.

You still need to practice skill but reading helps in that it opens up access to all the available study material and written repertoire. I find it also helps me when I can take complex coordination conundrums/ideas and write them out so I can visualize them.

It takes practice and experience, just like other skill development. They aren't "too hard", they're "unfamiliar". :)
All of this. It's a way to acquire new ideas quickly, and to have a better understanding of music... and to store ideas, so you don't have to memorize them, or watch/listen to them in real time to recall them, or ask somebody to tell you what they were again. And it's just a basic professional skill.

It also does not have to be difficult. Reading for drums means interpreting a chart-- making figures, stops, and fills, mainly; and interpreting a melody line within a time feel or solo idea. If you're fluent reading all note values up to 16th notes, that's good enough. I don't know what you mean by more complex parts, but drum book style reading, with a complete drum set "part" written out verbatim for all four limbs, is not an actual professional requirement. It doesn't matter if you suck at it, because it's not a real thing.
 

BerendMeijer

Junior Member
Yes.



Yes.

It's easier for me to grok a part reading than it is watching/listening. I mean, there might be a bar or two of a particularly nasty piece with which I seek help from another person. But that's only happened a few times in my career. Usually I'm okay just working through it.

Also, reading music allows me to technically improve because I don't need to be in the same place as an instructor. I can get exercises/etudes from anywhere and practice them.


Change a few words in this sentence and the solution to the problem becomes obvious.

Think of it like this: "I can play simple single-pedal bass drum rhythms, but not more complex stuff."

What takes you beyond that? Practice! Practice, practice, practice. :-D
Thank you for your answer! It's great to hear that your also improving technically because of your ability to read.

The reason that I ask this question, is because I wanted to measure how many drummers can read sheet music. I always wonder if there is a way that I could help drummers (and myself) by making some software that analyzes drum tracks and visualizes them while you're playing. What do you think about this?
 

BerendMeijer

Junior Member
I wouldn't have a playing career if I didn't.

You still need to practice skill but reading helps in that it opens up access to all the available study material and written repertoire. I find it also helps me when I can take complex coordination conundrums/ideas and write them out so I can visualize them.

It takes practice and experience, just like other skill development. They aren't "too hard", they're "unfamiliar". :)
Thanks Boomka, I agree that it opens up access to much more practice material. Do you think that something could help with the visualisation part?
 

BerendMeijer

Junior Member
All of this. It's a way to acquire new ideas quickly, and to have a better understanding of music... and to store ideas, so you don't have to memorize them, or watch/listen to them in real time to recall them, or ask somebody to tell you what they were again. And it's just a basic professional skill.

It also does not have to be difficult. Reading for drums means interpreting a chart-- making figures, stops, and fills, mainly; and interpreting a melody line within a time feel or solo idea. If you're fluent reading all note values up to 16th notes, that's good enough. I don't know what you mean by more complex parts, but drum book style reading, with a complete drum set "part" written out verbatim for all four limbs, is not an actual professional requirement. It doesn't matter if you suck at it, because it's not a real thing.
Hey toddbishop, thanks for your reply. By more complex parts, I meant parts like that of Animals as leaders. Do you think that I would be helpful something existed that visualizes drumsheets?
 

tcspears

Gold Member
Reading is crucial, it's how musicians communicate with each other. I've taken many gigs where I've never met any of the players, and get handed a binder of sheet music and hour before the gig. (I've also played some where the piano player writes out the tunes on cocktail napkins 5 minutes before the show, but that a different story)

I think it is extremely important for drummers to not only read drum charts, but read the lead sheets as well so they can play in the context of the song. Too many drummers ignore things like key changes or interesting melodic notes, because they are too concerned with rhythm. When I write out parts, I'll write the melody line and then add drums underneath, so that the drummer can still be aware of the song.

Here's a quick intro that I wrote that shows the piano part and the drum part. As you can see, you typically don't see drum parts written out for all four limbs...
 

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Hollywood Jim

Platinum Member
I read music 55 years ago. I can no longer read music.

It's not like riding a bike or playing the drums.
If you don't do it for a long time you can lose your ability to read music.

.
 

geezer

Senior Member
I learned to read as a kid, then didn't utilize it so lost it - have been re-learning to read music for the past 3 years in the context of taking jazz drumming lessons. As with many things we learn as children, it seemed so easy to pick up back then, hasn't been as easy the second time around!
 

Jhostetler

Senior Member
I think that there is a difference between being able to "read" sheet music and being able to "Interpret" sheet music. As some have stated here, most people that compose music have little to no understanding of how a drumset works. In my university's jazz band, I always have some sort of sheet music or chart in front of me. However, I rarely play exactly what's written. It's usually a measure of written out swing and then 32 bars of repeat signs, etc... In this case, the sheet music serves as a sort of guide that I can use to keep my place in the music, get all the repeats, and match the big hits with the brass section. I have actually come to favor looking at the first trumpet part for many songs. Now that being said, orchestra music; I read that note for note. It all really depends on what the application is.
 

pgm554

Platinum Member
I was a pretty good sight reader and what adds to ones reading skills is the ability to write and compose.

Reading and writing are complementary.be it the written word or music.

One of the advantages in being able to read ,is if you are playing long scores(classical and such),instead of having to count a hundreds of measures ,it was much easier to follow the scores by reading and following the notes.

If you were hip to the flow of the structure (like sonata form),it was a piece of cake.

I mean do you want to sit there and go 1234 ,2234,3234,4234?
 
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