Senior Member
Is there a 'standard' for notating drum music? So far i've seen 4 or 5 different ways of i saw notates the snare on the B line in the staff (middle line), others notate it in the C space of the there a universal standard? As i've just started properly i am going to start teaching myself sightreading right from the beginning as i think it'll be beneficial later on! Cheers!


Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
Have seen it both ways (depending on the writer/publisher) but it's more common for the snare on the C line when written in treble clef. Most drum notation is typically written in bass clef, so really that's an E.



Gold Member
As far as I've seen, the notation guide in DRUM! is a pretty standard method. Of course, there's more than one way to write it out, but a standard would be nice.


Platinum Member
Bermuda is right, that is certainly more common.
Stick Control, The New Breed, Syncopation FTMD, Buddy Rich SDR, Groove Essentials, all have their parts scored out this way. Many others are like this too, including examination books (in the UK at least). Not all will include a clef, time signatures, or the like, but the drums will be in the same spaces.

However it's not unusual to see parts scored out on one or two lines. For example Conversations In Clave (great book) has a lot of this. There is only one line, with voicings placed above, on, and below a single line. At the side of the notation is written which instrument the part is to be played on - mainly due to the use of different sizes of cowbell, etc. There are also various noteheads used to dictate the instrument, triangle for cowbell, cross for hats, default notehead for crash etc.

Rhythm & Meter Patterns has a similar system, albeit with kit parts.

Advanced Techniques For The Modern Drummer is scored out on 3 lines. cymbals top, snare middle, kick bottom. I'd say with any system It's common to see cymbals at the top, snare in the middle & kick on the bottom, with any toms around the snare.

When writing out ideas for myself, I do something similar to the scoring in ATFTMD, or sometimes use a grid if it is a part with many sub-divisions, such as drum & bass.
I re-write them in Sibelius before sending them off to anyone, or printing them out for students.
There are also some other programs, which are a little more drummer centric, however I already use Sibelius for composing, and have custom house styles set up to easily change noteheads & the like for cymbals, so I figure there isn't much reason to change my workflow.

As for a general observation on charts that you may be given in the future; some composers/arrangers like to be very specific with the parts they give you, some just give you a basic idea with dynamic markings. Some will be on notation paper, some not.
It kind of depends a on the genre too. Always ask for bass/melody sheets in advance if possible, and any horn parts - if you don't ask you won't get.

As for starting out sight reading. I had a hard time reading music straight off (whilst playing) until I had a lesson with pat petrillo in march, which really solved some of the issues I was having, through the ways he approaches sight reading. I would definitely recommend hooking up with a teacher to give you some ideas as a starter.
It also made me realise I needed glasses! haha.

Also if you have a basic ability of any other instrument, such as a piano or bass (which I would recommend), then learning some basic music theory would certainly be a good idea. If you don't already play another instrument, then sight reading might be a good excuse to get involved with it, and can only enhance your drumming!
Good luck.