Article from our free lesson website (more at: www.drumrhythms.com).
Introduction to musical reading for Drumset and Percussion.
Musical reading, notation and tablaturas are the same thing:
written (visual) representations of a musical passage.
The function of a score is to represent in written form ( paper ) a rhythm or a melody.
In our case ( drumset and percussion ) the score will always represent a rhythm for drumset or Percussion ( Congas or Djembe ).
The visual representation is done through musical notes that are positioned on specific positions on a musical staff. The notes indicate a tone ( height ) and duration ( time ).
In this manner a score can represent a rhythm.
It indicates the musician exactly when to play, the tone or stroke to execute and the hand that should be used, etc.
To learn musical reading 100% it is essential to take an intensive reading and musical theory course, which is difficult to cover in this article, but we will try to indicate some important aspects and give an introduction to reading.
Lets begin by analyzing a musical score.
In this fig. 1 we analyze 1 bar.
A musical theme can contain many bars, usually played one by one untill the end of the theme is reached. Usually ( when studying drumset and percussion rhythms ) we will notate only a few bars, thats because most of the grooves are repeating over 1 to 4 bars ( most grooves have a short duration ) and are repeated many times within a theme.
In the case of a changing tune its necesarry to notate the entire score.
1 ) Measure / Bar
1 bar is a 1 section of a musical score.
Inside the bar are the notes that represent the rhythm.
2 ) Time
The time indicates how each measure must be counted :
4/4 ; 3/4 ; 6/8 ; 12/8.
Very common, can represent almost any rhythm.
Count : 1 2 3 4
Count : 1 2 3
6/8 ( Count : 1 2 3 - 1 2 3 ).
3 ) Tempo
Indicates the tempo or velocity of the song / rhythm.
This is indicated by a symbol and a value.
The tempo indicates the number of quarter notes that fall within 1 minute, by which you can calculate the number of quarter notes in 1 second and relate this to the speed of the seconds on a clock, but its much easier to calculate the speed with a metronome!
Ex. 1 :
( 60 quarter notes per minute, that equals 60 quarter notes per 60 seconds = 1 quarter note / 1 seg. This indicates that the tempo is the same as the seconds on a clock.
Ex. 2 :
( 120 quarter notes per minute, 2 quarter notes per second )
4 ) Lines
A musical score contains 5 lines.
The height or position of the lines indicate the pitch or tone of each note.
In the case of the drumset or percussion every note will have a position within the 5 lines. This indicates the tone of the drumset.
Depending on the note position, a note indicates :
Snare, Hihat, Bass note or Cymbal note ).
5 ) Musical notes
Musical notes indicate :
Duration : Note duration is indicated by the note symbol.
Each symbol indicates a specific note duration.
In the following figure are indicated all the note symbols ( from longer duration to shorter duration ).
Important : It can be noted that inside each upper note enter 2 lower notes.
In the following figure we analyze the relation between note duration of different note values ( within one 4/4 measure ).
6 ) Note indications
Musical notes can go with a special note indication, these special symbols indicate a special effect that should be played when executing that note.
- Accents ( > )
- The use of a hand ( R = right hand ), ( L = left hand ).
Understanding Time ( counting )
Before starting to read a score you should do the following :
1) Look at the score
2) Listen to the audio example and relate that to the written score.
In this manner you can study and learn plenty, only patience and concentration is needed to see the notes and score and relate this with the real live playing.
There exist countless rhythmic variations but once you master the main times ( as the 4/4 and the 6/8 ) you can understand and interpret the majority of the rhythms ( Rock, Pop, and Latin ).
What to do
The first thing a student should know is that he should always count what he's playing. When you study by score ( reading ) the first step is to count the written rhythm, the next step is to play the rhythm on the instrument.
To play the mayority of rhythms you should be able to count the following measures :
The 4/4 measure can be subdivided into : 4, 8 o 16 strokes.
When you play quarter notes, count : 1 2 3 4
When you play eight notes, count : 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 or 1 y 2 y 3 y 4 y ( it's the same ).
When you play sixteenth notes , count : 16 strokes or
1 2 3 4 - 1 2 3 4 - 1 2 3 4 - 1 2 3 4 ( instead of 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16, wich is not logical ).
Let's play a basic rockbeat.
A basic rockbeat can be written in halfnotes.
Count : 1 y 2 y 3 y 4 y.
Play these 8 strokes on the hihat first ( the Hihat is the backbone),aftherwards play the snaredrum and bassdrum ( at last ). The hihat serves always as guide and is played while counting the exercise internally ( mentally ).
This rhythm should be counted on a base of 8 strokes.
See video example :
6/8 ; 9/8 ; 12/8 measures
All ternary measures are counted in 3, count : 1 2 3 - 1 2 3
6/8 is counted : 1 2 3 1 2 3
9/8 is counted : 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3
12/8 is counted : 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3
In the next sections we will deepen in the explanation of reading / notation for Drumset, Congas and Djembe.