Learning to play a musical instrument requires patience, perseverance and passion. Learning the drums is no exception to this rule! Indeed, drums require many hours of training, independence exercises, rehearsals... Tenacity, rigor, requirement are essential to progress efficiently. Even the most expert drummers spend a lot of time repeating the fundamentals of the instrument every day. Knowing how to read a drum score is not essential to know how to play the instrument.

Many examples of self-taught drummers attest to this. However, drum solfeggio is an essential knowledge to acquire if you wish to become a professional drummer or simply to progress in a structured way, to explore new musical repertoires, to know quickly new titles when replacing a drummer friend or when joining a new band... It should also be noted that drum scores can have a pedagogical role, they can be used as a support for even experienced drummers and also have a transmission role.

What does a drum score look like?

Apart from the musical staff, a drum score looks like no other learning sheet. The codes, signs, notes and their meanings are specific.

Drum scores are written on a single line, without a key (there is no need for a key when the pitches are not fixed). The different drums, cymbals and percussion instruments are placed on the staff according to their pitch. Thus, the bass drum is at the bottom of the staff. The snare drum is located in the center of the drum score. The rhythm cymbal and the hi-hat occupy the high lines...

Knowing how to read a drum score allows you to grasp all the information needed to play a song: rhythm, accents, right hand, left foot, cymbal, bass drum, snare drum etc.

The key

The key is reserved for the scores of 'harmonic' musical instruments, drums are not concerned. Neither treble nor bass clef, you will find instead two vertical parallel bars.

The rhythmic signature

It consists of two numbers (one above the other) at the beginning of the score. It indicates the duration of a bar.

- The top number: the number of beats per bar.

- The bottom number: the duration of a beat.

A 5/4 rhythmic signature, for example, indicates that the piece has 5 beats per bar and that one beat corresponds to a quarter note (4 being always assigned to the quarter note).

To which duration does the bottom number correspond :

- 4 : the basic beat is the quarter note (i.e. 1 beat = 1 quarter note)

- 8 : the basic beat is the eighth note

- 16 : the basic beat is the sixteenth note

- 32 : the basic beat is the triple eighth note

- etc.

Note that the drum scores of most of the songs are in 4/4 or 6/8.

How to read the symbols in a drum score?

Each drum score is personalized according to the author or the musician, the indications in the caption hold an important place in the reading. But fortunately, there are conventions of use that can be found on most scores.

The shells (toms, snare drum, bass drum) are symbolized by notes (circles) and the cymbals by crosses (X).

It is the position of the note (or cross) in the staff that tells you on which instrument of the drum set you should play. To know how long to play, you have to understand the signs that represent these notes:


Rests are marked with symbols that correspond to a certain amount of time the drummer should not play. Each of the rests corresponds to a note, which means that you should not play for a duration equal to the playing time of the note.


They are marked above the note (or the cross) with the symbol "V", meaning that this is where you should accentuate your stroke.

Despite all our explanations, you have trouble learning to read a drum score by yourself? If the symptoms persist, consult a professional drum teacher. He is the best expert to help you progress in the practice of your favorite instrument!

Our learning videos

Find our tutorials on our YouTube channel ASBA ACADEMY.

"Bubbles drums" System

Invented by Denis Simon (ASBA drummer). Warm-up method.