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Topic: Need help with notation for pit drum set

  1. #1

    Need help with notation for pit drum set

    Well, I have put it off as long as I can.
    The orchestrations are like 95% done for my musical - will tweak for a few more weeks. I think are sounding OK and will work just fine for the show.

    I am at a total loss notating for the drummer. I know what I want it to sound like - the rhythms will not be all that tricky to figure out. Basically a lot of Boom chick with a little cymbals a lot of the time. But understanding how to make it look on the score is all new to me.

    I use Finale 2008 (own 2009 but not installed) and have been trying to figure it out on my own. I have looked at a few scores, but it did not seem always to be one standard format. I want any drummer to see it and understand it. I know in many scores they do not write out every measure. I right now want to write out every measure so it will playback for me.

    I am not sure which percussion map to use - working with GM Drum Kit GJBB at the moment. I hear the sounds I need by clicking notes. Do I trust that a drummer will know what each note is or do I label them or what?

    I know it can't be that hard, but I have never needed to do this before. I just played the drums on my keyboard when making a sound track for a children's musical. Now I am forced to do this - which IS a good thing for me.

    Maybe too big of a question, but I know I am not the only person that has been in this position. I am meeting with our church worship arts director this week - she teaches band to homeschoolers - so she knows all of this. But I want to try to get going.

    Any tips or suggestions for a percussion newbie?
    I know I will end up doing it just fine, just at a loss at the moment.
    Have a Finale file you could send me as an example?

    Thanks in advance if anyone can help.

    I would LOVE to just hand some of these over to someone who is experienced, but I am not sure I could afford it. How expensive would it be?
    Maybe if I could just pay someone to do one song, then I could use that as my master to follow for the rest of the show. Hmm . . . anyone? I just need help starting and then I think I would be fine. It would have to be Finale though.
    MacPro 2.66 - Tiger & Snow Leopard / 16GB RAM / several TB of HD space/ Garritan Libraries / EWQLSO Platinum PLAY / Omnisphere/ Kontakt 2 & 3 / Finale 2010 /DP5/ a VERY patient wife!

  2. #2

    Re: Need help with notation for pit drum set

    Referring to a manual on drumming I have there appears to be a standard method of notating drums. This is a s follows:

    On a normal clef, show an X as above the top line as closed hat, with a ring over it for open hat:X on top line for ride cymbal:solid note on 2nd space down for snare, circled for rim shot: solid note on bottom space for kick drum
    x below stave for Hi hat pedal: Tom in top space and floor tom in 2nd space up

    I've got this in several books.
    Things may come and things may go but the art school dance goes on forever
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  3. #3
    Senior Member Frank D's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Suburban NYC

    Re: Need help with notation for pit drum set

    Hi IM,

    The following comments are for drum set parts. These comments are not applicable for mallet percussion, in which case full notation of the parts is standard; no different than if it were for a clarinet or violin part.

    The main comment I want to offer is that if you want a Finale score to play back the percussion parts, create a 2nd file for just that function.

    The score parts that you give to a percussionist to play should never contain every single drum/cymbal part for every single measure. This creates a ridiculously complex part that only serves to make a mountain of reading out of a mole hill of intent .

    In order of importance, I'd first indicate ALL band/orchestra hits/kicks/accents (whatever you want to call them!) ... this is very important.

    Next, indicate in writing, the style of each section of music and the desired tempo. Ensure you do this every time a style changes (even if it's every two measures). I.E., "Swing 4/4"; "Two-beat feel" or "2/4 feel"; "Medium Latin"; "Medium Rock"; "12/8 Rock Ballad"; "Jazz Waltz"; "Straight 1/8th's". Drummers and percussionists learn how to create all these styles very early on in their training. Unless you are a percussionist yourself, I'll guarantee you they will provide you with a part much closer to what you actually want than if you attempt to write out every line of their parts yourself .

    If you want to get down and dirty and attempt to show the rhythms of the individual drums/cymbals yourself, just show a measure or two per section/style, and then either show repeats or multi-measure instructions like "Play total 24 measures" or "Play until D" (D=Rehearsal mark) or "Play until m145" (m=measure). Of course, anytime a hit/kick/accent occurs, this MUST be shown in the part. It can be given as just a generic/band hit-point, or, you can actually show on what instrument you want to catch the kick with (once again, this is the domain of the percussionist!).

    It's easy enough to label the various staff lines/spaces you will use at just the beginning of each song (I.E., Ride cym; HH-open; HH-closed; Kick; snare; etc.). Not every arranger uses a standard on this so a quick indication helps.

    The main thing to remember is that of all the score parts, the percussionist's (drummer's parts) is the least detailed. Only the 'meat' need be shown!

    Good luck on getting a good, workable solution to your task.



  4. #4

    Re: Need help with notation for pit drum set

    Hi, Charles - I've certainly gone through the same thing.

    Lots of good looking advice on the thread. I think a visual aid will help you a lot. Here's a site called "Audio Graffiti" which has a downloadable pamphlet you can print out that has everything you need to know laid out simply with each thing having a graphic example on staves:


    Go for it. It'll all become much clearer.

    Caveat - You can simplify your drum scoring, because the drummer is going to do what he wants anyway, and use your score just as a starting point.

    Randy B.

  5. #5

    Re: Need help with notation for pit drum set

    Thanks Randy!

    So it is ok to show it on a five line staff?
    Someone on the Finale forum who has a lot of experience, said never to do that. That I should only use a 1 line staff to notate. So what do I do?
    It looks cleaner with a 1 line staff I will say though.

    He did give me an example of how to write it out.
    I would loved for him to do a complete song for me, but it was too expensive.
    I am positive it was a fair price, but too much for me.
    MacPro 2.66 - Tiger & Snow Leopard / 16GB RAM / several TB of HD space/ Garritan Libraries / EWQLSO Platinum PLAY / Omnisphere/ Kontakt 2 & 3 / Finale 2010 /DP5/ a VERY patient wife!

  6. #6

    Re: Need help with notation for pit drum set

    Hiya Charles - That person on the Finale Forum was talking about a percussion line. If only one percussion instrument is used at a time throughout a piece, the one line works fine - you label what instrument is intended each time there are passages.

    But for a standard drum kit - What I posted is what you need. I guarantee it. I have worked with a drummer locally, and this is all he's ever worked with. It's standard - each line and space is standardized to be each part of the drum kit. Extra cymbals are above the top line.

    If you tried to squeeze a whole kit on one line--you'd just be laughed out of the theatre.

    That pamphlet is exactly like what you'll find drummers using everywhere. Erase all doubt.


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