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Drum Theory & Notation


TIP: Make drum theory & notation more fun with the Drumming System.

Understanding Drum Theory & Notation

Do you want to learn essential drum set theory and notation? Are you a beginner or intermediate drummer that would like to learn how to count various time signatures, note values, and sub-divisions? If the answer to either of those questions is yes, you've come to the right place. The video lessons in this section will teach you all the essentials in step-by-step detail!

Video Lesson
Reading Drum Notation - This lesson is intended to give you a quick-overview of all the drum notation symbols used on this website. You can think of this page as a drum-key or legend for all the different drum set voices that you play within beats, fills, and solo patterns.
Video Lesson
Counting Quarter Notes - In this video lesson, you will learn how to count quarter notes within the 4/4 time signature. This will lay out a solid foundation for learning other sub-divisions of time, including: eighth notes, eighth note triplets, sixteenth notes, sixteenth note triplets, and thirty second notes.
Video Lesson
Counting Eighth Notes - In this video drum lesson, you are going to learn how to count eight notes. More importantly, you'll learn the relationship between quarter notes and eighth notes, so you can understand how sub-divisions work. This is an extremely important concept that you must learn.
Video Lesson
Counting Sixteenth Notes - In this video lesson, you will learn how to count and play sixteenth notes. They are to eighth notes what eighth notes are to quarter notes. In other words, sixteenth notes are a sub-division of eighth notes. One quarter note is equal to two eighth notes.
Video Lesson
Counting Eighth Note Triplets - The video on this page explains how to count eighth note triplets. Unlike quarter, eighth, sixteenth, and thirty-second note sub-divisions that divide time in half - eighth note triplets actually devide quarter notes in three. In other words, one quarter note is equal to three eighth note triplets.
Video Lesson
Counting Sixteenth Note Triplets - In this video, you will learn to count sixteenth note triplets. If you've already watched the video lesson on eighth note triplets - the basic "triplet" idea will already make sense to you. Essentially, sixteenth note triplets are to sixteenth notes what eighth note triplets are are to eighth notes.
Video Lesson
Counting Thirty-Second Notes - In this theory lesson, you will learn how to count and play thirty-second notes. They are likely to be the greatest sub-division you will play on the drums. There are eight 32nd notes for every quarter note pulse. Unlike all other sub-divisions, these notes aren't counted one at a time.
Video Lesson
How To Count Rests - This video drum lesson will teach you how to read and interpret rests within all the sub-divisions we've covered in the drum theory videos. This way, you will be able to tell the difference between all the possible note counting variations.
Video Lesson
Note Value Exercise - This free video lesson teaches Jared Falk's note value exercise. Basically, this exercise is designed to help you practice quarter notes, eighth notes, eighth note triplets, sixteenth notes, sixteenth note triplets, and 32nd notes around the drum kit - all at the same time.

Once you've mastered all the content in these drum theory video lessons, you can check out the rock drumming videos, drum rudiment lessons, or the dynamc drumming tutorials. Each of these sections has a lot of valuable drumming information for you to take in - so go check them out!

More Online Resources

Many drummers find the concept of learning drum notation intimidating. If you'd like a bit of extra help, Mike Michalkow's complete Drumming System is a valuable resource for drum notation and theory - as well as many other lessons on how to play the drums.

If you're looking for ongoing education, motivation, and support - make sure to check out Drumeo Edge where you'll get a new drum lesson ever day, goal-oriented student plans, and access to an amazing community of instructors and students from around the world.