Rock Drumming System

Learn How To Read Drum Notation - Rests

Most drummers don’t feel the need to learn to read music or drum notation. They think sheet music should be left for the melodic instruments, while the rhythmic section take on a more improvisational role. Don’t get me wrong, the most fun part about drumming is “winging it” and being super creative; however, every drummer should have some basic knowledge to reading sheet music and drum notation. It not only gives you more opportunity to play more, but it broadens your learning horizon- allowing you to learn new beats without having to hear them, and it will give you one more tool that you can use to help "sell yourself" to a band or studio gig. So let’s take a few moments to go over some of the basics of music notation.

Sheet Music

At first, sheet music will look very confusing. You may wonder how someone will get music or a rhythm from a piece of black and white paper. Just take things slow. Do not be afraid to come back to these articles from time to time to brush up on your knowledge. Now, when you look at a sheet of music, you will notice it is broken up into sections, or bars. Depending on the time signature of the piece, one bar will include a certain number of notes. The most common time signature for rock and pop beats is 4/4. So, one bar of music would include 4 quarter note beats.

An example of a 4/4 bar:

(notice the rectangle box in the middle? That is a rest)


A 4/4 bar of music has 1 whole note, 4 quarter notes, 8 eights notes, sixteen 16th notes, 32 32nd notes, etc… A rest will take the place of a note or beat, when needed. For example, an 8th note rest will take place of an 8th note beat. Likewise, a quarter note rest will take place of a quarter note beat. Take a look at the notation for these rests:

Quarter note rest--------------------------Quarter Note Rest

16th note rest-------------------------- Sixteenth Note Rest

8th note rest -------------------------- Eighth Note Rest

Half bar rest -------------------------- Half Bar Rest

Whole bar rest -------------------------- Whole Bar Rest

So, with the above example, you have a bar of music played in 4/4, with a whole bar rest on it. This means you do not play anything for a whole bar (or four counts). When you read music and you come across one of these notes, remember they are rests, and are not to be played by anything. Now that you are more familiar with rests, we can move on to other notation. Having troubles counting? Try reading through my article on how to count time, and how to use a metronome.

By: Dave Atkinson

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