If you hope to play in a band, it isn't enough to just learn the basics of the drum. Even if you are progressing well and are starting to sound good, you are doing yourself a disservice as a percussionist, if you don’t ensure that you have a solid foundation that covers the key points of being a drummer. If you want to be the best and most efficient drummer that you can be, what every your level is, I advise tou to find as much sheet music as possible to practice.

Reading sheet music for the drums is not just about being able to do it. But when you learn how to read drum sheet music, it allows faster communication between you and your band. If you are a solo drummer, it allows you to learn drum rudiments which are fundamental to progressing as an artist. The benefits of learning to read drum music are that you will have access to new songs, learn a new style of music, try new drum patterns and learn how to play new drum beats faster.

Further, if you want to become a composer, you will be able to write down your songs where other drummers can read it and play along. Don’t hide behind your drum set and get comfortable, music notation is essential for your true talent to shine. Let's take a look at how to get started.

Learn to play the drums in a festival.
Being a musician is definitely about raw talent but it is also hugely based on training. Photo Source: Unsplash

Why You Must Learn To Read Music

When you learn to play the guitar, you have the choice between learning music theory which is theoretical. The theory is not really all that fun but make it easier to read music. People who play the guitar have 2 choices to the style of music that they play, Tab music and sheet music. In drums, you will have the same choice between tabs and sheet music.

You Have A Few Choices:

  1. To learn the rhythmic music theory and to read sheet music
  2. or not to learn the theory and read tabs
  3. or do everything by ear.

My friend's father was a professional drummer for more than 33 years, he had never taken a single music theory course or drumming class. He was self-taught, and he did it before the internet and YouTube tutorials were available. However, limiting yourself in today's climate, to not learning music theory, is to deprive yourself of the basic fundamentals in learning. It also puts you at a disadvantage and will put a choke hold on what you can achieve. Because it is so basic, for a serious drummer this is similar to not knowing how to read, It will make you musically illiterate.

Certainly, learning by ear is also important as it will allow you to fine-tune your skill and perfect false notes, counter-time and rhythm problems but all this is also working alongside the music theory. You will know the meaning of an eighth note, a sixteenth note, a black, a white for example.

The Difference Between The Drum Tab And Sheet Music

Tab and sheet music are written quite. Differently, sheet music is recognised by most musicians no matter what instrument they play. Notes are written on a five horizontal line (the clef) which have equal spaces between them. Tab music is a form of simplified percussion notation. It uses a horizontal line to indicate the rhythm and vertical line to indicate which drum should be used.

Why Tab Music?

This style of reading has its benefits for beginner drummers especially. As it shows you accurately which drum to play and what to do with that drum visually. Sheet music doesn’t have this benefit.

Why Sheet Music?

The benefit of sheet music is that this music is not just specialised to the drum. Once you learn this skill, you can read music for all instruments. Sheet music communicates metering, rhythm and harmony, this is great for when you are in a band and need to be more precise about the timing of what you are playing.

The only things to learn are the symbols of the drums (bass drum, snare drum and other drums) and cymbals for the sound (hi-hat,) and their placement on the sheet. Easy, right?

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You're ready, do your music readings yourself
Sheet music is a basic fundamental in music learning. Photo Source: Unsplash

What Are The Best Free Drum Sheet Music Websites?

Here, we'll talk about drum sheet music and not tablatures!

There are many drum websites on the internet, but they are not always of equal quality. It is important to realise that it is often the authors of the site who transcribe the music themselves. They write what they hear and make all of the sheet music themselves. Which means if they are not a very good musician they will also transcribe their mistakes. There may be errors in their interpretation which is not at all useful for you. But it is free which is a bonus, but remember that all drum sheet music requires a thorough checking before you learn it blindly. It is important to make sure it matches what you hear from the song.

Muse Score

On this site, the scores are very good, and there are lots of them. Created by 3 guys from Europe who wanted to make a musical community. Started to solve the issue of how to notate their own music and other issues they found in the musical community. It is a great website where contributors can upload their sheet music to share with the larger community. The scores are sorted by some instruments, artists, style and instrument which is an undeniable advantage of the site. Music is regularly updated so you can find a game of thrones music and other popular scores.

8 Notes

8 notes are very well designed which makes it easy to find many scores. You can find music by instrument, musical genre or style. This site has other free resources and lessons, while it isn't a dedicated drumming site it is an invaluable free resource.


Has thousands of options for free sheet music and it is all well organised by performer, style, period, instrument and composer. It offers itself as a totally free resource to allow access and exposure to music for up and coming artists and people who are new to music.

Complementary methods to play drums with sheet music.

The road to music success.
Giving you a real head start into becoming a professional musician. Photo Source: Unsplash

The Video Tutorials


The YouTube Channel Cifraclub (in Portuguese) offers another way to learn drums in a visual and fun way. They are a collective of musicians, and all of them make videos for different instruments. So to find the drum tutorials just search drums and it will show you all of their drum tutorials.

The professional drummer plays the percussion instrument in the top of the screen divided into three: view from above, side view and zoom on the pedal of the bass drum, while at the bottom of the screen, the tablature is displayed and the items to hit appear in orange in real time.

Key to decipher the tablature:

  • Cr = crash cymbal,
  • Ri = ride cymbal,
  • Ch = Charleston (normally HH in English),
  • Cx = snare drum (normally SD in English)
  • T1 = tom alto (also noted as TA or HT),
  • T2 = tom medium (also noted as TM or MT),
  • Su = low tom (also noted as TB or FT or even F),
  • Bu = bass drum (normally BD in English).

They don’t have translations or subtitles on their videos so unless you are bilingual in Portuguese. The explanations from the drummer will not be useful but the tutorial played with the tablature and the visual is an excellent way to progress. The other advantage is that depending on the piece played, you will see different acoustic drums or electronic drums.

Karaoke Style Backing Tracks

Once you have your drum sheet music, why not practice them directly with a soundtrack? You can choose to play along with the drums or remove the drums from the track and become the lead drummer. You can find it may free karaoke tracks like this on youtube.

Make Your Own Drum Recordings

There are many free tools at your disposal, and there is a good chance that you will find the song you are looking for. But how can you see your progress, especially if you are practising alone using free online methods? There are 2 things that you can do: the first is write your own drum sheet music, the second is to record yourself playing. You may find it complicated the first time that you do this but after that, it will become easier, and your sheet music will be fully adapted to you and your song.

Here Are Some Tips To Make It Easier:

  • Take a pencil, an eraser and a sheet of paper: before transcribing it to sheet music you should write it down, and you may make mistakes when you start.
  • Start with a simple and short piece.
  • Listen to the song to set the tempo and the rhythmic signature first: you can use a metronome to help with that.
  • Use a free audio software like Audacity or VLC player to slow down the song,
  • Find the structure of the song: Often it's an intro, a verse, a chorus, a bridge, a finale. This can, of course, vary according to the length of the pieces and the number of measurements.
  • Make a table with the times and names of the drums and cymbals and fill it up according to what you hear and
  • Use software to format your note: Musescore is free and easy to use.

Listening is essential to succeed and do not forget the beat. So are you ready to find or create your sheet music? 

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