Knowing Your Notes, And What You Can Do With Them!

Knowing Your Notes, And What You Can Do With Them!

Knowing your notes seems like an obvious goal, yet so many drummers don’t have much awareness about how their knowledge stacks up and the role it has on their playing abilities. It’s great to sit at your drum kit and play a tune – but do you REALLY understand the notes you are playing? “Did you just play a Semi-Quaver fill?” or was it a mixture of Demi-Semi Quavers and 16th Note Triplets?

Drum Set / Drum Kit / Drums, Knowing Your Notes

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I personally think it is far better to understand the notes, this makes practice much more fun as you are more aware of everything you are doing on the drum kit.

Find The Pulse

The most important thing of all is “Pulse” – Pulse is what the audience dance to and it’s what we, as drummers, really should feel inside as we play. Imagine walking down the street, your right foot is the one and three – your left foot is the two and four, it has to be simple just like that as there are tonnes we need to be able to establish around the pulse.

Count To Improve Your Drumming

When you are first learning drums and rhythms it is definitely important to count when you play, this really solidifies the notes early on and after many hours of practicing in this way, everything should be felt and played without much thought.

Subdivision Exercise

So where do we start? A good exercise is practicing the ability to divide the pulse into even note groupings, this is called “Subdivisions”. So sitting at your kit, try this exercise to a click whenever you can – play your Hi-Hat with your left foot in time with the click/pulse and just play the snare drum:

  1. Play with the Click = 1/4 Notes (Crotchets)
  2. Divide into Two = 8th Notes (Quavers)
  3. Divide into Three = 8th Note Triplets (Quaver Triplets)
  4. Divide into Four = 16th Notes (Semi-Quavers)
  5. Divide into Five = Quintuplets
  6. Divide into Six = Sextuplets (Semi-Quaver Triplets)
  7. Divide into Seven = Septuplets
  8. Divide into Eight = 32nd Notes (Demi-Semi Quavers)

And so on….. you can go as far as you want to.

Dynamics - Subdivision Exercise Variations

Remember to really lock into the pulse, then use “Dynamics” wherever you can – play everything loud and soft and go through combinations of accents, then when comfortable play all over your drum kit – and then try mixing them up, maybe two beats of semi-quavers, one of 8th note triplets and quintuplets as the last beat in 4/4 and how these notes are orchestrated around your drums is down to you!

This can take a massive amount of practice time but it is worth it, this should make you a very strong timekeeper and this will also give you the ability to do so much more than just play tunes – you can adapt the grooves and fills of songs and interpret into your own.

Knowing Your Notes: Drum Tutorial Tips

With all this in mind remember the following:-

  1. Count to begin with – but you need to play with little thought eventually
  2. The body’s natural flow – play slow and look at your technique, for fluidity around the kit I’d recommend Moeller Technique always!
  3. Remember your bass drum. Use it as a substitution limb for any single or double stroke you normally play with the hands.
  4. This gets easier as time goes by, due to “Muscle Memory” but if you make mistakes, they will get bigger as you get faster – Get everything perfect first before increasing speed.
  5. Challenge yourself, and always try to practice to a higher level than will normally be needed. This should make what you do groove even better.
  6. Practice everything right and left hand lead!

Be patient. Be focused. Develop your skills with a coordinated plan. Remember that detail is your friend, so, be precise with your lessons for maximum gain. Apply the drum tutorial tips listed above, religiously, to ensure a steady, reliable progress in your playing, avoiding picking up bad habits that will ultimately hold back your development. Knowing your notes will help you with improving your drumming, it’s as simple as that. Focus on what is important, and the results will flow from that dedication.

Good luck with your practicing, enjoy! – Dan Jacobs.

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