Drum notation

Sample Drum Notation

Note input for unpitched percussion works differently than for other (pitched) instruments, but you may wish to familiarize yourself with Note input before trying percussion notation.

Notation for drumsets often includes simultaneous upstem and downstem notes. If you are unfamiliar with editing multiple voices in a single staff, see Voices for an overview.

MIDI keyboard

The easiest way to add drum notation to your score is via MIDI keyboard. Some MIDI keyboards have percussion markings above each key. If you press the key for high hat, then MuseScore will add the correct notation to the score. MuseScore automatically takes care of the stem direction and type of note head.

Computer keyboard

To enter notes on a percussion staff using your computer keyboard, first click on the staff and press N to enter note input mode. By default, seven drum sounds are mapped to a keyboard shortcut (A-G), just as in regular note input. You can remap those seven shortcuts to other drum instruments via the Edit Drumset button of the drum input palette (see →below).

If you wish to enter a new drum note at the same position as an existing note—for example, if you want the bass and snare drums to sound simultaneously—first, look at the drum input palette to see if they are the same color, or if one is blue and one is green:

Drum input palette

If the two drums are different colors in the palette, then they are in different voices, and all you need to do is position the cursor at the same place as the first drum and type the shortcut for the second drum.

If they are the same color in the palette, then they are in the same voice. Hold Shift when entering the new note so as not to overwrite the existing note. This is the same method as used when entering chords for tuned instruments under MuseScore (see Note input).


  1. Select a note or rest in the percussion staff
  2. Press N to to enter note input mode
    Please note that the drum input palette will only appear at the bottom of the screen when you have completed this step:
    Drum input palette
  3. Select a note duration from the note input toolbar at the top of the screen as in regular note input
  4. Select a type of note (such as bass drum, or snare) on the drum input palette
  5. Click on the percussion staff to add the note to the score
    Double-clicking on a note type in the drum input palette will immediately add that note at the current cursor location. Note that all existing notes at that location will be replaced.


On a percussion staff, the sounds produced by different pitches depend on the SoundFont installed and the sound selected for the staff in the Mixer.

Groups of pitches that produce related sounds (eg: for a jazz or rock drum kit) can be brought together in a drumset. In a drumset definition, each of the related pitches can be assigned a name, an appearance and location on the staff, a default voice, and optionally a keyboard shortcut that can be used in note input mode. To edit the details of a drumset, while in note input mode on a percussion staff click the Edit Drumset button at the left of the drum input palette. The drumset can also be edited by right-clicking on the staff and selecting Edit Drumset....

Edit Drumset

Customized drumsets can be saved as .drm files to be loaded into other scores via the Edit Drumset dialog.


To create a drum roll, use Tremolo.