drum rolls

• Apr 15, 2018 - 10:27

When a snare drum roll is marked on a score (as notes with trills, 32nd through stem, or other means), does Musescore play it back with a "snare roll" or similar general MIDI note 60, or does it just play "snare drum" general MIDI note 50 repeatedly?

I've found the snare drum rolls to be a bit too mechanical; a real drum roll will consist of three or so strokes of descending loudness (from the drumstick bounces), then three or so with a slightly different sound (from the other hand), and repeat that sequence. The way it plays for me, every stroke sounds the same.

I'm using General User GS (probably not the latest edition), but the answer should apply to any soundfont.


AFAIK currently it performs a simple restrike of "snare drum" general.
There are plans to focus on percussion sound improvements for the next release; not sure if better drum roll playback is included in there already or if the change is too structural and has to wait out musescore 3

In reply to by jeetee

So I suppose if I want a good drum roll, I should change the instrument from drum to drum roll?

That assumes the soundfont has a good drum roll sound, of course. I haven't tried the one in General User GS yet; I hadn't noticed that there are separate drum and drum roll instruments in general MIDI.

In reply to by mike320

I discovered the source of my confusion. I did some searching for general MIDI snare drum rolls, and came across a page that included separate strike and roll sounds – but it was for a custom MIDI set, not general MIDI. Oops!

So, I tinkered a bit, and came up with a somewhat more tolerable drum roll sound, varying both the timing and the velocity of the strikes. Here's one cycle of eight strikes, representing everything as thirty-two 128th notes:
0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 3 3 3
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2
X 0 0 0 0 X 0 0 0 X 0 0 X 0 0 X 0 0 0 0 X 0 0 0 X 0 0 X 0 0 0 0
The velocities I used were 0, -4, -8, -12, -1, -5, -9, -13. My idea was that one way to play a drum roll is to right-strike and let the drumstick bounce a few times, then left-strike and let the drumstick bounce a few times. Each initial strike will be loudest, and each bounce will be quieter. To make the roll sound a bit more human, I made the left strike-bounce-bounce-bounce slightly early, and slightly quieter than the right strike-bounce-bounce-bounce. It's messy, but it sounds more like a drum roll than I managed to get any other way, short of trying to find samples of actual drum rolls. (I have read that it's more typical to do a drum roll as strike-bounce-bounce, alternating right and left, but this way sounds better at 120.)

Curiously, adding a trill articulation on a timpani gave a very nice roll sound.

Finally, I had the problem of keeping scores from looking terribly cluttered with a drum roll notated down to 256th notes. My solution was to notate the roll with whole notes and triple strokes, set to silent, and then to place the actual roll on a separate, invisible staff. I first tried putting the silenced whole notes with strokes as one voice and the actual roll in another voice set invisible, but then the whole notes took up an entire staff line each.

One problem that remains is that the roll sounds different when the tempo changes, and I first ran into this problem with a piece that starts out Maestoso marziale, steps up to Allegro, and concludes Più Mosso (which I notated at 90, 120, and 150, respectively. I worry that I will have to make different cycles for each tempo, or come up with some other work-around.

The attachment demonstrates all this. I invite further comments.

Attachment Size
drum roll demonstrations.mscz 14.32 KB

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