Rest usage in drum kit notation

• Nov 6, 2021 - 15:33


This is a notation style/legibility question.

On drums, if voice 2 (stem-down notes) doesn't fill the measure, should it be filled in with rests, like a 2-voice staff for other instruments would be? Or should they be rhythmically treated like a single voice?

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It's a good question and one that is hard to answer definitively. My own sense is that "most" people tend to be too cavalier about deleting rests, thinking it reduces clutter but then leading to rhythms that are actually much harder to read. And yet, at least sometimes, it seems pretty clear they can be cleaned up a bit.

In your example, #3 is the most obvious case where absolutely positively you need the rest or people will likely play it wrong - that bass drum looks like it's on the "&" or 2 rather than on 3 (and is then notated wrong, should be an eighth). #1 is pretty bad without the rest too, looks like the hat is on 2 instead of three and that there is a beat missing. #2 is the only one of the three I'd consider skipping the rests, because they don't actually add any significant information - they don't help you understand anything about the entrance of any note. And even then, mostly because the voice 1 tom is so low it pushes the rest lower too. If it were a snare instead of tom I'd be more likely to leave the rests personally, but then it might be more of a judgment call.

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