Drum notation

Updated 4 months ago

    The free MuseScore Drumline (MDL) extension offers even more options to write for drumset, to install it see Language, translations, and extensions.

    Entering percussion notation is somewhat different to entering notation for pitched instruments (such as the piano or violin).

    Percussion staff types

    When you create a percussion staff using the New Score Wizard or the Instruments dialog, MuseScore automatically use a appropriate staff template (1-line, 3-line, or 5-line). To change template use the "Staff type" column on the Choose instruments / Instruments page, or create a custom staff in (see Staff/Part properties : Advanced Style Properties).

    On a 5-line percussion staff, each instrument is assigned a vertical staff position (line or space) and a notehead shape. Stem direction usually describes whether an instrument is hit with a hand-stick or with a foot-pedal. Musescore use the Musescore Voice feature to help create notes that have different stem direction.

    Drum notation with two stem directions

    Note input methods

    You can add notes to a percussion staff from any of the following:

    • External MIDI keyboard;
    • Piano keyboard (virtual);
    • Computer keyboard;
    • Mouse.

    These methods can be used in any desired combination:

    MIDI keyboard

    To add notes to a percussion staff from a MIDI keyboard:

    1. Ensure that the MIDI keyboard is connected and functioning correctly.

      Note: If you click on the percussion staff without entering note input mode, you can demo the percussion instruments from the MIDI keyboard.

    2. Click on the note or rest where you want to start.

    3. Enter note input mode.
    4. To describe whether an instrument is hit with a hand-stick or with a foot-pedal, use stem direction. Select the Voice 1 for up-stem, Voice 2 for down-stem. Snares, sidesticks and all cymbals are normally added to Voice 1; Bass drum to Voice 2.
    5. Set note duration.
    6. Press an instrument key to add a note to the score. To add another note at the same position, keep the first key held down while pressing the second key.

    Note: Refer to a GM2 drum map for details about which MIDI keyboard key corresponds to which percussion instrument. Some keyboards (e.g., Casio) display percussion symbols next to the keys as an aid to the user.

    Piano keyboard

    To add notes to a percussion staff from the virtual Piano Keyboard:

    1. Ensure that the Piano keyboard is displayed. Press P (or select it from the menu, ViewPiano Keyboard).

      Note: If you click on the percussion staff without entering note input mode, you can demo the percussion instruments from the Piano keyboard.

    2. Click on the note or rest where you want to start.

    3. Enter note input mode.
    4. To describe whether an instrument is hit with a hand-stick or with a foot-pedal, use stem direction. Select the Voice 1 for up-stem, Voice 2 for down-stem. Snares, sidesticks and all cymbals are normally added to Voice 1; Bass drum to Voice 2.
    5. Set note duration.
    6. Click on a (virtual piano) key to add a note to the score.
    7. To add another note to an existing one, press Shift and hold it while pressing the new note (in versions before 2.1, use Ctrl (Mac: Cmd)).

    Note: Refer to a GM2 drum map for details about which piano key corresponds to which percussion instrument.

    By default, the piano keyboard is docked at the bottom of the screen—to the left of the Drum input palette. However you can undock it by dragging, then dock the panel in several ways:

    • Drag the panel downwards to the center and it will overlay the Drum input palette, full length. Both panels can then be accessed by Tabs.
    • Drag the panel downwards to the right/left and it will dock to the right/left of the Drum input palette.

    Computer keyboard

    To enter notes on a percussion staff using your computer keyboard:

    1. Click on the note or rest where you want to start.
    2. Enter note input mode. The Drum input palette now appears at the bottom of the screen (see below).
    3. Select the desired note duration.
    4. Press the shortcut key (A–G) for the instrument that you wish to enter—refer to the Drum input palette window.
    5. If you wish to add note to the same Voice as the current note, press Shift+[AG].

    Note: Voice is shown by note color in the drum input palette: blue for Voice 1, green for Voice 2.

    Mouse

    To add a note to a percussion staff

    Use the following method to add a new note or to replace an existing chord.

    1. Select the note or rest where you want to start. You can also select a measure.
    2. Press N to enter note input mode. The Drum input palette now appears at the bottom of the screen (see below).
    3. Set note duration.
    4. Choose one of the following options:

    To add a note to an existing chord in the percussion staff

    1. Ensure you are in note input mode.
    2. Select a note duration equal to the note you are adding to.
    3. Click on the new note in the Drum input palette.
    4. Click above or below the existing note in the percussion staff.

    Note: Voice is shown by note color in the drum input palette: blue for Voice 1, green for Voice 2.

    Drum input palette

    When a percussion staff is selected and note input mode is ON, a window opens at the bottom of the screen called the Drum input palette. This window is essential for mouse input, and displays shortcuts for computer keyboard input, but can be ignored if using a MIDI keyboard or the virtual Piano Keyboard.

    Each note in the palette represents a percussion instrument: hovering the mouse pointer over the note displays the instrument name.

    Drum input palette

    The letters A–G (shown above certain notes in the palette) are designated as shortcuts for entering particular instruments (bass drum, snare, closed hi-hat etc.), rather than referring to note pitches. They can be changed or reallocated as desired in the Edit Drumset window.

    When the Drum input palette is open, double-clicking a note in the palette or entering a shortcut letter will add that instrument note to the percussion staff. Note: Voice is shown by note color in the drum input palette: blue for Voice 1, green for Voice 2. Change it with Edit Drumset dialog if required.

    This Voice allocation explained above applies to keyboard shortcut note entry and mouse note entry, it suits most notation needs. To enter Voice 1, Voice 2, Voice 3, Voice 4 notes quickly, use the virtual piano keyboard or a MIDI keyboard, see above.

    Edit Drumset

    To open the Edit Drumset window, use one of the following options:

    • Click on the Edit Drumset button at the left of the Drum input palette.
    • Right-click on a percussion staff and select "Edit Drumset...".

    Edit Drumset dialog

    The Edit Drumset dialog displays the percussion instruments available and the MIDI notes/numbers to which they are allocated. It also determines how each instrument is displayed on the staff— its name, position, notehead type and note-stem direction. Any changes made here are automatically saved in the parent MuseScore file.

    Clicking on a row in the left-hand column allows you to edit the display properties for that note as follows:

    Name: The name you want displayed in the Drum input palette when you mouse over the note. Leave empty to remove this note from the Drum input palette.
    Notehead group: change the notehead type factor of notehead shape that all notes this instrument use on this staff, see Noteheads.
    Edit Noteheads and the child settings: granular details of the custom notehead type, see Noteheads. When Edit Noteheads is checked, Notehead group uses "Custom".
    Default voice: see Voices. This does not affect input from a MIDI keyboard or the virtual piano keyboard.
    Staff line: This number indicates the staff line/space on which the note is displayed. "0" means that the note is displayed on the top line of the 5-line staff. Negative numbers move the note upwards step by step, while positive numbers move it downwards in the same way.
    Shortcut: Assign a keyboard shortcut to enter that note.
    Stem Direction: Auto, Up or down.

    The customized drumset can be saved as a .drm file by pressing Save As.... You can also import a customized drumset using the Load... button.

    Sticking

    To enter sticking symbols (R, L):

    1. Select a start note;
    2. From the menu, select AddTextSticking. Alternatively, set up a keyboard shortcut to do the same thing in Preferences;
    3. Input the symbol just as you would normal text. To move forward or backwards to the next note, use the same keyboard shortcuts as for chord symbols.
    4. To exit, press Esc, or click on a blank section of the score.

    Add drum roll

    To create a drum roll, use a Tremolo.

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