Note Names & Lengths
When learning to play the drums it’s important to understand different note lengths and what those notes are called. Every country has it’s own name for different note lengths but in English speaking countries there are two main systems used – the UK system and the American system. As a drummer you need to understand both.
- In the UK note lengths are commonly referred to as Crotchets, Quavers, Semiquavers etc. This terminology is used extensively in classical music and is also the standard used by most exam boards, including Trinity.
- American terminology refers to Quarter Notes, Eighth Notes, Sixteenth Notes etc. This is rapidly taking over from the UK standard, especially in popular music. The best bet, as a drummer, is to understand both the UK and American terminology.
In this set of exercises we’re looking at notes that look different but sound the same! For example a minim (half note) that lasts for 2 beats will sound the same as a crotchet (quarter note) followed by a crotchet rest. This is fairly unique to drums since and it’s useful to understand the different ways drum music might be written. Exercise 1 shows a simple crotchet-based exercise. Can you think of two more ways of writing this that sounds the same but looks different? (answer sheet here)
On this sheet we’re looking at how to count different note lengths, from semibreves (whole notes) right through to semiquavers (sixteenth notes).
Notes such as quavers and semiquavers can be grouped together to make them easier to read – on this sheet we’re looking at different common note groupings and what they look like when different note lengths are mixed together.
Single page showing common note names, values and their corresponding rests, as generally encountered in Grades 1-2. The table is helpful to show how long each note lasts relative to one (crotchet) beat. Note names are shown in both UK format (crotchet, quaver etc.) and American format (quarter note, eighth note etc.). The semibreve and minim are shown as ‘rarely used’ since these aren’t encountered until Grade 2 and even then it’s very rare.
This is a more advanced version of point 6 and includes extra elements that are encountered in Grade 3 and above. We also include dotted and double dotted notes. You’re not likely to run into double dotted demisemiquavers lasting 7/32 beat and these variants are just shown for completeness! Remember a doted note is the length of the original note + 50%. A double doted note is the length of the original note + 50% + 25%. So a double dotted crotchet is the equivalent note length of a crotchet, quaver and semiquaver tied together. In Grades 1-3 you’re unlikely to encounter anything more complex than a dotted quaver, but it’s handy to know how the whole system works.
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