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 US system (quarter note, eighth notes etc.) and the UK system (crotchet, quaver etc.). The US system is rapidly evolving as the international standard for note naming on the drum kit, however it’s very useful to know both.
- US terminology refers to Quarter Notes, Eighth Notes, Sixteenth Notes etc.
- In the UK note lengths are commonly referred to as Crotchets, Quavers, Semiquavers etc. This terminology is used extensively in classical music.
In this set of exercises we’re looking at notes that look different but sound the same! For example a half note that lasts for 2 beats will sound the same as a quarter note followed by a quarter note rest. This is fairly unique to drums since most drums don’t have a duration – it’s not like a piano where if you hold your finger on a key you’ll get a long note. It’s useful to understand the different ways drum music might be written. Exercise 1 shows a simple quarter note-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 whole notes right through to sixteenth notes.
Notes such as eighth notes and sixteenth notes 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. The table is helpful to show how long each note lasts relative to one (quarter note) beat. The whole notes and half notes are shown as ‘rarely used’ since these are rarely encountered at beginner level.
This is a more advanced version of the above and includes extra elements that are encountered as you progress on the drums. We also introduce dotted notes. Remember a doted note is the length of the original note + 50%. A double doted note (not shown on this sheet) 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 glued (tied) together. Don’t worry about this but it’s handy to know how the whole system works.