How to Make Your Own Drum Sheet Music Tabs

Written by john shelley
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How to Make Your Own Drum Sheet Music Tabs
Drum tabs are like sheet music for drummers. (drums image by agno_agnus from

Drum tabs (or tablature) is a method of noting what a drummer plays in any given song. They notate the timing of the piece, as well as the percussion played, and how it should be played (how hard the drum should be hit, for example). Drum tabs can be thought of as basic sheet music for drums, they can be written by hand or by using any word-processing software that uses the ASCII code: Microsoft Notepad or Apple's TextEdit, for example.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Word-processing software

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  1. 1

    Familiarise yourself with the tablature abbreviations for the basic drums and cymbals:

    B = Bass drum SN = Snare drum T1 = High tom-tom T2 = Low tom-tom FT = Floor tom-tom

    HH = Hi-hat cymbal Hf = Hi-hat pedal CC = Crash cymbal Rd = Ride cymbal

  2. 2

    Familiarise yourself with the tablature shorthand for the different ways to play the drums and cymbals:

    Drums o : Hit. O: Harder hit. g : Quieter hit. f : Flam hit. @ : Hit the snare rim. d : Double stroke.

    Cymbals x : Hit. X : Harder hit (also used for a loose hi-hat hit). o : Open hi-hat hit.

    : Choke cymbal.

    b : Hit the bell of the ride cymbal.

  3. 3

    Type (or draw) a blank drum tab stave, as follows:

    CC |-----------------------------|-----------------------------| HH | ----------------------------|-----------------------------| SN |-----------------------------|-----------------------------| B_ |-----------------------------|-----------------------------| _ _ |1e+a2e+a3e+a4e+a|1e+a2e+a3e+a4e+a|

    The letters and numbers below the tab are used to indicate timing, with the numbers being the on-beats.

    Note: this drum tab is for a simple beat, using only the snare drum, bass drum, hi-hat and crash cymbal. To create a drum tab for a more complex beat, simply add more drum abbreviation(s) and a corresponding line(s).

  4. 4

    Enter the drums that are played, in the time that they are played. The opening bars to the verse of The Clash's "Should I Stay or Should I Go" would be as follows:

    CC |-X--------------------------|------------------------------| HH |-----x--x--x--x--x--x---|-x--x--x--x--x--x--x--x-| SN |---------o-------------o---|-------o--------------o-----| B_ |-o----------o--o--------o-|-o--------o--o----------o--| |-1e+a2e+a3e+a4e+a|-1e+a2e+a3e+a4e+a|

    This indicates that the verse opens with an accented crash cymbal hit along with a bass drum hit, which then moves in to a drum beat consisting of the hi-hat, snare drum and bass drum.

Tips and warnings

  • As with anything musical, practice makes perfect. If you find it difficult to "tab" another drummer's drumbeat, tab one that you have made up.
  • Try reading other peoples' drum tabs before attempting to write your own.

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