Percussion notation
Percussion notation is a type of musical notation
Musical notation
Music notation or musical notation is any system that represents aurally perceived music, through the use of written symbols.-History:...

 indicating note
In music, the term note has two primary meanings:#A sign used in musical notation to represent the relative duration and pitch of a sound;#A pitched sound itself....

s to be played by percussion instruments. As with other forms of musical notation, sounds are represented by symbols which are usually written onto a musical staff
Staff (music)
In standard Western musical notation, the staff, or stave, is a set of five horizontal lines and four spaces that each represent a different musical pitch—or, in the case of a percussion staff, different percussion instruments. Appropriate music symbols, depending upon the intended effect,...

 (or stave).

Percussion instruments are generally grouped into two categories: pitched and non-pitched. The notation of non-pitched percussion instruments is less standardized. Cymbals are usually notated with 'x' note heads
Note head
In music, a note head is the elliptical part of a note. Noteheads may be coloured completely black or white, indicating the note value . In a whole note, the note head is the only component of the note. Shorter note values attach a stem to the note head, and possibly beams or flags...

, drums with normal elliptical note heads and auxiliary percussion with alternative note heads. Non-pitched percussion notation on a conventional staff once commonly employed the bass clef, but the neutral clef (or "percussion clef"), consisting of two parallel vertical lines, is usually preferred now. It is usual to label each instrument and technique the first time it is introduced, or to add an explanatory footnote, to clarify this. Below is an example of drum set notation.

Key or legend

Each line and space of the staff is assigned a different part or "voice" of the drum kit and these are often laid out at the beginning of a piece of music in what is known as a key or legend or occasionally labeled when initially appear in the piece.

Below are two examples of Drum Legends as they would appear in the music:

Example 1:
Example 2:
The notation program Sibelius (as seen in example 2) uses a system based on the recommendations of the Percussive Arts Society found in Norman Weinberg’s Guide To Standardized Drumset Notation (2002, ISBN 0966492811).)




Mounted triangle: ledger-line high C with "X" replacing notehead. Maraca: high-B with "+" replacing notehead. Mounted tambourine: high-B with "X" through conventional notehead.


All note letter-names in this section refer to the bass clef.

Rolls: Diagonal lines
Tremolo, or tremolando, is a musical term that describes various trembling effects, falling roughly into two types. The first is a rapid reiteration...

 across stem (or above whole note). Open hi-hat: o above high-G X. Closed hi-hat: + above high-G X. Rim click: X in E snare space. Stick shot: diagonal slash through note head. Brush sweep: horizontal line (replacing note head) in E snare space with slur to show brush is not lifted. (With stem this looks rather like a long "T" or a long inverted "T", depending which way the stem is going.)

Dynamic accents

For more information, see tenuto
Tenuto is a direction used in musical notation. Arguably, it is one of the first directions to be used in music notation, as Notker of St...

 and marcato
Marcato is a musical instruction indicating a note, chord, or passage is to be played louder or more forcefully than surrounding music. The instruction may involve the word marcato itself written above or below the staff or it may take the form of an accent mark, ^ , an open vertical wedge...



  1. slightly softer than surrounding notes: ˘ (breve above or below—inverted—notehead)
  2. significantly softer than surrounding notes: (note head in parentheses)
  3. much softer than surrounding notes: [ ] (note head in brackets)

(Ghost note
Ghost note
Ghost notes are musical notes occurring in a rhythmic figure which are purposely deemphasized, often to the point of near silence. In popular music drumming these notes are played, "very softly between the 'main' notes," most often on the snare drum in a drum kit.A rhythmic figure may be punctuated...

is a less formal alternative term which may refer either to anti-accentuation in general or to a particular degree of anti-accentuation. Ghost notes are often considered to be especially faint.)
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