Drum Tablatures

1 Conversation

Tablature1 (or tab) is a method of writing down music.
Instead of using symbols like in standard musical notation, it uses ordinary typed letters and numbers, making it great for use on the Internet or writing by hand where anyone can easily read it. Tablature is mainly used for writing music for stringed instrument with frets
- for example guitar or bass. It has been used for this in the west since the early 14th century, for lute music.

Tablature can even be used for drums. Read on to find out how and why.

What tabs will tell you:

  • Which drums to play.
  • Whether to close the hi-hat, open it, or pedal it.
  • Durations of the notes (in drum tabs beat markings are given).

What tabs will NOT tell you:

  • Which sticks to use to play the drums with.

Drum tablatures are just like guitar tabs, except they're obviously for drums. They look pretty similar. One main difference is the addition of beat numbers2 at the bottom of the tab. Here is a simple drum tab:

C |--------|--------|--------|--------|

H |x-x-x-x-|x-x-x-x-|x-x-x-x-|x-x-x-x-|

S |----o---|----o---|----o---|----o---|

B |o-------|o-o-----|o-----o-|--o-----|

  |1 2 3 4 |1 2 3 4 |1 2 3 4 |1 2 3 4 |

The top line indicates crash cymbal, the second line is the hi-hat, the third line is the snare, and the fourth line is the bass drum. The bottom line indicates beats in the bar on which to play. What makes drum tabs a lot harder to read is the presence of many symbols indicating what to play and how. REMEMBER! These symbols are not necessarily consistent with all tabs! Usually the tab header3 will indicate symbols; if not assume the ones below, or listen to the song and judge for yourself.

Staff Symbols

C |-Cymbal----------|

H |-Hi-Hat----------|


t |-Small-Tom-------|

T |-Medium-Tom------|

S |-Snare-Drum------|

F |-Floor-Tom-------|


B |-Bass-Drum-------|


Notation Symbols


|-x-| Strike Cymbal or Hi-Hat

|-X-| Strike Loose Hi-Hat, or hit Crash Hard

|-o-| Open High Hat

|-#-| Choke Cymbal (Grab Cymbal With Hand After Striking It)

|-s-| Splash Cymbal

|-c-| China Cymbal

|-b-| Bell of Ride

|-x-| Click Hi-Hat With Foot


|-o-| Strike

|-O-| Accent

|-g-| Ghost Note

|-f-| Flam

|-d-| Drag

|-b-| Soft One-Handed Roll

|-B-| Accented One-Handed Roll

|[email protected]| Snare Rim

Reading the bar Timings

The bar timings help immensly to tell when to play the beats in the bars; where with guitar tabs it's not necessary. With different timings there are obviously different lines for reading beats.

4/4 time:

C |----------------| |----------------|

H |----------------| |----------------|

S |----------------| |----------------|

B |----------------| |----------------|

  |1e+a2e+a3e+a4e+a| |1e+a2e+a3e+a4e+a|
4/4 with 32nd notes:

C |-------------------------------|

H |-------------------------------|

S |-------------------------------|

B |-------------------------------|

  |1 e + a 2 e + a 3 e + a 4 e + a|
4/4 with Triplets

C |------------|    |------------|

H |------------| OR |------------|

S |------------|    |------------|

B |------------|    |------------|

  |1ae2ae3ae4ae|    |1tl2tl3tl4tl|

Repeats and Multiple Endings

Repeats are indicated above the bars as any of the following:

  |====== 4x =======|

C |--------|--------|

H |--------|--------|

S |--------|--------|

B |--------|--------|

  |1 2 3 4 |1 2 3 4 |

  |---- play 4x ----|

C |--------|--------|

H |--------|--------|

S |--------|--------|

B |--------|--------|

  |1 2 3 4 |1 2 3 4 |

  |--- repeat 3x ---|

C |--------|--------|

H |--------|--------|

S |--------|--------|

B |--------|--------|

  |1 2 3 4 |1 2 3 4 |

In all three cases the riff will be played four times over.

Multiple endings are repeats with the last bit played differently. Consider the following tab:


                             |1.      |2.      |

C |--------|--------|--------|--------|--------|

H |x-x-x-x-|x-x-x-x-|x-x-x-x-|x-x-x-x-|x-x-x-x-|

S |o--o--o-|o--o--o-|o--o--o-|o-o-o-o-|o-o-oooo|

B |-oo-oo-o|-oo-oo-o|-oo-oo-o|-o-o-o-o|-o-o----|

  |1 2 3 4 |1 2 3 4 |1 2 3 4 |1 2 3 4 |1 2 3 4 |

In this example, the first 4 bars will be played, then play will skip back to the first bar. The first three bars will be played again followed directly by the second ending (2.).

Where can I find tabs?

Tabs are quite easy to find on the Internet, it being just about the only place available to find them.

  • mxtabs.net - This is one of the best sites for guitar, bass, and drum tablatures - serving over 100,000 tabs.
  • metaltabs.com - A guitar, bass, and drum metal tabs archive. Over 5,000 tabs.
  • Search for "tabs" on Google
1Also sometimes spelled (and pronounced) 'tabulature'.2Not all tabs include this, but most do to make it simpler to play.3The tab header is the area above the tab itself that lists tab information such as artist and song the tab refers to, plus symbol definitions and comments.

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