Percussion Notation

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by madrich, Jun 10, 2005.

  1. madrich

    madrich Member

    Does anyone know of or have a guide to how percussion should be transcribed. I'm not a percussionist and as such have no real idea how it should be written on a standard score.
  2. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

  3. persins

    persins Member

    Why bother! It's not like they could follow it and still keep in time!!!

    Most of the time, our lot change it to make it "better" anyway!
  4. uncle eric

    uncle eric Member

    distressing, friends, distressing.....

    first my local shop had sold out of one of my favourite biscuits, the lincoln, so i had to take my tea with the vastly inferior foxs sports biscuits, then this.....

    percussionists use notation?

    a perplexed uncle eric.
  5. You can find a basic tutorial regarding drum set notation here. This is Finale-centric (I'm a Sibelius user, myself), and focuses more on what berklee teaches rather than the Percussive Arts Society (PAS) Standard, but you can learn a bit from reading through this:

    PAS also has a website, but I couldn't find information regarding their notation standards. Maybe you'll have better luck:

    If you use Sibelius, you can look in your user manual under "percussion." There is some information there, as well.

    Otherwise, check out some good orchestration books. I always have "Instrumentation and Orchestration" by Alfred Blatter available if I need to look anything up.

  6. Aidan Geary

    Aidan Geary New Member

    From a player's point of view -

    Please try and bear in mind their instrumentation. All too often we end up re-writing parts to avoid swapping instruments as the arranger wants an effect in a part not realising ( or thinking!) that another player has only just used that instrument.

    Ok, fine if it's a sus. cym or triangle - but a set of tubular bells are a bit harder to move in a hurry!

    I find when writing / transcribing it's easiest to write the parts all in timpani notation - then change the clefs and marks the instrument changes as you go along. Of course you can't hear the correct playback, but most perc sounds are rubbish anyhow!

    I find this way does look neat!
  7. axio

    axio Member

    There are two schools of thought when writing out perc:
    1. Write each instrument on its own stave.
    2. Write each player on their own stave.

    The latter makes it a bit messier for the conductor to understand, but usually results in more playable percussion parts (and avoids the whole 100 bars rest waiting for that first triangle note syndrome).

    Personally I write each instrument on its own stave (5-line kit, single line for non-melodic, 5-line for melodic), then combine the lines into combined-parts for the players.

    Sibelius is pretty good for placing percussion instruments where they are most used in a 5-line stave, but it does help to add little text clarifying what is to be played, and how it is to be played where appropriate (brass mallets, etc).

    Finally.....always think of the players - they complain the most :)
  8. I got 8/8 on the test :biggrin:

    Would agree with the below ,most drummers don't play what is written and play something that fits which is better. Unless a piece needs the actual part playing if it can be spiced up i'll always do that.
  9. Aidan Geary

    Aidan Geary New Member

  10. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    .... when I did an online search yonks ago to investigate notation, the opinion was that there was no standardised notation. Even that link I provided had the crash cymbal above the stave when I have normally seen it notated with a crosshead below.

    I also have to agree that drummers tend to wing parts (esp. for kit) and in many cases the intuitive accompaniment is better than the one written. In one arrangement, the percussion team changed the setup to a Latin style and improved the piece ten-fold. Anyone else here find that non-percussion playing arrangers/composers usually write not so good drum/percussion parts?
  11. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

  12. fartycat

    fartycat Member

    Careful Simon, you forget that I heard you "play" solo cornet earlier this week...seemed to be quite a lot of making it up then :D

    I was taught that there are two ways of writing - loose and tight. Loose is a guide that gives the player enough info to "improvise" whereas tight gives every note crossing all the t's and dotting the i's.

    If it's a kit/latin part, write a basic outline (loose) of what you want and expect the player to interpret it into something that fits. Write the basic groove out but don't bother with fills - just put the word FILL over the top of the bar.

    The latter pages of Practical Percussion by Kevin Edwards have some good examples of how jazz is written and then played.

    Kit notation has moved on a bit now with Trinity's Rock School Drum books becoming as close to the industry standard way of writing that we have in the UK (most of it based around the Sibelius notation).

    If it is for other percussion, write exactly what you want (tight). If it involves lots of instruments then go for the one player per part method.

    I use a system similar to axio although I never use a perc score as a part unless there is not much to do - in Sibelius you can combine staves and then play around hiding some of them so that each player only has to read one line. I've done this for a new complete version of Carmina Buruna written for just four players and it works very well.

    However, brassneck is right. There is no standardised way of writing and quite a lot of our valuable time is spent scratching our heads wondering what the composer wanted which is part of the fun....:)
  13. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    I'll keep that in mind! :p

    However, Sibelius doesn't have an answer for one notation problem ... double bar repeats! (without disrupting the auto-bar counts). This seems to be the biggest gripe of all for percussionists! Makes sense too! Why should anyone try to decypher through masses of repeated patterns when the symbol *//. (can't place a dot up there :redface: ) would do! (hint, hint! ... and I haven't seen this in the user's manual).

    p.s., the symbol is included in the Sibelius setup, but can't seem to be used as it should!
  14. fartycat

    fartycat Member

    The 2 bar repeat is available in the top line of the symbols? It is in my version?
  15. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    Yeh, it's there but try and use it to substitute double bars in a part .... :eek:
  16. fartycat

    fartycat Member

    I do all the time - it's fiddly (you have to delete the semibreve rests) but workable. Has anyone ever worked out how to copy and paste them though and then plonk them in the correct place?
  17. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    Problem I find is that yes, you can hide the notes and make barlines disappear then plonk the symbol in but ... looks unprofessional when the 2-bar repeat crosses bar numbers and the bar sizes are twice as big. Doesn't work either reducing to font size as the actual notated bars become hard to read! :mad:

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