The Myth of Drum Tab

Have you ever used Drum TAB notation? Do you use it because you feel it's easier to read than traditional notation, which would take a lot of time to learn? Well, I'm going to show you how all of this is just a myth.

I've had students bring in drum TAB charts they downloaded from the web. They've asked me to help them figure it out. The 1st thing I do is get out a pencil and start drawing some lines. Let me show you.

Example #1 is a typical drum TAB part. I found this on the web here, in an article entitled, Reading Drum Tabs 101. Please take the time to read the short article. I'd like to quote the final paragraph:

So, by looking at the drum tab and seeing to the left what drum or cymbal to strike, seeing the symbols on the staff telling you how to strike, and looking at the top for where in the beat the strike should fall, you can translate what you are reading to what you are playing, or vice versa. It really is quite simple reading drum tabs.

Here's example #1:

OK, I can see how this might be helpful. But the strange thing is, get out your pencil, and draw a few lines like I did in example #2:

Hmmmm, look familiar? I'm sure it does. Now compare it to example #3, where I take the TAB and write it out in standard music notation:

Now look at all 3 examples again, and seriously tell me that reading standard music notation is so much more difficult than reading TAB. The TAB is identical to the standard notation, except it doesn't use the stems & beams that connect to the notes. 

If you can read TAB, you can read standard notation!

So if you're going to invest some time in learning how to read some sort of musical notation system, you might as well learn to read standard notation. It will be time well spent, because most of the written drum material out there in books, magazines, and the web, is written in standard notation. And if you want to communicate with other drummers, chances are if they can read music, it's in standard notation!

~ MB

BTW, please add your comments, especially if you are a proponent of drum TAB…


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