Adapted excerpt from the book Easy Rock Drum Charts by James Morton

Reading Drum MusicI started writing these charts decades ago as an exercise to myself, and also as a teaching aid to my students for reading drum music. But don’t be surprised if you enjoy yourself in the process of reading them! My students and I have enjoyed playing these rock classics for years, and I’d like to pass on that opportunity to you.

These charts can, and should be, approached on different levels. Beginners new to drumming, or even just new to drum charts, will benefit from learning about keeping good time, feel, and form, among a host of other things.

(If this is you, use this link to check out our list of hand-selected beginner drum charts).

For those drummers who have been playing for awhile, I encourage you to try and nail these charts correctly the first time through. Try to capture the feel and style of each individual chart. Whether a chart is simple or complex, be true to the musical context.

(If you consider yourself in this category, you can give this list of our more challenging songs a try).

“Any reading is good reading.”

I share this truism with my students whenever the subject arises, and often I relate this analogy to them: I live in southern California, but have never been on a surfboard in my life. If I decided that I wanted to be a surfer, I might do any of the following things: subscribe to a surfing magazine, watch surfing movies and videos, hang out with other surfers, wear surfer clothes, talk surfer talk, etc. You get the idea. But isn’t there something missing in that list?

If I really wanted to surf, what would I have to do?

I would have to conquer my fears, and get on that surfboard! I might wipe out a few times, but if I were persistent, sooner or later I’d be standing on that board, doing what I set out to do.

Now, what if you really wanted to read drum music?

You would not just read an article or book about reading drum music. You would actually read drum music…

And keep reading drum music…

And read some more drum music after that. Until it got easier. Simple as that.

Foreign language teachers call this concept “immersion.”

As I said above, you can approach these charts on any level. I would advise advanced drummers to play these charts as if you were in the recording studio, paying careful attention to playing with a consistent sound and feel, in addition to reading them well.

Why imagine as if you were in a recording studio?

In a recording situation, you know that what you are playing will soon be analyzed and critiqued for time, feel, dynamics, phrasing, and overall musicality.

Practicing and playing constantly in this mindset is a tremendous habit to have. You’ll notice your playing sharpen, and really, this philosophy can be applied to just about anything in life.

For more on this, check out this article about the night my career changed.

Remember, to read well, you must be well read.

And with that I leave it up to you to become well read. You can get started, or further hone your reading and playing skills, by checking out the hundreds of songs of drum sheet music we have to offer you in our digital library. And please let me know how it goes! Contact me directly with anything you have to say; I’d love to hear.

Happy drumming!

James Morton