Is there a simple program for drum notation?
July 1, 2013 1:12 PM   Subscribe

Is there a music notation program that allows drum notation to be input easily? I would like it to handle most of what is found in this pdf, especially rolls, flams/drags, open/closed hi-hats, and sticking.

My drum instructor usually gives me an exercise or two to work on during the week, which he writes on a blank sheet of paper. I have been taking lessons long enough that my notebook is filling up with these sheets of paper. I would like to use a music notation program to store them on my computer.

I do not need the music to be able to be transformed into midi instructions, or for the program to double check that the durations of the notes add up to the key signature. Ease of entry and legibility are my two biggest desires.

I have tried lilypond and musescore, and neither seem very well documented for writing drum notation. I have also found that writing anything in them is very time consuming, especially when you want to add sticking (e.g. RLRR LRLL over 16th notes)

I don't mind paying for a good program, but I only intend on keeping the records for my own consumption, so I am not really interested in spending hundreds of dollars.

Is there a program out there that will suit my needs?
posted by Quonab to Media & Arts (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The truth is that drum notation just sucks. I unfortunately think you'll find that no program does it as easily as you want it to.

Certainly on something like Finale you can get pretty quick at it - at you can input the rhythms very easily playing them with a midi keyboard or using the shortcut keys (which are good on Finale). But the the sticking you're still going to have to go back and do by hand. It's not hard to go back and add things like sticking on Finale, and you can set up common patterns like RLRR as default accents and then use shortcut keys to input them very quickly, so you won't necessarily have to type it in each time, but you will have to more or less do it "by hand."

You can also scan in your handwritten scores and Finale will "translate" them. But...I've had pretty mixed success with this. I imagine drums will be on the lower end of "works." It's usually the very basic melodic scores that are really suited for this feature.

That's probably the fastest way I can think of. Doesn't really seem worth dropping the 500-600 bucks Finale will fun you just for the drum notation though. Maybe someone has a better idea?
posted by Lutoslawski at 1:23 PM on July 1, 2013

Finale's PrintMusic is much cheaper than Finale (about $120) and will likely do what you want. I've used it a lot for basic band/orchestra scores. Like with Finale, though, there's a learning curve.
posted by charmedimsure at 1:32 PM on July 1, 2013

Have you checked the wikipedia page for scorewriters? Lots of free stuff listed.
posted by klausman at 2:07 PM on July 1, 2013

This is probably more than you're looking for, but if you have access to any sort of DAW (like Ableton Live or Garageband or Pro Tools), you can take your exercises and play them into those programs as MIDI, and then use something like MuseScore or Sibelius to turn them into written notation.

Your best bet might be to just scan them and keep them as PDFs. I've become pretty swift at drum notation in Sibelius, but it still feels like a pain in the neck when I sit down to do it.
posted by lownote at 2:27 PM on July 1, 2013

Tapspace Virtual Drumline is used for drum corps stuff.
posted by rhizome at 2:31 PM on July 1, 2013

Among free software, would Lilypond do? You write plain text files in a certain format, and it exports scores and MIDI files. These instructions on percussion staves shows how to enter percussion music in the right format.
posted by wdenton at 4:42 PM on July 1, 2013

Thanks for all of your help. Finale PrintMusic has a 30 day trial, I might give it a try, though it looks challenging.

I've been resisting methods that use MIDI input, because my wife was skeptical when I told her I was thinking about getting a keyboard in addition to my drum stuff.

I've looked at that Lilypond page on percussion staves several times, but I think I really need to see an implemented example to make sense of it. I looked around for one, but I didn't find one.

lownote, you may be right, PDFs might be the best way to go.
posted by Quonab at 5:20 PM on July 1, 2013

How about getting a scanner and storing the handwritten sheets as .pdf files? Scanning all of the exercises you currently have will take time, but possibly not as much as learning Finale or Sibelius and then entering them in by hand.
posted by the_bone at 5:23 PM on July 1, 2013

Guitar Pro is really good for guitar tablature. I know it has drum capabilities as well, but I'm not that familiar with them. They do have a free trial version.
posted by doctord at 7:30 PM on July 1, 2013

If you go the MIDI direction for input (and I think it's way faster, and worth the space and expense) you don't have to go full-on keyboard. You can get a small-ish USB MIDI controller that will do everything you need. I have this one and it works great.
posted by dr. boludo at 6:47 AM on July 2, 2013

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