2.5.1 Common notation for percussion

Rhythmic music is primarily used for percussion and drum notation, but it can also be used to show the rhythms of melodies.


References for percussion

See also

Notation Reference: Showing melody rhythms, Instantiating new staves. Creating MIDI output.

Snippets: Percussion.


Basic percussion notation

Percussion notes may be entered in \drummode mode, which is similar to the standard mode for entering notes. The simplest way to enter percussion notes is to use the \drums command, which creates the correct context and entry mode for percussion:

\drums {
  hihat4 hh bassdrum bd
}

[image of music]

This is shorthand for:

\new DrumStaff \drummode {
  hihat4 hh bassdrum bd
}

[image of music]

Each piece of percussion has a full name and an abbreviated name, and both can be used in input files. The full list of percussion note names may be found in Percussion notes.

Note that the normal notation of pitches (such as cis4) in a DrumStaff context will cause an error message. Percussion clefs are added automatically to a DrumStaff context but they can also be set explicitly. Other clefs may be used as well.

\drums {
  \clef percussion
  bd4 4 4 4
  \clef treble
  hh4 4 4 4
}

[image of music]

There are a few issues concerning MIDI support for percussion instruments; for details please see Creating MIDI output.

See also

Notation Reference: Creating MIDI output, Percussion notes.

Installed Files: ‘ly/drumpitch-init.ly’.

Snippets: Percussion.


Drum rolls

Drum rolls are indicated with three slashes across the stem. For quarter notes or longer the three slashes are shown explicitly, eighth notes are shown with two slashes (the beam being the third), and drum rolls shorter than eighths have one stem slash to supplement the beams. This is achieved with the tremolo notation, as described in Tremolo repeats.

\drums {
  \time 2/4
  sn16 8 16 8 8:32 ~
  8 8 4:32 ~
  4 8 16 16
  4 r4
}

[image of music]

Sticking can be indicated by placing a markup for "R" or "L" above or below notes, as discussed in Direction and placement. The staff-padding property may be overridden to achieve a pleasing baseline.

\drums {
  \repeat unfold 2 {
    sn16^"L" 16^"R" 16^"L" 16^"L" 16^"R" 16^"L" 16^"R" 16^"R"
    \stemUp
    sn16_"L" 16_"R" 16_"L" 16_"L" 16_"R" 16_"L" 16_"R" 16_"R"
  }
}

[image of music]

See also

Notation Reference: Tremolo repeats.

Snippets: Percussion.


Pitched percussion

Certain pitched percussion instruments (e.g., xylophone, vibraphone, and timpani) are written using normal staves. This is covered in other sections of the manual.

See also

Notation Reference: Creating MIDI output.

Snippets: Percussion.


Percussion staves

A percussion part for more than one instrument typically uses a multiline staff where each position in the staff refers to one piece of percussion. To typeset the music, the notes must be interpreted in DrumStaff and DrumVoice context.

up = \drummode {
  crashcymbal4 hihat8 halfopenhihat hh hh hh openhihat
}
down = \drummode {
  bassdrum4 snare8 bd r bd sn4
}
\new DrumStaff <<
  \new DrumVoice { \voiceOne \up }
  \new DrumVoice { \voiceTwo \down }
>>

[image of music]

The above example shows verbose polyphonic notation. The short polyphonic notation, described in I'm hearing Voices, can also be used. For example,

\new DrumStaff <<
  \drummode {
    bd4 sn4 bd4 sn4
    << {
      \repeat unfold 16 hh16
    } \\ {
      bd4 sn4 bd4 sn4
    } >>
  }
>>

[image of music]

There are also other layout possibilities. To use these, set the property drumStyleTable in context DrumVoice. The following variables have been predefined:

drums-style

This is the default. It typesets a typical drum kit on a five-line staff:

[image of music]

The drum scheme supports six different toms. When there are fewer toms, simply select the toms that produce the desired result. For example, to get toms on the three middle lines you use tommh, tomml, and tomfh.

agostini-drums-style

Invented by the French percussionist Dante Agostini in 1965, this notation is commonly employed in France but also elsewhere.

[image of music]

timbales-style

This typesets timbales on a two line staff:

[image of music]

congas-style

This typesets congas on a two line staff:

[image of music]

bongos-style

This typesets bongos on a two line staff:

[image of music]

percussion-style

To typeset all kinds of simple percussion on one-line staves:

[image of music]

Custom percussion styles may also be defined, as explained in Custom percussion staves.

See also

Learning Manual: I'm hearing Voices.

Notation Reference: Custom percussion staves.

Installed Files: ‘ly/drumpitch-init.ly’.

Snippets: Percussion.


Custom percussion staves

Custom percussion styles may be defined, to which the drumStyleTable property may then be set. Existing notations may be redefined as an association list where each entry has to be comprised of four items: a name, the note head style (or default), an articulation sign if needed (or #f if not), and the note head’s position on the staff. That list must then be converted into a Scheme hash table, using the alist->hash-table function.

#(define mydrums '(
         (bassdrum        default   #f           -1)
         (snare           default   #f           0)
         (hihat           cross     #f           1)
         (halfopenhihat   cross     "halfopen"   1)
         (pedalhihat      xcircle   "stopped"    2)
         (lowtom          diamond   #f           3)))

up = \drummode { hh8 hh hhho hhho hhp4 hhp }
down = \drummode { bd4 sn bd toml8 toml }

\new DrumStaff <<
  \set DrumStaff.drumStyleTable = #(alist->hash-table mydrums)
  \new DrumVoice { \voiceOne \up }
  \new DrumVoice { \voiceTwo \down }
>>

[image of music]

New names may also be added to these custom notations through the drumPitchNames variable, that may be redefined as an association list (or augmented by appending a new list to its existing value, as demonstrated below), but also through its individual entries. This also makes it possible to define aliases: alternate input shorthand for some notations.

drumPitchNames =
  #(append
    '((leftsnap . sidestick)
      (rightsnap . ridecymbal))
    drumPitchNames)

drumPitchNames.ls = #'sidestick
drumPitchNames.rs = #'ridecymbal

\drums {
  leftsnap4. rightsnap8 leftsnap4 rightsnap
  ls8 rs ls rs ls4 rs
}

[image of music]

In a similar manner, the drumPitchTable property associates a specific pitch (meaning a different instrument sound, as provided by available MIDI soundfonts) to each notation. That property needs to be defined as a hash table, which is again converted from an association list (stored by default as the midiDrumPitches variable). Redefining these associations is achieved as explained above, either by defining an entire association list or through individual entries. The following example demonstrates how to create a whole notation set with its own input syntax, custom notations and corresponding MIDI output.

drumPitchNames.dbass      = #'dbass
drumPitchNames.dba        = #'dbass  % 'db is in use already
drumPitchNames.dbassmute  = #'dbassmute
drumPitchNames.dbm        = #'dbassmute
drumPitchNames.do         = #'dopen
drumPitchNames.dopenmute  = #'dopenmute
drumPitchNames.dom        = #'dopenmute
drumPitchNames.dslap      = #'dslap
drumPitchNames.ds         = #'dslap
drumPitchNames.dslapmute  = #'dslapmute
drumPitchNames.dsm        = #'dslapmute

#(define djembe-style
  '((dbass      default  #f         -2)
    (dbassmute  default  "stopped"  -2)
    (dopen      default  #f          0)
    (dopenmute  default  "stopped"   0)
    (dslap      default  #f          2)
    (dslapmute  default  "stopped"   2)))

midiDrumPitches.dbass     = g
midiDrumPitches.dbassmute = fis
midiDrumPitches.dopen     = a
midiDrumPitches.dopenmute = gis
midiDrumPitches.dslap     = b
midiDrumPitches.dslapmute = ais

test = \drummode { dba4 do ds dbm dom dsm }

\score {
  \new DrumStaff \with {
    \override StaffSymbol.line-count = #3
    instrumentName = "Djembé "
    drumStyleTable = #(alist->hash-table djembe-style)
    drumPitchTable = #(alist->hash-table midiDrumPitches)
  } {
    \time 3/4
    \test
  }
  \layout {}
  \midi {}
}

[image of music]

See also

Installed Files: ‘ly/drumpitch-init.ly’.

Snippets: Percussion.

Internals Reference: DrumStaff, DrumVoice.


Ghost notes

Also known as dead, muted, silenced or false notes; ghost notes can be created using the \parenthesize command, see Parentheses.

\new DrumStaff <<
  \new DrumVoice  = "1" { s1 }
  \new DrumVoice  = "2" { s1 }
  \drummode {
    <<
      {
        hh8[ 8] <hh sn> hh16
        \parenthesize sn  hh
        \parenthesize sn  hh8 <hh sn> hh
      } \\
      {
        bd4 r4 bd8 8 r8 bd
      }
    >>
  }
>>

[image of music]

See also

Notation Reference: Parentheses.

Snippets: Percussion.


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