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Scoring Your Own Drum Music

Sep 16, 2008
As I see it, there are three ways of scoring drum music. You can write a transcription, just the groove, or groove and form. What you need may differ from song or gig. Here, I will give you tips on how to write what you need to sound like a pro every gig.

Let's investigate the three styles. Transcriptions are note for note what the drummer played on a song. They are Great for education. When I was a new jazz student I transcribed the ride patterns and every comping snare hit that Jimmy Cobb played on Miles Davis's Kind Of Blue. I also learned every hi hat nuance, drum fill, and groove that Oliver Gene Lake played on Me'Shell Ndegeocello's Peace Beyond Passion. In both of those instances I was learning there vocabulary. Transcribing drum solos is also an invaluable way to expand your vocabulary, but drum transcriptions should be left in the practice room.

Writing just the groove can be useful but dangerous. If you have to play many songs with little preparation time, writing the groove for each song can help you remember how to start; and just use your ears from there. But, if you have more time you shouldn't do this. Often even the simplest song will have something to remember, a stop, crash, or signature phrase that you should play. I have been on the wrong end of a disapproving look too many times for missing something I should have played. And, more than not, a lesser drummer will get hired for sounding like they did there homework more than an amazing drummer who is winging it. It's being PROFESSIONAL.

Now, groove AND form charts are my favorite. The best example of scoring drum music. You have all the information you need with the space to play inspired music. To write a groove and form chart listen to the song top to bottom, while writing down the skeleton of the form. EX: verse 8bars chorus 12bars etc. Then write the groove at the begining of each new section to illustrate how it changes. Finally, put in all the hits and stops you might need to catch.

While playing on a gig, use these charts as a guide. Before the song starts, take a glance at the tempo, intro, and groove. Then, use your own judgment as to what to play. While in the song, glance at the chart as a reminder of what's coming up. Playing with your nose in the chart can make you sound sterile. Your attention should be on the musicians around you.

If you have done your homework, either by scoring drum music yourself or getting one of my charts, than you'll always be confident that you know what you are doing and can lead the band as apposed to clawing to hang on. So, represent us drummers well. Have fun and play your a** off!
About the Author
My name is Gabriel Giannelli and I have played close to 2000 gigs in the last decade. After attending Berklee College of Music, I did two years on cruise ships and am currently in the Navy band. Check out my website at http://www.Gigging-Drum-Charts.com
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