Your Drum Corps Should Read Music. Here's Why:

I didn't always know how to read music.  Like many drummers in my generation I learned to play by ear, listening and watching my teachers go through the rudiments.  Drum scores were learned by repetition and use of recordings.  Written music was handed out but served as only a guide.  I was raised to play by ear, learn by imitation and with a strong rudimental foundation.  For this I am grateful.  However, when I did learn to read it opened up a new world of possibilities for me. First and foremost, reading has allowed me to be an independent learner.  Through reading I have learned to transcribe (listen to something and then notate it) and to write music correctly.  My knowledge of written music has, in turn, enabled me to use notation programs such as Finale, Noteflight and Sibelius to create a written curriculum for both my private drum kit students and for the three drum corps in my pipe band organization.   It is possible to become an exceptional drummer without learning to read music.  However, music literacy can augment your skills as a drummer in many important ways.  Why should you learn to read?

Save Time!
Learning to read is probably the biggest time saver a drummer can have.  As soon as you get a copy of a drum score you can start learning it.  No more waiting for band practice or lessons so your lead drummer can "show you how it goes".  No more waiting for recordings that may or may not ever arrive.  Lead drummers can send out new music in August with a note to "learn this for the second week in September" and, lo and behold, everyone in the corps shows up the second week in September with the music learned--no need for extra practices or recordings.

Promote Independent Learning
The internet is an amazing place.  There are literally hundreds of drum scores for sale, thousands available for free and you can find links to all the key books (for both technique and repertoire) written by the most important pipe band drummers of our time.  Every bit of this material is accessible to a drummer who reads.

Raid "The Vault"
Learning to read will give you the ability to raid your lead drummer's "vault".  A lead drummer's "vault" is that binder (you know the one) containing worksheets, technique exercises, workshop handouts, hundreds of drum scores, old drum fanfares, drum scores from past bands and even some old material from your own band you've never seen before.  It's amazing that in this time of notation software and electronic "cloud storage", lead drummers still keep a "vault" but they all do.  Ask your lead drummer if you can look at the material he/she has stored away.  It's guaranteed you'll find some great stuff!

Reading Leads to Writing
Once a drummer has learned to read, they can learn to write.  Having several drummers in an organization that are able to write music can help distribute the workload, especially if an organization is fielding multiple competition bands.  I know of several elite drummers who write music for all the bands in their organization.  That is an admirable thing to do but is a HUGE amount of work.  If the lead drummers of each band in your organization can write effectively the work load can be shared making everyone's life a little easier.

Communication Breakdown
How many times during rehearsal have you heard the words "where are we?"  Once all drummers in a corps can read, communication within the corps can be streamlined.  An instruction such as "start at the second left flam after the drag five in the second line" can be simplified to "line two,  'and of 2', second bar".

A Valuable "Tool in the Toolbox"
As everyone knows, the more tools one has, the more things one can build.  It's very hard to build a house with just a hammer!  Reading is a very important tool for any drummer's toolbox.  In fact, to take the house-building analogy one step further, reading music is the equivalent to interpreting blueprints allowing you to build your own house and even design others!

Improve Self-Confidence
Any drummer who learns to read gets a confidence boost.  All of a sudden, their musical world has opened up.  They can find scores online and learn them. They can go through technique books and exercises on their own.  They are in control of their own progress and feel empowered. If they play in a grade 4 band, they can begin to learn a higher grade band's music and begin climbing the ladder within their organization.

Need a Change of Scenery?
First, let me be clear and say that I'm in no way promoting "band hopping" (loyalty to one band is always appreciated).  However, there may come a time (due to moving, desire to play in a higher grade etc.) when you need a change of scenery.  A simple email to your new lead drummer will get you copies of the music.  Then, if you're able to read that music, it's just persistence and hard work that stand between you and the chance to play with your new group.

Want to Learn to Read?
Introducing The Bare Bones Reading Method available exclusively on PipeBandDrummer.com.  The Bare Bones takes a fresh approach to reading pipe band drumming notation by using a mix of rhythm syllables, standard notation, music theory and audio examples and IT'S FREE!  Try the Bare Bones now and start reading today!

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1 comment

  • Terry Smith

    Terry Smith Halifax

    I'm sold!

    I'm sold!

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