How To Read Drum Tabs: A Detailed Guide

Drum tabs are a condensed, easy form of musical instruction for drummers that can be used instead of standard sheet music. Many current musicians and music students prefer this tablature since it is easy to write and find. Instead of hunting for sheet music in a store, you can go online and search through hundreds of drum tabs for all of your favorite tunes.

This post will cover all you need to know about drum tabs. At the end of this article, you should know how to read drum tabs and their structure so you can write yours.

What is the Structure of a Drum Tab?

Drum tabs represent time horizontally and the drum or cymbal being played vertically.

Most music is in 4/4 time, and most tabs include 16 ‘-‘ symbols for each 16th note. When playing 1 e & a 2 e & a 3 e & a 4 e & a, it’s best to count aloud (musical count). In this case, one bar equals 16 musical notes (16th counts). The | sign separates each bar.

The letters to the far left of the drum tab usually indicate which drum or cymbal is being played. The AC/”Back DC’s in Black” drum tab is below. It was included in Jeremy Ferwerda’s tab. Get

In this case, 

  • C stands for Crash Cymbal.
  • Snare Drum 
  • H – Hi-Hat
  •  B – Bass Drum

“O” usually refers to a drum, and “x” to a cymbal on the “timeline.” These are sometimes capitalized to indicate a heavier hit or accent.

The person who tabbed it in this example makes it easy by giving the timing below. It isn’t always the case.

The official song can be heard below. While listening, read the drum tab above. It will assist you in fast comprehending how they operate. At the top of the second bar, you’ll see “repeat 1x,” which means you should play that part again before moving on to the following bar.

Here’s another Nirvana example: the “Smells Like Teen Spirit” tab. The tab composer has decided to notate the drums with the first letter of the drum instead of “o.”

As you can see, Drum tabs are not always structured in the same way.

Drum and cymbal names might differ, for example:

  • Snare Drum – S or Sd
  • Crash Cymbal – C or Cr
  • Floor Tom – Ft or T3 (low tom)
  • Medium Tom – Mt or T2
  • High Tom – St (small tom) or T1 (tom 1)
  • Bass drum – B or Bd
  • Ride Cymbal – R or Rd
  • Hi-Hat – H or Hh (“x” and “o” refer to a closed or open hi-hat)

Recur Bars

“Repeat x7” specifies that this tab should be repeated seven times before going to the next bar.

Drum Tab Legends

At the top of some drum tabs is a “legend” that explains what each symbol symbolizes. In either case, they’re usually simple to figure out.

How Much Space Do I Need to Play Drums?

Are you thinking of getting a new drum set or your first drum set and wondering how much space you need?

At the very least, you’ll need a few square feet. If you’re using an electronic drum set, you won’t need as much space behind the kit as if you were using acoustic drums.

It’s never a bad idea to leave yourself a little more room than you think you’ll need, especially if you’re unsure how close your cymbal stands or your seat to the drums. For this reason, when purchasing a kit, ask how large its footprint would be and evaluate the room in which it would be installed.

Is Playing the Drums Expensive?

Have you been wondering how much playing the drums will cost you?

The expense of learning to play the drums is rather low. Higher-end gear can be pricey in the long run, but your preferences largely determine that.

There is no need to buy a drum set when you first begin playing drums. It is possible, to begin with a set of sticks and an exercise pad. At some time, you’ll want to buy a drum kit so that you can play rolls and rhythms with both hands and feet.

As is the case with a wide variety of other musical instruments, the cost of a drum set can range anywhere from a few hundred to several thousand dollars. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question.

How to Read Drum Tabs

1. Become acquainted with the kit

If you are unfamiliar with the various sections of the drum kit, reading the various parts of the drum tablature will be difficult. A separate acronym in drum tabs represents each drum. However, it is important to note that tabs might change depending on the writer.

Because various people use different acronyms, always look for a key or legend at the top of the page to ensure that you understand the writer’s notation. The following are the most widely used abbreviations for the kit’s nine pieces.

  • HH – Hi-Hat
  • Hf – Hi Hat with Foot
  • B – Bass Drum
  • Rd – Ride Cymbal
  • CC – Crash Cymbal
  • SN – Snare
  • T1 – Hi Tom
  • T2 – Low Tom
  • FT – Floor Tom

Drums are usually listed in this order in drum tabs, which roughly corresponds to the height of the instruments.

2. Recognize the Symbols

Let’s look at the different symbols in the music section of drum notation now that you know the abbreviations for the drums. 

The following are the five main symbols for hitting drums:

  • o = normal or strike hit
  • O = emphasize or hit harder than usual.
  • g = ghost or milder hit than usual
  • f = flam or two strokes played with alternating hands, the first being a grace note and the second being a stronger first strike. The two notes should be played rapidly, making it sound like one hit.
  • d = a double stroke or a roll

Now that you know the drum symbols, it’s time to learn about the characters used in cymbal tabs.

  • x = strike
  • X = cymbal crash or loose hi-hat
  • o = open the hi-hat
  • # = choke or strike the cymbal, then grab it to silence the sound.

The dash (-) is the final symbol to remember. It can be used on drums or cymbals to indicate that you should not hit the instrument on that beat. It’s also worth noting that some people will use the drum abbreviation instead of the above symbols to indicate a hit.

Drum tabs aren’t a precise science, and there’s considerable variation from one writer to the next. Some people prefer to denote bass drum hits with xs rather than os. Others might use x’s for each instrument. Most individuals, however, prefer to use xs and os instead of all the same because it makes the composition more natural to read.

3. Pay Close Attention to the Rhythm

The symbols written in the same vertical column are meant to be played simultaneously when playing drum tabs. The most common time signature for music is 4/4, with the beat divided into 8th or 16th counts. A bar is a group of eight or sixteen beats.

Vertical dividing lines are commonly used to separate bars so that it is clear when one stops and the next begins. You can count it as 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 divided into eighths. It’s a little different when divided into 16ths. You can count it as one e, two, and three.

What’s the Best Age to Start Drumming?

Are you thinking of playing drums but don’t know if you’re the right age to start? Or are you thinking of getting your kids into drumming but unsure if they’re the right age to start drumming? 

Well, any age is a good time to start drumming. Other publications may suggest that being younger is preferable. However, this is not the case. Anyone can learn drums, whether 5 years old, 35 years old, 60 years old, or 75 years old. You can master this skill if you devote time and effort to it.

“Can it ever be too late to learn to play the drums?” Nope! Have you seen a video of a 4-year-old playing a jaw-dropping drum solo and are now unsure if drums are right for you? People of all ages wonder if they have lost their chance to get started, but there is no such thing as a “perfect” age. If you’re looking for a fun and healthy way to spend your time, this is your sport. It’s better late than never, as they say.

“Is it too late for me to learn the drums?” No! You’re not too young, either. It’s never too late to begin drumming; nothing to lose. You’ll soon be playing your favorite songs and wishing you’d started sooner.

Is It Easy to Learn the Drums?

Are you planning to learn a new musical instrument for the very first time? Have you thought of how easy or difficult learning drums are?

Drumming can be simple and difficult at the same time. Learning the drums may be easier for you if you have a good sense of Rhythm, natural coordination, and the ability to clap along with the music.

However, there will always be a learning curve with any new endeavor. Take pride in your accomplishments and see obstacles as chances to push yourself further. You could even surprise yourself! What’s the best part? When it comes to drumming, practice makes perfect, regardless of how simple or difficult it is for you. And the payoff is fantastic.

What are the Best Drums to Practice How to Read Drum Tabs?

1. Ludwig Breakbeats

This compact drum set has been considered the king of mini kits for portability, small stages, and even younger performers since its release in 2013. This compact drum set has been considered the king of mini kits for portability, small stages, and even younger performers since its release in 2013. A 16 “x14” bass drum, a 10 “x7” rack tom, and a 13 “x13” floor tom are included, along with a normal 14 “x5” snare. With a hefty tom-holder, smooth hoops, and a strong bass drum riser, the chromed shell hardware feels substantial in our hands. 

The bass drum is a distinctive component. Although it is unlikely to replace a larger kick in a traditional rock set up, the shell’s structure and size allow it to function as a mini cannon. The Breakbeats snare a lot of personalities, with a slight trashy grittiness and a terrific combination of quick responsiveness and full-bodied overtones even at lower tunings. It has a throwback funk tone when you turn it up.


  • Extremely transportable
  • Excellent sound for the money
  • Oozes fashion


  • Under intense playing, the bass drum riser can shift.

2. Tama Imperialstar

Since the beginning of time, Tama’s Imperialstar line of kits has been a staple for beginners and intermediate players alike. The Imperialstar’s flexibility and beautiful appearance are frequently neglected. Therefore we’d like to shine some light on it.

As previously said, Imperialstar’s amazing adaptability is perhaps its most compelling selling point. This kit’s strong 8-ply poplar shells provided snappy attack and strong high-end. Tuning was also a breeze thanks to Tama’s accuracy-bearing edges working in tandem. With 2 major setups and 3 bass drum sizes to select from, the Imperialstar’s adaptability is further enhanced, allowing it to fit in coffee shops or busy arenas.


  • Excellent set for beginners.
  • A great value in terms of aesthetics and functionality
  • The 18″ bass drum is extremely adaptable.


  • Poplar shells don’t have the most polished sound.


Learning how to read drum tabs is a fun method to learn how to play your favorite rhythms without buying and studying complicated drum sheet music. While learning how to read drum tabs can be challenging at first, you’ll be a pro in no time with practice and persistence. A fast internet search will certainly turn up a plethora of drum tabs for your favorite songs. So, what do you have to lose? Begin practicing today to gain confidence in reading drum tabs!

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