This is an old revision of the document!

Percussion Notation


As a new drummer and long-time Rosegarden user, I want to use the computer as an improvement aid to help my drumming.

My original plan was to add drum notation to Rosegarden. After serious study and contemplation, I have concluded this is very impractical. Rosegarden does all internal work using a MIDI-based system, and the existing editors allow you to move notes freely up and down the scale by MIDI pitch. Height on staff and other factors are ultimately determined by the MIDI pitch. Rosegarden can manage polyphonic notation, but poorly and awkwardly. It is best to keep polyphony to a minimum.

Drum notes need to be written at one particular height by drum. As drum kits are highly polyphonic; every height represents a different instrument, and has to be notated within a separate segment. Some drums can trigger a variety of different MIDI pitches from the same staff position, eg. snare head/cross stick/rim shot, ride edge/bell/bow, and open/closed hi-hat. Some drums can trigger the same MIDI pitch from different staff positions, eg. the hi-hat pedal is notated toward the bottom of the staff, for the foot, and can play a note by itself, but it is also used with and sometimes notated in conjunction with the closed hi-hat sound that it triggers. The drum score to “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor comes to mind as an example where entering that as notated on the score would trigger duplicate closed hi-hat events. Finally, drum notes need to export to LilyPond in a totally different way, like “hh4 bd bd hh.”

Added all together, Rosegarden needs something radically different to handle these requirements. Rosegarden has stretched the limits of what can be done with notation in a sequencer-based application, but after stewing on all of this for a few weeks, I have to conclude that drum notation lies beyond those limits. The only realistic way to go forward here is to invent a new event paradigm that is not MIDI-based, where it displays at pitch x, sounds at pitch y, and exports as pitch z. There could be no way to go back and forth between that and standard Rosegarden events. It would amount to doing a parallel, notation-driven system within the existing MIDI-driven system.

It feels tantalizingly possible to overcome all of these objections, but I have concluded that even if it could be done, it just wouldn't be anything to be proud to show off in the end. It would be hacky and weird in the extreme.

I have determined that the best solution to my overall requirements is to switch to a notation-driven editor like MusE Score for notating drum parts. Perhaps I will discover opportunities to improve workflow and integration with that application.

dev/percussion.1454714150.txt.gz · Last modified: 2018/02/07 17:07 (external edit)
Recent changes RSS feed Creative Commons License Valid XHTML 1.0 Valid CSS Driven by DokuWiki