One of the questions I’m asked most frequently is how to create drum parts in MuseScore. In December, I created a short tutorial video which you can view here, but if you prefer a written tutorial that you can come back to every now and again (or just something you can skim-read!), read on:
1. Score Setup
Set up a new score and choose Drumset from the list of instruments. It’s important to choose a drumset stave so that MuseScore will playback drumset sounds later on when we add in notes. We’ll be creating a basic rock pattern as an example, so I’ll choose the 5-line Drumset stave and I’ll also select a 4/4 time signature. If you need help setting up a score, take a look at this tutorial video.
There are two ways you can enter notes into a drum set stave: by using the mouse, or by using a MIDI keyboard. This tutorial will cover the method for entering drum set notes with a mouse, and in part 2, I’ll cover MIDI keyboard entry.
A basic drum set pattern is usually made up of 2 rhythmically independent parts:
The Hi-Hat and Snare are in Voice 1 with stems pointing up, and the Bass drum is in Voice 2 with the stems pointing down.
2. Hi-Hat Part
Select the bar and then press N to enter note entry mode
- Next, select the rhythmic value of the first hi-hat note (quaver/eighth note) from the toolbar at the top of the screen
- Open the Drum Palette on the left of your screen by clicking on the word Drums (if you can’t see these Palettes down the left-hand side of your screen, go to Display > Palette). Each of the items here in the drum palette represents a specific notehead and sound for the drum set stave. When you hover your mouse over the drum palette a tool tip will appear to let you know what each one is
- Select the Closed Hi-Hat
- Click in the bar to create the first note, and then keep entering notes by clicking until you have a total of 8 quavers (eighth notes). It doesn’t really matter where you click on the stave – MuseScore will always place the hi-hat in the correct position on the top of stave
- Press the Escape key on your computer keyboard twice when you’ve finished, to exit note entry mode and to de-select the last note you entered
3. Snare Drum Part
I’m going to have the snare drum play on the 2nd and 4th beats in the measure.
Select beat 2 and press N to enter note entry mode again
- Make sure the quaver is still selected on the toolbar and then choose the Acoustic Snare Drum from the Drum Palette
- Click on beat 2 to create the first note and then click again on beat 4 to create the second snare drum note
- Press Escape twice when you’ve finished
4. Bass Drum Part
Lastly, I’ll add the bass drum part on beat 1 and beat 3 in the bar. The bass drum is going to appear in Voice 2 on the stave.
- Select the first hi-hat note in the bar and press N. This tells MuseScore which beat of the bar we’re going to start writing notes.
I want to make sure I don’t overwrite my hi-hat notes which are in Voice 1 on the stave, so I’ll click on the Voice 2 button on the Toolbar. Your cursor should go green
- Select crotchet (quarter note) from the toolbar
- Choose the bass drum sound from the drum palette on the left and then click on beat 1 and then on beat 3 to create the notes
- Press Escape twice again when you’ve finished
5. Tidy Up The Rests
Lastly, tidy up the drum pattern by dragging the crotchet/quarter note rests down a little with your mouse so they don’t overlap the snare drum notes.
6. Play Your Rock Beat
The end result is a basic rock beat that sounds like a drum set when you play it back. Click on the Play button on the Toolbar to hear MuseScore play it through.
7. Copy and Paste
Once you’ve completed one measure, you can copy and paste it throughout the score.
- Click inside the bar to select it. You should end up with a blue box around the measure
- Press the letter R (for “repeat”) to copy it into the following measures
- Click inside the measure to select it. You should end up with a blue box around the measure
- Press Ctrl+C (Windows) or Command+C (Mac) to copy the measure
- Click in the destination measure (measure 2) and press Ctrl+V (Windows) or Command+V (Mac) to paste
8. Repeat Measure Sign
You can also make use of the Repeat Measure sign which tells the drummer that the pattern should be repeated.
- Open the Repeats palette
- Click on the Repeat Measure sign and drag it to the measure
- When you see the green plus sign appear, let go of the mouse button
And that’s it ! In part 2, we’ll look at how to use a MIDI keyboard to speed the process up a little.