It's a lot of fun to learn to play the drum / percussion parts exactly like our favorite drummer or percussionist played them; anything from a solo to the entire drum or percussion track. Sometimes we are lucky enough to find these things already notated for us, appearing in a drum periodical, a drum method book or website, like the Drummer Cafe.
Without a doubt, it is a lot easier to have someone else figure it all out for us, in advance, however I believe that transcribing — whether it be solos, grooves and/or entire drum tracks — is a great way to develop one's own hearing and reading ability, notation skills, creativity and overall drumming vocabulary. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by transcribing it yourself!
When I'm transcribing the drum or percussion part for an entire piece of music, these are the steps, in order, that I will typically take:
- Figure out the time signature and tempo marking.
- Get the form of the tune; Intro, Verse, Chorus, Bridge, etc. During this time, I may not know what to call each section, but that comes after I've listened to the entire tune.
- Notate how many measures are in each section, such as: Intro (4 bars), Verse (8 bars), etc.
- Figure out the skeleton for the tune; perhaps the Verse is very different from the Chorus, so figure out each one of those if they are different.
- Next transcribe the variations of the groove or light fills that occur with the groove; ghost strokes, etc.
- Lastly, transcribe all the fills and any nuances that I may have missed.
When laying out this type of frame-work on a tune, it makes it very easy to jump around and fine tune the transcription.
Obviously, if you are only transcribing a drum solo or drum fill ... you would vary the procedure accordingly.
When my students work on published drum solos or transcriptions I make sure that they figure out the form of the solo. Knowing the form of the solo ... such as ABA ... really helps to not only learn and understand each section of the piece, but is an incredible tool for memorization. At this point, the solo can start becoming a piece of music and not just a bunch of notes on a page or muscle memory movements.
So get out there and start transcribing your favorite drum solo, drum track or whatever you like or want to learn to play. You'll be doing yourself a huge favor by doing the transcription yourself, and you'll grow in the process.
Bart Elliott is a degreed professional musician and founder of the Drummer Cafe. His 35+ years in the music industry, over 100 albums to his credit, as well as his understanding of contemporary and classical music, makes him a complete and skilled master musician. A highly sought after drummer and percussionist, both live and in the studio, Bart is widely known as a top music educator and gifted teacher, appearing as a guest artist and clinician throughout the USA.