I'm just writing some stuff out by hand, and wondered how to indicate a single note where both hands play in unison, called a double stop. Or perhaps how to indicate a few bars will use double stops.

It looks like it is indicated by two 'note bodies' next to each other horizontally, with the note stem between them; not vertically, ie one on top of the other (cuz it's the same note). Sorry I don't know the terms. Just wondered what it would look like if I just wrote it out by hand. Thanks


2 Answers 2


According to the Illinois State University Big Red Marching Maching Drumline 2017 Music Notation Guide, it should look just as described: two adjacent note heads on either side of a single stem.

Drum double-stop notation

The double stop is also called a flat flam or a French flam. With regard to the latter, Gary D. Cook's Teaching Percussion, page 63 indicates "in some orchestral literature the 'French flam' is notated" with a double stem, as shown in the image below.

Double-stem "French flam"

James A. Strain's A Dictionary for the Modern Percussionist and Drummer page 75 agrees.

French flam. Though performed the same as an American flam, the notation for this appears as a note head with two stems, one up and one down.

In The Snare Drum in the Concert Hall by Al Payson page 33, the French flam is again indicated as a double-stemmed note, but

There is some disagreement as to how it should be played. Some percussionists ... play it as a regular flam. Other[s] ... strike both sticks exactly together with equal force (as written). Still other[s] strike the sticks with equal force, but slightly separated.


There is not a specific worldwide and standard notation for this that can be recognized worldwide, but since there's no absolute notation standard for drums (unlike most of other instruments), you can do "whatever" you want, and use what is usually done for percussion:

  • add a legend at the beginning of the piece (or in the preface);
  • add a description/clarification near the notes you want to be played like that ("Both Hands" or "B.H.", for example);

In both cases, you should probably use a specific notation for that. There are various possibilities:

  1. use a specific note head (cross, diamond, triangle, etc);
  2. use a double note head;
  3. use a double-stem (one up, one down);
  4. use duble notes with different stem orientations;

possible examples for double stops

The first should only be used in specific situations where there are various peculiar sounds/effects/techniques involved in the piece, especially if the score is aimed for "general" drum/snare drum players and if the cross head is used, otherwise it could be easily confused as a rim shot, a hit on the rim (clave) or a cross stick.

Consider that being able to play two notes exactly at the same time is not very easy, especially for very percussive instruments: there's always a certain amount of imprecision, and drummers are so used to flams that they often are not able to play with both hands exactly at the same time on the same instrument, unless they've practiced it enough. In the end, the risk is that nobody would hear the difference and most people would think that it's just an imprecise occurrence of flams.

  • I've never seen "B.H." but I have seen "B" many times.
    – Edward
    Jul 27, 2021 at 4:38

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