I am writing a pep band piece (although the type of piece probably makes no difference) and the snare part is going to have syncopation between hitting the marching cymbals (as if they are ride cymbals) with the shoulders of their sticks (as seen in the first image) and the tips of their sticks (as seen in the second image). Is there an "proper" or "typical" way to notate this or should I just make a key at the beginning of the music?

  • 2
    I'd have said the 1st pic (shoulder) is more of a crash, 2nd pic (tip) more of a ride.
    – Tim
    Apr 14, 2023 at 15:30
  • Watching with interest, though I note that they're different in which part of the cymbal is being struck, not just which part of the stick is doing it! Apr 14, 2023 at 15:37
  • @AndyBonner - that's basically the difference between crashing and riding.
    – Tim
    Apr 14, 2023 at 15:46
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    I suspect the best answer is to notate for what you want to hear and let the drummer decide how to best produce that sound in context. Micromanaging stick technique will probably not get you what you really want - a great performance that fits the character if the piece. A popular way to notate any syncopation is with accent marks. Apr 14, 2023 at 20:20

2 Answers 2


Hitting with the tip would be more like a ride strike, and the oft-used symbol is x on the top line (equivalent to F on treble clef), and the other is going to produce a crash, written as x on the leger line above (A line, treble clef), But as drum music can vary quite a bit, and is only sometimes intuitive, it's worth fortifying this with a note at the top of the music. No confusion then!


In Behind Bars, Elaine Gould includes a section on "Beating spots (striking points)". Her first recommendation is to just write words above the notes.

Different locations on an instrument's surface can be indicated in words: e.g., at the edge, on the rim, dome, center, etc. (p. 295)

Her alternative, for a single percussion part (i.e., not multiple instruments on the same staff), is to label each staff line as a position on the instrument. She gives the example of a suspended cymbal with three staff lines representing, from bottom to top, "rim", "midpoint", and "dome". (p. 295)

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