I'm reading a drum notation book and it talks about "kick lines"?

Is there a precise definition somewhere? (searching doesn't help since it thinks I'm talking about the kick drum)


JBarry's answer seems to define what a kick is, your comments seem to be asking what to do with it.

Percussion parts, especially drumset parts, are very rarely notated beyond general sketches, but it is expected that the player will blend with the ensemble and play tasteful, appropriate patterns accentuating what is happening throughout the ensemble.

That is the percussionist's responsibility, whether he doesn't get music at all, gets a blank page, or gets every stroke written out.

I'm mostly a classical guy, and this notation is very common in classical notation (though it isn't called a kick).

Traditionally, this notation was used as cues to prepare the drummer who had just played the same pattern 128 times that something new was coming. It's a signal to help keep count, track themes, and generally "have a clue."

In more modern times with the score left mostly blank, the notation also helps the percussionist figure out what type of thing to play in that location. The "kick" is still a cue but it also helps to guide your performance, hinting at what part should be accented. This is especially useful when music is performed with minimal rehearsal.

To answer your question, notation like this isn't prescriptive (defining what do do), but descriptive. There's nothing you "have to" do, and different performers will use the kick in different ways. The purpose is to make the artistic percussionist's job easier.

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  • Thanks. I figured it it was something like this but wanted to confirm. Basically the way I understand it is that the "kick" lines are the rhythms for "special" musical lines played by the ensemble(e.g., horns) and the percussionist can play along with them to increase the effectiveness of the lines. Another question: do drummers usually use the kick as part of emphasizing the line? Is that why the are called "kick lines"? (e.g., should I get into the habit of playing the lines on the kick when I see them?) – user2691 Oct 21 '15 at 23:34
  • Like I said, I'm not primarily a set guy. maybe @JBarry would know? In any case, it would be up to the conductor/arranger/etc to determine the instrumentation of the line. You may be able to determine this by listening to authoritative recordings. – Josiah Oct 23 '15 at 0:45

Kick lines (or just "kicks") indicate a rhythm being played by another instrument in an ensemble. They will usually be shown just above the staff, along with the name of the instrument that is playing that rhythm. They may be used as cues or just a guide to interpreting the drummer's part.

Reference: Norman Weinberg, "Guide to standardized drum notation", 1994 - a summary is here: http://www.propercussion.org/filer/notation.pdf

Kick Line Notation

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  • I'm pretty sure it's not just to show what other instruments are playing, but instead to notate the kick line which you may want to show other instruments if it's important to what the kick plays. If it was to show someone else's line then you would just give someone that instruments sheet music and cut out the middle man. – Dom Oct 12 '15 at 0:59
  • I think it really depends on the notator. – DaniilKharms Oct 12 '15 at 1:08
  • @JBarry Welcome to SE! If you quote material from a book or the web in your answer, please reference the original source in your posts (I've edited your post for you this time). – user19146 Oct 12 '15 at 2:56
  • From your source :It is recommended that all kick lines be written above the staff in cue-size notes. When kick lines are written in cue-size notes above the staff, their meaning is clear. It would be difficult to interpret kick lines as rhythms for any specific instrument in the drumset. In addition, it is recom- mended that all kick lines include a written indication that identifies the instrument or section performing the rhythm. This knowledge is vital to an intelligent, musical decision concerning how the performer will interpret the kick on the drumset." – Dom Oct 12 '15 at 10:56
  • Yes, this is where I read about it. It doesn't explain much! – user2691 Oct 12 '15 at 18:59

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