I'm starting to chart out some of the covers our band does, and I am wondering how to add small variations to bar repeats e.g. adding an open hi-hat at the end of the 4th bar:
bar repeats, with small variation

I have seen some charts with annotations to say there should be a fill i.e.:
bar repeats with "fill"

But I'm wondering if it's okay to add specifics?

Is adding the overrides (if you will) with bar repeats common/acceptable, or should I use rhythm markings and add the variation, e.g. one of the following: three ways of notating repeat with variation

Or should I do something else entirely?

  • The third example doesn't actually specify what to do in its 3rd bar. For me, if specific fills are needed, each bar would be written out - the pattern becomes clear as the bars go on. As in 'yes, it's the same as the last two bars, but with a twist at the end'. For the last example, maybe write out the whole 4 bars, then put bar repeat signs (./.) for the next 4?
    – Tim
    Oct 29, 2017 at 12:09
  • Thanks, @Tim. I completely missed that bar 3 in my previous example wouldn't have made sense until you said it. I've updated my answer as the previous examples I'd given weren't great. Would any of the variations I've added be good to go with as I'm trying to keep the charts as simple as I can (almost to the point of just "keep the feel") or would you still suggest to write bars 2 and 3 out as well? The others areas I would imagine I will use this are for when there are stabs or slight rhythm changes that the whole band would follow.
    – Rwd
    Oct 29, 2017 at 13:04

2 Answers 2


Drummers, like most musos, seem to fall into one of two camps - readers, or buskers (for the wont of a better term). Most tend to be far better at one than the other, so some would benefit from the dots being exactly what they play, while others will be very happy to go with the flow and put a fill in when they see 'fill'. Obviously if it needs orchestrating so that the whole band follows a particular fill pattern, say on bar 4 or 8, then it needs writing in verbatim. Just hope those who play it read well !

This answers your comment possibly more than the question.

  • Thanks, Tim. I would personally put myself in more of the buskers camp but I do also enjoy having notation when I can. For now I guess I'll go with the more verbose example.
    – Rwd
    Oct 29, 2017 at 18:35

Please don't be offended if I see your question as asking for permission to do less work in your notating and add to the work of the drummer in interpreting your notation. The kindest thing to do for the person reading the score is to notate completely and clearly what you want. In that sense, I think the first of the last three score examples you include is the one that is easiest and clearest to read.

The rhythm notation in the second and third would certainly confuse me and I would start searching for some explanatory text at least.

If you want to make sure it's played specifically how you want, best to notate it out for clarity. If you want some variation and don't want to have to write it out in detail, then either using repeat notation or rhythm slashes with text similar to "fills ad lib." or "snare & crash ad lib." or "ad lib. using indicated rhythm" might be effective.

  • No, I'm not offended at all, I guess that is essentially what I am doing. I would usually score the entire piece out, however, I was under the impression that charts are used for more of an overview i.e. not as cluttered but still give the essentials and nuances. I've worked with a few drummers in the past who have used this approach for themselves and their deps, and some of the charts were literally just the kick rhythm, repeats, nuances and brief annotation (e.g. fill, Alt ride and bell etc).
    – Rwd
    Oct 29, 2017 at 18:30
  • I found this article earlier which explains it in a little more detail gorangrooves.com/drums/how-to-write-efficient-drum-charts.html
    – Rwd
    Oct 29, 2017 at 18:30

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