How to Write a Drum Cadence

Having a successful drum line can be difficult, especially when you lack a professional to write music for you. But in the end, you are just as talented as they are. Music is your common bond. You can hear the same notes and rhythms, so why not write down how your ideas? You may be surprised how your cadences compare.


  1. 1
    Have a basic knowledge of notes, time signature, rhythm, and pitch. These are the building blocks of your writing.
  2. 2
    Keep it simple. One set of four quarter notes played correctly can be much more effective than three or four measures of complex material.
  3. 3
    Put down the sticks. Often you'll find yourself in a haze of your own playing. Avoid these mistakes:
    • Forget. A long series of notes can be tricky to remember, especially when different rudiments are involved.
    • Overplay. Remember that a drum line is only as good as its weakest drummer, and if he/she cannot keep up, the entire drum cadence is weakened
    • Solo. This is flashy, fun, eye grabbing, and may reflect great skill, but often in solos, the tempo is lost and will sound horrible with the rest of the line. Save excessive showboating for I & E's.
  4. 4
    Tap out some quarter notes and say, (don't tap), a rhythm that pops into mind. Do eight or nine counts then stop. Repeat those counts three or four times. Then, if you like it, write it.
  5. 5
    Repeat last step until a fluent piece is written. This is most likely your snare part.
  6. 6
    Go through the cadence one measure at a time and think of a cool bassline. Sometimes ripples are nice, or even dynamic quarters. Steady quarters are another option. Sometimes only the offbeat will give a funky sound to the line. It all depends.
  7. 7
    Go through both parts of the whole cadence and look for opportunities to work in rudiments, e.g. paradiddles, flams, etc. These sometimes help dynamics on either hand or at different points. They are also more professional.
  8. 8
    Go through once more and finalize those two parts. Yes, it may be boring sounding now, but your quads/quints are going to spice up even the simplest of cadences.
  9. 9
    Begin the quints/quads part. A general rule to follow is to make sure every accent on the snare and bass drums is hit by the quads on a different drum. For example, if the snare drum accents every other beat, make sure every other beat gets a different drum.
  10. 10
    Incorporate more than one drum. Use all manner of rudiments, accents, and even make chords with different drums. Even clapping and hands playing are effective.
  11. 11
    Ask a friend or a colleague who is experienced in writing cymbal literature to write a cymbal part to the cadence. Cymbals are much more then crashes and hi-hats. Sometimes even the most basic cymbal parts can add a completely different sound to your cadence. Ask a friend who plays cymbals about all the different sounds and techniques you can create with a pair of cymbals. You might be surprised.
  12. 12
    Balance and regulate. Do not let one section overpower the rest of the line.
  13. 13
    Know where the most powerful parts are in the music. Emphasize them for every section.
  14. 14
    Most importantly, practice. Nobody's first song was awesome. All people who write music had to start somewhere. Mistakes and experimentation are how you learn; they're how music develops.


  • Start simple. Some of the best cadences are easy. It's all about the show.
  • Writing music is difficult and time consuming; and your best ideas usually come when you're relaxed, so never force a beat.
  • You don't always have to start out with writing the snare drum part. You may start with a groove in the basses/tenors and then tap out a snare part to go along.
  • Creativity can be a limitation or a great advantage. Be as creative as you can.
  • Write to your line. What are their strengths and weaknesses? Only you and they know that.
  • Some drum lines have bells/xylophones. Sometimes it adds great possibilities to add parts for them as well. Pentatonic or bluesy parts may have a good outcome.
  • Try out different things with the line. Maybe they are good at flams and not so hot at paradiddles and drags.
  • When the basic cadence is ready, add in stick tricks, ripples, and sections played almost entirely on the rim to switch up the sound.
  • Head snaps only hurt when they are done by someone else. A whole line with equally snapping heads or ripple snaps are extremely crowd pleasing.


  • Never force a cadence. If it's too hard, it's too hard. Scale it down.
  • Lead, don't force.
  • Practice hard, but don't overplay it. Spend some time warming up, and playing other things rather than spending a whole practice on one piece.
  • Drumming can be frustrating; keep your head on your shoulders.

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Categories: Songs and Song Writing | Musical Instruments