Quarter Notes On Drums: An Introduction For Beginners

Quarter notes explained drummers

How do you play quarter notes on the drums?

Great question!

After all, quarters are a crucial note value for drum beginners and beyond.

That’s why I’m going to share some practical tips today.

Let’s start the introduction with the symbol for quarters, shall we? 🙂

How Quarter Notes Look Like: The Symbol

Drum notes offer many benefits.

For example, they help you

  • visualize rhythmic structures,
  • provide you with tons of inspiration and
  • are a great tool to write down your own drumming ideas.


Drum notes are quite easy to learn.

That’s because we only have a certain amount of instruments we can play, including

  • the kick or bass drum,
  • the hi-hat or
  • ride cymbal.


If you know how to read drums sheet music, you’ll also learn about essential note values and rests in music.

Quarter notes are one of them.

Here’s what the note value looks like:

Symbol quarter note music

As you can see, the symbol for quarter notes consists of two parts:

  1. the filled-in oval note head and
  2. a straight stem (without a flag like the eighth note)

Basically, that’s the symbol for quarter notes, also on the drums.

However, there’s one additional crucial thing to know:

How Quarter Notes Change Their Appearance On The Drum Kit

Depending on the instrument you play on your drum kit, quarter notes look different.

Let’s take a look:

Drums sheet music quarter notes
  • The first quarter is played on the snare,
  • the second on the kick or bass drum
  • while the third is the hi-hat
  • and the last quarter note is played on the crash cymbal.

Notice how the stem and note head change, depending on the instrument?

The stem can show up- or downwards, while the oval note head even becomes another symbol.

For this reason, it’s important to keep this in mind:

Quarter notes change their appearance, depending on the instrument you play on the drum set.

Also, you need to read the individual drum notation guide of a drumming book first.

This helps you understand drum notes at a glance.

The way of counting and playing quarter notes, thankfully, stays the same:

A Proven Way To Count Quarters (Not Only) As A Drummer

1, 2, 3, 4:

That’s how you count quarter notes when drumming in the 4/4 time signature.

The 1, 2, 3, 4 are the (down) beats of your rhythm.

Counting drum notes tips

And what if you don’t play a rhythm in 4/4?

Let’s say your drum beat is written in a time signature like 3/4?

In this case, you’d simply count 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3 etc.

Remember this:

If you know the time signature, you know how many quarters you’re going to play per bar.

For this reason, the first step is always to find out the time signature of a piece of music.

Is There Anything Else To Know About Quarter Notes?


Reading about quarters is one thing.

Playing them on the drums is a different story.

That’s why I recommend playing some quarters today.

You might want to create some tasty fills with them, or come up with a cool drum groove.

Need some more inspiration?

Check out this guide by drums the world, or my article presenting some very easy drum beats.

I also included a free drum notes PDF for you to download.

And of course:

Have fun playing quarter notes on the drums. 🙂



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Author: Manu Holmer

Hi, I'm Manu Holmer, nice to meet you! As a professional drummer and drum teacher, my vision is to help others transform their lives with the power of music. Let's not only play the drums. Feel the rhythm & and walk to our own beats!

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