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How to Read Quad Music

When drummers first begin performing in a marching band, many decide to play the quads (also known as the Multiple Tom-Toms). Quads can be a challenging and stimulating way to participate in a drum line, but you will be exposed to a new type of written music if your experience has been limited to drum set or snare drum. However, reading the music is quite simple.

Count the number of lines on your quad music staff. Some quad music contains three lines, while other music might contain five lines. Regardless of the number of lines, the basic concept will be the same.

Look at the notes that are on the page. There will be four different notes if all of the toms on the quad set are used. The highest note (usually one space above the set of lines or the top space) is an instruction to strike the smallest drum. Likewise, the lowest note (usually one space below the set of lines or the bottom space) is an instruction to strike the largest drum.

Mark each note on the quad music with a number from one to four. The highest note should be marked with a one, while the lowest note should be marked with a four. As a beginner, this numbering system can be easier to read than the notes. When you see the number one, strike the smallest drum. When you see the number four, strike the largest drum.

Practice playing each note on your quad set. As you read more quad music, you will become more familiar with the process of matching the note level with the corresponding drum.


Working on rhythms before approaching quad music can save you a great deal of time when learning the new type of music.


  • Do not try to play quad music on a melodic instrument. The pitch levels will not always match the key of the music being performed.
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