"Slash Marks" or "Rhythm Slashes" are diagonal slashes that indicate the actual beats in a measure. This means that a bar of 4/4 time will have four slashes, while a bar of 3/4 time will have three. Slash marks are a valuable tool for writing drum sheet music, as they are flexible and can be used as a placeholder for grooves and fills, and can also carry specific information.
SLASH MARKS FOR GROOVES
If you encounter a bar of slash marks after a concrete groove example, it's perfectly fine to repeat the initial groove:
Written out, the example above will look like this:
We previously discussed a different way of writing this example in the "Repeat Signs" blog post. If you haven't read it, check it out.
As you can see, in this case, "slash marks" and the "one bar repeat sign" are almost equally convenient to use. However, this changes quickly if we take things a step further.
Since the four slashes indicate the four beats in a measure of 4/4 time, we can do some cool stuff, such as adding some additional crashes to our groove:
Here's the same example without slash marks:
We can also add a concrete groove variation or a concrete fill:
Check out the "long" version:
And it's totally allowed to combine regular repeat signs and rhythm slashes. Here's the same example with a combination of both:
SLASH MARKS FOR FILLS
Slash marks can also be used as "placeholders" for fills, providing you with a great amount of freedom to experiment with different fills while hopefully staying focussed on the music. If you don't know what to do it's always a good idea to listen to the original recording for some inspiration.
In this example, you're supposed to play a full bar of fill-in at the end:
Here's what the example looks like with a very standard kind of fill:
Here's another example: The FILL command is written above the third beat, indicating that you're supposed to play a fill that is about(!) half a bar long.
Here are a few different examples: Notice how the first example starts exactly on the third beat, the second example starts a little bit earlier, and the third example starts a little bit later. It all depends on your musical taste and what fits the song best, so feel free to experiment with tons of different fills.
Here's another example with a rather short fill. Having an idea about the length of certain fills is crucial to build excitement and to stay out of the way of your fellow musicians, especially lead singers. So, always have an ear out for that.
Once again, here are some examples:
And yes, you could also combine the "placeholder" for your fill-in with specific notes:
SLASH MARKS IN 12/8 TIME
Slash marks in 4/4 time should be clear by now, but what about a time signature like 12/8? Do we need twelve slashes now?
No. Thank god. Since 12/8 time also has four main beats, we still have four slash marks. But be aware that every slash mark needs to be the length of three 8th notes now (instead of two 8th notes in a bar of 4/4 time). This is usually indicated by a dot behind the slash mark and also refers to the four dotted quarter notes that correspond to a bar of 12/8 time.
Here's an example to clear things up:
Here's how it looks written out:
REAL LIFE EXAMPLES
Here are a few examples of real drum sheets that use "slash marks" in combination with all the stuff we just learnt.
BASIC Drum Sheet: "Uptown Funk" by Bruno Mars
Notice how the open Hi-Hat on "4+" can be conveniently written above the slash marks in the second bar:
Here's how the example would be written without slash marks:
You can download this drum sheet for free on the "Free Drum Sheets" page.
PRO Drum Sheet: "Toxicity" by System Of A Down
Here's the clou: Slash marks are actually not real repeat signs, instead they tell you to play "rhythm" or "time" - in the most musically fitting way you can. This in fact often means to repeat a certain groove exactly as is, but depending on the style of a song, it can also mean taking lots of liberty.
Here's how a professional drummer would write out "Toxicity".
The following example is taken from the FULL Drum Transcription of "Toxicity" and shows exactly what xx xx played on the studio recording:
But while it is musically interesting and can be really inspiring to see every note that xx xx played on this song, it is way more important to listen to the music and try to recreate the feel and the improvisational aspect of the groove yourself!
That's why our PRO Drum Sheets are giving you freedom to improvise and space to listen in certain parts of specific songs. On the other hand, the grooves and fills that are essential to the song are written out in great detail.
Feel free to comment if you have further questions and make sure to check out the rest of the blog posts on "How to read drum sheet music".