Given that the possibilities of a percussion setup are infinite, it’s impossible to create all-encompassing rules as to where an instrument goes on a staff. We can, however, follow guidelines to create the most ideal legend.
Some general rules:
- Instruments should be written in pitch-order, as best as possible.
- Spacing between the instruments should be even
- Metals should utilize the “x” note head
Below is an example of an ideal legend:
So here, we have the instruments in a sensible pitch order. Even in the event that you’re using a low woodblock and have cranked the bongos very high, I’d still recommend this order. Also, I prefer to see a bracket over something like bongos rather than writing details such as “low” or “high” or the dreaded “medium”, as they’re redundant.
Also notice that every instrument is evenly spaced. The exception here is the cymbal, which doesn’t need as much space as it uses a different note head and is consistent with the notation for a drum set crash cymbal. The bass drum and low tom are also consistent with drum set notation, which is why I encourage using the spaces on the staff rather than the lines in this particular case.
Something of note in regards to this example: I’d encourage using terms “Gran Cassa” and “Kick Drum” over “Bass Drum” to alleviate any confusion.