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Harmonix's Drum Charts: How do they do it?

The author decided to write this guide because he thought it was necessary to understand how Harmonix charts drum parts in the Rock Band series. He believes that those who wanted to apply the abilities they learned on these four toms to real drums should at least learn what the notes in game would represent on a real drum set.

With only four drum pads, there is no way Harmonix's charters can chart different parts of a drumset without overlapping. Listed below are different parts of a drumset, and how they are charted in the Rock Band series.

Hi-Hat Closed

The Closed Hi-Hat is most often charted on the Yellow pad. In the case of songs with constant, fast hi-hat patterns with the snare drum, like Everlong and Run to the Hills, the Red pad is used, as that is how it would be played on a real drumset.

Hi-Hat Open

The Open Hi-Hat is most often charted on the Blue pad. The author's guess as to why Harmonix did this is so that it is clear that the note is played differently from a Closed Hi-Hat note. The author believes that in some situations, the Open Hi-Hat is charted on the Yellow pad, but is unsure. It may just be the drummer hitting the Hi-Hat louder than usual.

Snare Drum

The Snare Drum is most often charted on the Red pad. In the special cases outlined in the Hi-Hat Closed section, the snare would be charted on the Yellow pad.


The Toms are charted across all pads, mostly the Yellow and Blue. You will very rarely see a tom charted on the Red pad, and the Floor Tom is seen on the Green pad. A good example of a song that does have a tom charted on the red pad is YYZ. Take a look at the drum fill right before the Guitar Solo.

Ride Cymbal

The Ride Cymbal is almost exclusively charted on the Blue pad. The author is unsure as to whether you see the Ride Cymbal on the Green pad or not. It may be a crash cymbal.

Crash Cymbal(s)

The Crash Cymbal is almost exclusively charted on the Green pad. In certain songs, it will be on the Blue pad.

When two cymbals are hit at the same time, charting varies. Sometimes you will see the Blue and Green pads being hit at the same time, or you will see the Yellow and Green pads hit at the same time.

Bass Pedal

The Bass Pedal is the same as it would be on real drums, for the most part. For those unaware, it is a horizontal orange line that extends across the fretboard underneath the toms.

Double Bass is very rarely charted. Most of the time, the player's dominant foot will be charted (i.e. half the notes will be charted if bass is constant in the song) and the other foot ignored.

Short Version

>, <, or = signs show how much more often certain notes are charted to symbolize a real drumset than others.
? icons indicate that the author is unsure if the note is charted as that drum part.

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