Learn to Play Drums/Starting Out/Reading Sheet Music
Drum tabs are great, but the more complicated the rhythms get, the harder they are to read. They can quickly get very confusing. Musical scores are great for reading music quickly and accurately. Although learning to read sheet music is more involved than learning to read tabs, there is a lot more you can do with sheet music once you are fluent in reading it. Reading sheet music is not strictly necessary for you to be a skilled drummer. However, sheet music is a powerful tool that is useful to learn and will probably benefit you in many situations, especially when collaborating with other musicians.
Why learn to read sheet music?
Drum tabs are a very imprecise way of explaining how to play a passage of music. You can use tabs to find out a rhythm to play, but tabs will usually leave out such things as: time signature, accents, tempo, number of times to repeat a passage, and more. Sheet music has a higher learning curve for you to overcome than tabs because there are more symbols and pieces to understand. However, just like with playing drums, practice makes perfect.
One of the best uses of sheet music is aiding in communication. For example, say you are playing drums for a musical and the piano player is trying to tell you that you need to play an accent at a certain part of a song. The pianist could mention that you play the accent when a certain melody comes along, but what if that melody comes about several times? It sure would be handy to have a way to denote exactly the point in a song the pianist is talking about...
Sheet music to the rescue! With sheet music you can refer to a specific measure number to find out when a certain part of the song is supposed to be played. This makes things easier for you and the pianist. Rather than saying, "Play the accent when this melody comes in", now we can say "Play this accent at measure 23" which is much more precise. Also, this makes it easy to make a note on your sheet music at that measure.
And a final note before we get started. Reading sheet music fluently allows you to instantly know things about how to play some music you've never heard before. Rather than being stuck playing only what you've previously heard, now you will be able to play music just by mentally translating notes on paper into physical drum hits. If you become skilled at this, your range of opportunities for having fun with music will expand, which is always a good thing.
Reading sheet music
(More lessons coming soon)
More general information regarding sheet music can be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sheet_music
And here are a few external tutorials you can make use of to get some more practice reading sheet music.