According to the Drumming System, the goal of drum fills is to release musical tension and transition into the next section of a song. A drum fill is the opposite of a beat. It allows you to start adventuring around the entire drum set.
In most popular music, fills happen at the end of a section (4 bar, 8 bar, 12 bar, etc.) They can be performed at the end of a verse, chorus, bridge, or solo. Drum fills will help steer the music into a new section. The length of a drum fill an be whatever you want it to be (1 bar, 3 beats, 2 beats, 1 beat, or 8 bars). Depending on the length of the fill, some might even consider it a miniature drum solo.
Tips to Improve Fills
- The better knowledge of rhythm that you have, the more that you can do. Make sure you are comfortable with quarter notes, eighth notes, sixteenth notes, eight note triplets, sixteenth note triplets, and thirty second notes.
- Do fills that fit that style of music you are playing. For example, good heavy rock songs need good heavy rock fills.
- Explore different rhythmic possibilities when you practice. For example, try playing an eighth note rock beat, then do an eighth note triplet fill.
- Explore different sounds when you practice. Try using the ride bell, open hi hat, cymbal choke, rim shot, or adventure around the toms.
- A drum fill does not mean that you have to go crazy. Keeping it simple is usually the way to go. Steve Gadd and Bernard Purdie are known for their simple fills. Neil Peart and Mike Portnoy play fills that are quite busy because of the style of music they play. Again, the fill must fit the style.
- Drummers play an average of 50 fills in a performance. Remember that no one book has all the drum fills ever done. One of the things that I love about the Drumming System, is that it teaches you 150 beginner, intermediate, and advanced drum fills.
- Try inventing your own fills.
- Beginners should get comfortable doing 1 bar of a beat and 1 bar of a fill.
- Intermediate drummers should begin to change the note values within a fill. For example, go from sixteenth notes to sixteenth note triplets.
- Advanced drummers should practice thirty second notes and sixteenth note triplets.
- Jazz drum fills are usually triplet based because jazz is generally triplet based music.
- Don’t feel intimidated. Start slow. Practice the fill as a rhythm on one drum. Once it’s comfortable, then add the drum beat.
Hand to Feet Combinations
- For beginners, hand to feet combinations build a new independence between all 4 limbs. These are great solo ideas. Some of the most famous drummers use these. It’s good to start with triplets.
- For intermediate drummers, the separation between the hands and feet should start to include sixteenth notes. These are great for rock music fills and extended solos.
- Advanced drummers should avoid flamming or unison hits between the hands and feet. At this level, drummers should explore sixteenth note triplet and thirty second note rhythms.
- Check out Bass Drum Control by Colin Bailey and The Encyclopedia of Double Bass Drumming by Bobby Rondinelli and Michael Lauren.
Remember that by taking things slow, anything can be accomplished!
Check out the Drumming System.