Drum fills the moments for drummers to shine. They are an essential aspect of music performance and an irreplaceable experience for the drummer. They add energy and excitement to a song and can take a simple beat to the next level.
However, for beginners, drum fills can be a daunting task to tackle. Where do you start? When should you employ drum fills? How do you develop the creativity (and confidence) to execute them?
In this guide, let’s explore the basics of drum fills as well as some tips to help you start learning about drum fills.
What’s a drum fill?
A drum fill is a short, often improvised, sequence of drum beats that fills the gap between verses or sections in a song.
They can be simple or complex and can be used to add variety to a song or to signal a change in the music. The right drum fill can help to emphasize the mood of the song, and lead the listeners onto the next verse.
The key to a good drum fill is to make it sound musical and seamless. It should blend in with the song, not disrupt the flow of the music and more importantly, keep the listeners on track. To achieve this, drummers must have a good understanding of timing, dynamics, and musicality.
3 Different “Types” of Drum Fills
Depending on the music piece, drum fills may be used for different purposes. Here’re three types of drum fills you should keep in mind.
Such drum fills are usually used to transition into a chorus and are, I think, the most common way that beginners will use drum fills. If you haven’t been consciously aware of these fills, I find that it is easier for beginners to spot them on performance recordings like these.
Some examples I like to use to point these out include:
- The 1975’s I’m In Love With You
You should be able to pinpoint the drum fills between verses and prior to entering the chorus.
- Linkin Park’s Numb
You can hear them between verses. If the official MV isn’t obvious, just listen to any drum cover and you should be able to notice the drum fills.
An important aspect of music is tension which helps lead listeners to the emotion you want to induce. And drum fills play an important role in building tension.
There are many ways to build tension in music, depending on the mood of the song:
Silence can keep listeners on bated breath. This was used in:
- Coldplay’s Let Somebody Go
You should be able to feel the impact in the last chorus by Chris Martin when everything went silent after the first line:
Increasing or Decreasing Tempos
A fill with increasing tempo builds up energy and leads to an anticipation of the next verse. My personal favorite of this is in:
- One Ok Rock’s 完全感覚Dreamer
The most obvious use of this is in the bridge of this song.
It is also obvious in:
- Red Hot Chilli Pepper’s Can’t Stop
Just pay attention to the intro of their MV:
3. Mix things up
Drum fills can also be used to add a bit of variation to the otherwise repetitive beats or melody. These add a little depth to the music, a ‘surprise’ to keep the listener on their feet and to retain their attention.
You can hear an example of this in various parts of these songs:
- Paramore’s Still Into You:
- Foo Fighters’ Times Like These:
Common Drum Fill Patterns
Various types of drum fills can be used in different musical genres. However, if you boil them down to the basics, most of them are made up of the same common patterns. I list several here, you may want to explore these in your next practice session.
- Single Stroke Rolls: These are one of the simplest types of drum fills and involve playing a single stroke on each drum in succession. They are often used as a basic building block for more complex fills.
- Double Stroke Rolls: Similar to single stroke rolls, but with two strokes played on each drum in succession. They add a bit more complexity and can be used to create a more powerful sound.
- Triplet Fills: These fills involve playing three notes in the time of two, adding a syncopated feel to the fill. They can be used to create a more complex and interesting sound.
- Paradiddle Fills: Paradiddle fills involve alternating between two different sticking patterns – LRLL, RLRR. They can be used to add a feeling of displacement and can be quite
challengingfun for the beginner.
If you find these familiar, yes, they are your drum rudiments. That’s why it’s important to keep practicing them!
How to Improve Your Drum Fills?
Practice is the only way to improve your drum fills and to build confidence and creativity around the drum kit.
What should you practice then? 🤔
To improve your drum fills, there are several tips to keep in mind:
- Practice with a Metronome: A metronome is a great tool for improving your timing and accuracy. Practice playing different fills with a metronome to help improve your timing and accuracy.
- Experiment with Different Sounds: Try playing different fills on different drums or cymbals to create different sounds. Experimenting with different sounds can help you to develop your own unique style.
- Practice Different Genres of Music: Try playing along to different musical genres to help broaden your understanding of different styles of drumming and how drum fills are used.
- Record Yourself: Recording yourself playing drum fills can help you to identify areas that need improvement. It can also be a great way to hear yourself progress over time.
- Be Creative: Don’t be afraid to experiment and try new things. As you become more comfortable with different types of fills, try to create your own unique fills to add to your drumming repertoire.
In addition to the tips outlined above, it’s also important to continue learning and growing as a drummer and musician. If you’re reading this, then its likely you have access to a vast resource available on YouTube at your fingertips. Alternatively, look out for drumming workshops and clinics in your area. These give you the chance to learn from experienced drummers and meet fellow drummers.
If you’re aiming to perform in a band or write your own music, start learning about music theory.
Remember, keep practicing your rudiments, allocate some time to improve your timing with a metronome and never stop learning!