Following on from a very nice comment, I started to explore drum fills. It’s not something I’ve thought about in terms of philosophy and approach. They’ve always been something that’s just flowed.
I have of course spent many hours ‘wood-shedding’ certain chops that I like, but rarely plan fills for specific songs in advance. I am more of the opinion that you want to get as much stuff in your toolbox as possible, then let it come out as and when it wants.
However, following the comment I thought I’d have a think and see what came out…
My initial thoughts are something like this.
The type of fill is entirely dependent upon the style of music. It should be at least roughly appropriate and it MUST be musical.
You can think of it in the same way as soloing in jazz. A soloist will often base their improvisation upon the melody of the piece or the chords, stuff that’s already there. Not only does this help the soloist out, but it also ensures that there is a sense of context to the solo, that it fits.
Similarly, use what you already have to create the fill, so focus on the style of music, the beat before and after the fill, the dynamics and feel and make sure that it blends.
Here’s a few basic examples:
- 8th note rock groove, use 8th note fills! Nothing flashy that will diminish what follows it.
- 16th note funk groove, go for the 16th notes. Also, blend your sound sources, so if it’s a Jamiroquai style hi-hat thing, base the fill around the hi hat and snare.
- If you’ve got a latin feel going on, again think about the groove and sounds. I would go for a syncopated thing, probably using a rhythm from within the groove and using the sound sources that are sympathetic, cowbells, cymbals, high toms etc.
Focusing again on making sure that your fill is musical, I often find that the simpler the fill, the more effective it is. The fill is always there to support the music, so be conscious of why you are doing it. Are you lifting the songs into a chorus? Are you helping to reduce the dynamics, or perhaps change the feel? Simply put, a fill should have a purpose.
One last comment, which isn’t entirely original, but does bear repeating. Unless you’re playing fusion, or a clinic, a fill is almost certainly not an opportunity for you to show off your latest, fastest most crazy chops. However great the urge may be (and it often is for me) the audience aren’t going to shower you with praise if you drown out the singer with some badass 32nd note double kick/cymbal mayhem just as the song reaches it’s most gentle moment! I refer you to my first blog about being a drummer. If you really need that kind of attention, start singing! (or get into politics…)
This is just a start really, but I hope it gives you some insight into how I would approach fills.