Fills

Swiss Matthias

Platinum Member
Fill-ins are a big part of one's drumming personality, since it determines to quite a degree whether your playing is considered to be
-musical
-creative
-tight
-dynamic
-diverse
-in proper style
etc

So I wonder, how does everyone work on his fill-ins? Or, analyzing your playing at the moment, where and how did you learn what you play, which drummers did you draw from? Also, while you're playing a certain style of music, are you aware of what to play "stilistically correct" in terms of fill-ins and improvisational parts, or do you maintain "your" style only?
 

Pollyanna

Platinum Member
how does everyone work on his fill-ins?
Or her fill-ins :) While learning a song, if I hear something I want to play I practice it until I can do it, focusing on the transition across the bar coming out of the fill.

Or, analyzing your playing at the moment, where and how did you learn what you play, which drummers did you draw from?
Too many to name. Off the top of my head, trying to be chronological, some songs with fills I've found inspiring:

60s / 70s
Deep Purple - Highway Star
Led Zep - Moby Dick solo, How Many More Times
Beatles - A Day in the Life
The Doors - The End
Hendrix - Little Wing, Fire, Voodoo Chile
Bill Bruford - Sample and Hold
King Crimson - (Bill B) One More Red Nightmare, and (Michael Giles) Cat Food, Court of the Crimson King
Osibisa - The Dawn, Music for Gong Gong
Pink Floyd - Time
The Stones - Sister Morphine
Frank Zappa (Ron Selico) - Peaches en Regalia, (Terry Bozzio) - I Promise Not to Come ...,
Lou Reed (Aynsley Dunbar) - How Do You Think It Feels

80s
Midnight Oil - Dust, Surfing With a Spoon
INX - Burn for You
The Tubes - Pimp, Madam I'm Adam
Talking Heads - Burning Down The House
Steely Dan (Rick Marotta) - Hey Nineteen, (Jim Hodder) - Show Biz Kids, which had no fills, which was inspiring :)
Phil Collins - Something In the Air
Skyhooks (Freddie Stauks) - Ego, Women in Uniform

Plus many players I saw at jazz clubs and rock bars.

Also, while you're playing a certain style of music, are you aware of what to play "stilistically correct" in terms of fill-ins and improvisational parts, or do you maintain "your" style only?
I follow my ears and if it's not "in style" then too bad. I think most good players have a more clear drumming identity than I do. Not sure how that works. Probably discipline - lol

When I'm not sure what to do the players who fill the box when I think, "What would [......] do in this situation?" are Ringo or Jim Hodder.
 

jonescrusher

Pioneer Member
Thinking melodically is vital in making sure you play musical fills. Listen to as wide a range of music as possible, transcribe and using reading texts like Syncopation or Modern Reading Text.
 
Personally, I think that rudiments are the benchmark and basics to create fills. From that point, I always seek to become inventive (more feeling, less technical) on my own fills. The drummers that inspired me are: Ian Paice, John Bonham, Cozy Powell, Carmine Appice, Bill Ward.
 

Thaard

Platinum Member
I listen to different music and listen to what the drummer plays. Then I "borrow" to make my own. I also do this with different beats.

I practice to a metronome and when I play in a band situation I try to be technical while still keeping the groove(I´m working on it at least). Normally I just fill with what I see fit and try to think musical.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
I try and fill as little as possible. If I don't feel like it's screaming for a fill, I'll just play it straight. When I say play it straight, there's still ghost notes and nuances to give it feel, but, the pulse remains intact. I like how Ringo (and others) would wait until the very last moment to play a fill. Restraint sounds better to my ear than no restraint, but the music I play kinda dictates that. If I was in a metal band, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be saying this.
 

ChipJohns

Senior Member
When playing covers, a lot of the time we have a certain amount of freedom, but, still tied somewhat to the style of the drummer who recorded the song.

There is a quote, albeit, it was about solutions for businesses, by Tom peters in his book, "In Search of Excellence" ...

"...The simplest solution is best. However, keeping it simple is one of the most complicated things to do..."

I think this can apply to drums as well. Sometimes playing a simple fill is one of the most complicated things to do. Of course we need look no further than John Bonham to see this.

Another (i feel) unsung drummer in this area is Fred Eltringham with, among others, the Dixie Chicks. Here is an example of keeping in simple not being an easy thing.

take a listen and think about his fills... one of my favorite drummers!

Listing to Fred among others I aspire to keep it simple...
 
D

DSCRAPRE

Guest
My fills suck totally. I just do whatever feels good at the moment. Usually the results are catostrophic crash-and-burn disasters. Rudiments? What are Rudiments? :p
 

dairyairman

Platinum Member
my drum teacher says to keep in mind the basic rhythmic theme of the music and play fills that compliment those basic rhythms. like for example, if the guitar or vocals have a certain rhythm then play a fill that's a variation of that rhythm or compliments the rhythm.
 

Dave_Major

Silver Member
Hey

I think that ideas for fills come from 3 things (for me at least)

1- i have done quite a lot of rudiment/snare studies and they get you to combine different rudiments in a musical sense which then feeds into your fills and grooves.

2- Listening and playing lots - By this i mean listening and playing lots of kinds of different music. Fast, slow, any style you can imagine.

Also listen when you are playing. Listen to yourself and listen to the band members and be aware of what you have just played. It may be the coolest thing ever and so you want to be able to do it again!

I tell my students who are at the stage of playing with other people that you have 2 ears. One for you and one for the band. (not my saying btw)

3 - Finally i sing what i play, even if its in my head. The idea isn't new and i do look like an idiot when I show it to people but it works.

My reasoning behind it is that you are more melodic when you sing. You don't sing 32nd notes as it sounds rubbish but when you sing you naturally take space to breath and what you play sounds more melodic and ultimately more musical.
Which is our goal surely.

Just my approach

Cheers

Dave
 

keep it simple

Platinum Member
"...The simplest solution is best. However, keeping it simple is one of the most complicated things to do..."

keeping in simple not being an easy thing.

I aspire to keep it simple...
I think I'm in love!! LOLOL.

Seriously, fills are the one area were I'm likely to deviate from my usual mantra. Not out of any desire to show off or complicate the track though. As I play rock music, the fill is an essential energy creator. A small degree of flamboyance or show is "expected". When I've got my original material head on, I remind myself that a fill has only one wholesome musical purpose, and that's as a transition from one passage to another (includes starts & ends). This means that a fill can easily be a simple mini groove. Many of the best fills are just that. I find it's sometimes desirable to maintain the groove through the fill, sometimes I deliberately change or upset the groove by using space, shock or syncopation. A fill can even be a continuation of the groove but with a different dynamic (crescendo, swap down beat accent for back beat accent, etc). I love deception in a fill. Using flams to create the impression of a slowing tempo, a 1 bar pseudo switch of time signature only to resolve in the following bar (e.g. 1 bar 3/4 followed by 1 bar 5/4 in a 4/4 structure).

I could go on all day about what I feel a fill should be. Perhaps easier to say what I think a fill shouldn't be. Never a show of chops (unless that's the whole drive of the act). Never to show off to your friends/peers. Never to feature you above other band players.
 

Drums101

Senior Member
My fills suck totally. I just do whatever feels good at the moment. Usually the results are catostrophic crash-and-burn disasters. Rudiments? What are Rudiments? :p
Lol me too. I just like to just play some beats and then just little improv over the beat.
 

Pollyanna

Platinum Member
And there are different kinds of fills.

You have, as KIS said, fills that add momentum and excitement. You have fills that are created complement the melody and you have signature fills that help to define a song, maybe the most famous of these being Phil halfway through In the Air - which has a nice symmetry since it may be the most air-drummed fill in music history.

If you create something that inspires people to air drum, you can feel well pleased with yourself :)
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
I have to feel a fill for it to work. Doesn't mean I always nail it though.

Great post Andy! Deception in a fill! I never thought of it quite like that before! Awesome!
 

Swiss Matthias

Platinum Member
Thank you all for the great contribution. There are some interesting thoughts.

ChipJohns said:
Another (i feel) unsung drummer in this area is Fred Eltringham with, among others, the Dixie Chicks. Here is an example of keeping in simple not being an easy thing.
Well, from listening to it it's quite hard to tell if that was an easy thing, isn't it? If that came out quite naturally for him, wasn't it easy then?
It's a good example though of a nice minimalistic approach for pop music. But some others come to mind, too, i.e. drummers for Sting like Manu Katché or even Vinnie Colaiuta; which would be a favourite of mine, because although we all know he can rip it off he played so many stuff just keeping astonishingly simple. Listen to Herbie Hancocks latest album (I think) - smooth brush grooves all the way through!!
dscrapre said:
My fills suck totally. I just do whatever feels good at the moment. Usually the results are catostrophic crash-and-burn disasters. Rudiments? What are Rudiments? :p
Haha :)
dairyairman said:
my drum teacher says to keep in mind the basic rhythmic theme of the music and play fills that compliment those basic rhythms. like for example, if the guitar or vocals have a certain rhythm then play a fill that's a variation of that rhythm or compliments the rhythm.
I think your drum teacher gave you some good advice. It may sound a little academic though, plus I believe in the end the goal is to do so without thinking consciously too much about it.
Dave_Major said:
1- i have done quite a lot of rudiment/snare studies and they get you to combine different rudiments in a musical sense which then feeds into your fills and grooves.
Yeah I can relate to that. Whatever we practice (and practice thoroughly) will find a way into our on style of playing.
Dave_Major said:
I tell my students who are at the stage of playing with other people that you have 2 ears. One for you and one for the band. (not my saying btw)
Terry Bozzio can't play with people then, because he needs both his ears for either side of his kit. :D
keep it simple said:
Using flams to create the impression of a slowing tempo, a 1 bar pseudo switch of time signature only to resolve in the following bar (e.g. 1 bar 3/4 followed by 1 bar 5/4 in a 4/4 structure).
How can a flam create the impression of slowing down the tempo? The pseudo switch of time signature can of course, but a flam is just a little grace note just before the actual accent to spice it up a little...!?
You made some very good point though which is very important to me: Tension (and release) is a big part in good music, and I often search for fills that - whilst being musical and fitting within the context - create tension. So:
larryace said:
I like how Ringo (and others) would wait until the very last moment to play a fill.
although I like this approach, it also seems to be a bit dangerous to me, because instead of creating tension by that restraint, you could also actually destroy any tension, or just creating tension against the rest of the band that wants to create tension. :p
keep it simple said:
I could go on all day about what I feel a fill should be. Perhaps easier to say what I think a fill shouldn't be. Never a show of chops (unless that's the whole drive of the act). Never to show off to your friends/peers. Never to feature you above other band players.
Yeah!
 

keep it simple

Platinum Member
How can a flam create the impression of slowing down the tempo? The pseudo switch of time signature can of course, but a flam is just a little grace note just before the actual accent to spice it up a little...!?
Should have added a little detail to that. I find that flams readily lend themselves to playing slightly out of time in a fill sequence that includes single strokes. Playing the flam a little behind the beat towards the end of the fill slows the pace slightly only to pick back up again by the fill exit or first beat of the next passage. It's subtle, but still there. The most effective way to use flams in a fill to give the impression of slowing down, is to open the flam gradually as the fill progresses. Starting with very tight flams then opening them up almost to a 16th note by the end. Sorry SM, a difficult one to explain and probably not a good example. Maybe I'm completely wrong and I'm just playing badly. Either way, it seems to work well for me.
 

Pollyanna

Platinum Member
although I like this approach, it also seems to be a bit dangerous to me, because instead of creating tension by that restraint, you could also actually destroy any tension, or just creating tension against the rest of the band that wants to create tension. :p
Strangely enough, I think I know what you mean :p If you're going to hold back to create tension you ideally want to release it before the tension leaks away and the moment is lost. On the other hand, you don't want to be so vigilant about grasping musical opportunities that you end up swatting the passing accents like flies.

I don't think very quickly on my feet so I play better when I lay back and groove (ie. ga-lumph along) without worrying about missing the occasional juicy moment. That way the moments that come seem to be juicier :)
 
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