When to fill or not to fill.

Mad About Drums

Pollyanna's Agent
Here you go Uncle Larry :)

Inspired by the "So... what is a fill" thread.

The discussion somehow derailed whenever a fill should be played or not within a song, so this thread is aim to discuss this very subjective topic.

It has to be said that some style of music requires drum fills by default and some others could do easily without fills to no adverse effect to a song.

Michael Jackson's Billie Jean is a good example of a song without drum fills, but it is because it was released as such and we became used to listen to the song without fills, if it has been released with some fills in it, would it make song worse or better?

Does fills break up the "groove" and disrupt the song or actually enhance the music or a section of a song?

Please debate... :)
 

WallyY

Platinum Member
It depends on the song feel.
If the song needs to be mesmerising or unpredictable it makes sense to not use lead-ins or fills for the transitions, but even if the song needs to drive without much sway or lope between parts, maybe a short connection is in order.

I feel it's insulting to the other musicians if the song dictates a transitional fill and the fill is left out.
 

GruntersDad

Administrator - Mayor
Staff member
Again this depends so much on the song and it's construction. We could debate until the cows come home and really resolve nothing.
 

Midnite Zephyr

Platinum Member
I don't know who said it, but I like to think of fills as punctuation in a song. I would put a fill in Billy Jean right when it goes to, " Now people always tell me be careful who you love, don't go around breaking young girls hearts." Then another one. Just two sixteenth notes played on the snare before the one.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Henri, this is right in my wheelhouse. If I could expound on the subject of fills within lyric based music only here...JMO...

If I had to distill why I fill, it would also more or less dictate when I fill. Fills to me are mainly used as a release device in my world. Anytime a fill happens.... tension is released. (generally speaking). Tension in a song is a very powerful subliminal effect that drummers have in their arsenal. It happens by not filling, keep on keepin' on, and just pay it forward for a little while. Build some anticipation. So it depends on whether or not you want to release tension or build tension, in my mind, it's really just that simple for lyric based music. Sometimes you can release just a little as a tease, in anticipation of what's coming. That comes with familiarity of the "tool". Make them want it, don't bombard them with as much as you can in the song is all I'm saying. Sometimes the tension is never released. Great tool.

It's not to say don't do interesting beats...definitely do. I put much more thought into my beats than my fills. The other way around is just annoying to me. But as far as an actual fill.. I just try and go with the flow and don't stop any momentum. The momentum is more important than the notes I pick, the momentum is my real concern. That's all anyone really cares about, don't rock the boat. The fill is over in a few seconds, the tension can last 2 minutes. That's what I'm talking about.

If I had to cite one general guideline I try and incorporate in my playing...It feels really great to hold off releasing the tension built....until just the right moment. Generally speaking, there's always plenty of exceptions. It's making the most out of a little...being economical in a way. That's what blues drumming is all about. All I know is it works. Drummers who bust a nut every 8 bars are missing out on some wonderful feeling stuff IMO. It's understanding when it works better to restrain, or if it's time to release. The buildup is actually more useful musically, and more interesting for me personally, the tension is easy to release, as long as the fill fits the context. The buildup/tension thing to me is the art of seduction of the song, and the fill closes the deal. Yea. I like that.
 
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FITM

Member
I don't know who said it, but I like to think of fills as punctuation in a song. I would put a fill in Billy Jean right when it goes to, " Now people always tell me be careful who you love, don't go around breaking young girls hearts." Then another one. Just two sixteenth notes played on the snare before the one.
Yes. Quick fill ending on a splash is what I'm hearing in my head in that spot.

I think I've done something like that there.
 

New Tricks

Platinum Member
Does fills break up the "groove" and disrupt the song or actually enhance the music or a section of a song?
When done properly (same tempo, proper dynamics, without stepping on anyone else) it enhances it.

When to fill?

According to the normal R&R song structure, at the end of the intro leading to the verse, at the end of the verse leading into the chorus, instrumental or bridge and every 4 or 8 measures in an extended instrumental segment and at the end.

When not to fill?

(Generally) when someone is singing.
 

Hollywood Jim

Platinum Member
All I know is, over the past couple of months I have been adding less fills to songs. And playing simpler fills. And using less cymbal crashes.
And I've noticed more and more musicians want me as their drummer.


.
 

Odd-Arne Oseberg

Platinum Member
I don't think you can geeralize, it's abou taste, habits, prejudice.........


You can however generalize how to approach and punctuate a period in a style of music.

When teaching students fills to a basic rock beat, we first start with crashing on 1 and then adding fills leading up to that. No matter how much spice you bring in, you need to know where you are and make a point out of that period or make a point out of not doing so. Then there are no rules, only how you communicate and lead the band.

I'll throw in this Faith Hill show once more as it's so busy, but still just works so beautifully. The reason why Vinnie can do this is because his flls are inside the groove. They're not separate entities, just part of his personal dynamic approach to his instrument, reacting, expressing, communicating.........

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r2mYnLQ5lgM
 

Magenta

Platinum Member
Easy! I'm pretty shit at fills so the only time they happen is when they play themselves. When they do, they always seem to me to be appropriate in terms of musicality, and good in terms of timing. I suppose because I'm not really in charge!

Is there such a thing as too few fills? Maybe, but there's definitely such a thing as too many.

This is why I love blues drumming, and I think that's what suits me best. Minimalist, lots of space - and consequently, fewer opportunities to make mistakes.
 

bonerpizza

Silver Member
I wouldn't say that drum fills are ever required no matter what genre/style of music you're playing. What I like to play and to hear from other drummers are transitional "fills" to take you from one part of the song to the next, as long as a fill is done in time and flows with the music then it shouldn't break up the groove of the song...
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
The reason why Vinnie can do this is because his flls are inside the groove. They're not separate entities....
This buttons it up real nicely for me. It's like the groove is the outer perimeter and everything must live within it's confines. In other words the groove is bigger than the fill, bigger than everything the song contains, not the other way around.
 

Midnite Zephyr

Platinum Member
Yes. Quick fill ending on a splash is what I'm hearing in my head in that spot.

I think I've done something like that there.
You know, listening back to the song again, I do hear subtle little fills in that very spot, and a few others throughout the song. Very subtle stuff, but effectively placed.
 
G

Ghostnote

Guest
I recorded a set with the band I was playing in last year with my Zoom Q3HD, and watching it as an onlooker, I thought that at least half of the times I played a fill, they seemed more like distractions than augmentation. I wasn't really playing a ton of fills to begin with, but since then I have consciously played even fewer.

I really like Stewart Copeland's approach to a lot of the fills he played on the Synchronicity album. Sometimes his fills would be more like these ramshackle sort of disruptions in the beat as opposed to standard type fills. More like a jazz player comping, I suppose. That's how I try to approach fills- reacting to what's going on in a stream of consciousness sort of way.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
The other guys gave Stewart a lot of leeway to do fills that were as much a part of the song as the chord structure.

I used to play with a bass player who put forth the concept that someone should always be staying "home". Someone who holds it together so the other players can be more out front. Andy and Sting were staying "home" and Stewart had free reign on a lot of those tunes, Stewart was never stepping on anyone.

So if I am the one staying "home", my fills are going to be less and really necessary to the song.

Conversely, we play The Who's "The Kids Are Alright" where I get to play lead drums, and the others stay home.
 

BachBeat

Senior Member
This, in my mind, is the Ron Carter principle.

Tony Williams did what he did with Miles partly because Ron stayed at home. If Tony played the way he did while Ron was journeying off somewhere as well, it wouldn't have been nearly as cohesive (In my opinion). I think that RC is the glue of that whole outfit, and freed others to take it outside a bit and explore.






The other guys gave Stewart a lot of leeway to do fills that were as much a part of the song as the chord structure.

I used to play with a bass player who put forth the concept that someone should always be staying "home". Someone who holds it together so the other players can be more out front. Andy and Sting were staying "home" and Stewart had free reign on a lot of those tunes, Stewart was never stepping on anyone.

So if I am the one staying "home", my fills are going to be less and really necessary to the song.

Conversely, we play The Who's "The Kids Are Alright" where I get to play lead drums, and the others stay home.
 
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