Thoughts on fill placement

drummingman

Gold Member
As of late I have really been trying to stear away from normal placement of fills in songs (such as on the 2nd, 4th and 8th bars of a song). I've really been trying to put fills in like bar 3 or bar 6 of and 8 bar phrase.

Its funny how doing this sometimes really feels odd being that so much music has the drum fills on the 2 4 8 bars of a song. Its really easy and natural to place these fills in these usual places. Its also very common and everyone does it.

Ive really been pushing myself to try to approach fill placement in a different way to change phrasing and listener perception. But I must admit that untill I'm used to the placement in a song it really can sound out off place. I believe this to be because of how common the usual placement of fills in most music is.

Just posting my thoughts on this topic.
 

BillRayDrums

Gold Member
I like to start fills on the "ah" of a beat. Also, leaving a lot of space during a fill will give you a sense of "free falling" and that's kinda fun. :D
 

mikel

Platinum Member
I like to play around with Reggae fills. The placement in the bar not the song, and finishing the fill on the and rather than the one. Sometimes walking over the beginning of a vocal line lends an element of excitement, If it fits the mood of the song and the lyric.
 

MileHighDrummer

Senior Member
If your choice of fill location works for the song - go for it. If it does not contribute to the song, or is distractive then it won't work.
 

Duracell

Senior Member
Though it's fun to think of new ways to approach playing fills, I find that usually I just let the song dictate where to fill. Thinking usually results in stiffness. Just let it flow.
 

drum4fun27302

Gold Member
I try to make the fills go a little further and finish them after the 1 , I usually go form e to and to a and then on the 2 with a snare/crash on that one.
Gotta be carefull who you do it with. I was in a 90's cover band and they thought I was screwing up (so back to 1 it was :( ) .....
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
If your choice of fill location works for the song - go for it. If it does not contribute to the song, or is distractive then it won't work.
Though it's fun to think of new ways to approach playing fills, I find that usually I just let the song dictate where to fill.
Exactly.

As of late I have really been trying to stear away from normal placement of fills in songs (such as on the 2nd, 4th and 8th bars of a song). I've really been trying to put fills in like bar 3 or bar 6 of and 8 bar phrase... But I must admit that untill I'm used to the placement in a song it really can sound out off place. I believe this to be because of how common the usual placement of fills in most music is.
If a part sounds out of place, it may not be the right part or the right place. There aren't too many rules in music, but one rule is that the rhythms and melodies work well together. Basically, a song has to sound and feel good. If a part sounds immediately good, it probably is. If it has to be forced to fit, it's probably not a good idea.

That's part of why certain pros are respected and in-demand... the parts they play are typically 'right' at the start.

But there's also the concept of who decides what sounds good. Is it the player? The artist or leader of the project? If recording, the producer? The audience? Ultimately, I suppose it's the audience. If nobody enjoys what the band plays, then nobody will listen, or buy tracks, or see shows. But on a more immediate level, the artist or other bandmembers need to offer input as to what drum parts sounds good or bad to them. If they say nothing, you may assume that your parts are at least acceptable.

I'm not saying that you necessarily must bow to others' opinions of what you play, but they can be more objective, and hear how your parts mesh better than you can. Taking direction is critical to growth, and often, simply keeping a gig.

Bermuda
 

drummingman

Gold Member
Exactly.



If a part sounds out of place, it may not be the right part or the right place. There aren't too many rules in music, but one rule is that the rhythms and melodies work well together. Basically, a song has to sound and feel good. If a part sounds immediately good, it probably is. If it has to be forced to fit, it's probably not a good idea.

That's part of why certain pros are respected and in-demand... the parts they play are typically 'right' at the start.

But there's also the concept of who decides what sounds good. Is it the player? The artist or leader of the project? If recording, the producer? The audience? Ultimately, I suppose it's the audience. If nobody enjoys what the band plays, then nobody will listen, or buy tracks, or see shows. But on a more immediate level, the artist or other bandmembers need to offer input as to what drum parts sounds good or bad to them. If they say nothing, you may assume that your parts are at least acceptable.

I'm not saying that you necessarily must bow to others' opinions of what you play, but they can be more objective, and hear how your parts mesh better than you can. Taking direction is critical to growth, and often, simply keeping a gig.

Bermuda
I'm always open to what band members have to say for sure. Usually no one has any problems with odd fill placement. I do think that some may at some point, but only because its not what they are used to hearing in a song context.

For me as a player this is an area that I really want to push myself in and not just go with the normal placement that most drummers do. Not saying I never do fills on bars 4, or 8. But I'm trying to think more outside of the box as of the last 6 months or so when it comes to fill placement.
 

Otto

Platinum Member
Consider trying to change your perspective on the distinction between what you are doing across the rest of the song and what you are calling "a fill".

That simple act of no longer thinking of a change in your patterning as seperate from the rest of your playing can go a long way in smoothing transitions and creating less derivitave sounding compositions.
 

picodon

Silver Member
Well there's a difference between being original, developing your own style on one hand, and misplacing fills on the other one.

A fill is not a piece of decoration you can just insert anywhere. A fill has a function. It usually connects phrases or it connects a verse to the chorus. It helps build tension or release it. A fill does something to the listener and what it does is not just a matter of your taste versus mine, it does things to people's brains and bodies.

A fill is intimately related to the structure of the song. You can add fills, remove them, change them, move them around in the song -- just like you add or remove walls and windows and stairs in a house -- you can do so according to your taste, but every change you make has an effet beyond taste and decoration only, just like removing all the windows out of a room or taking away the stairs from where they were supposed to be, or putting too many walls in so the rooms get too small. Sorry for the crappy metaphor but I think you get the picture.

An "odd fill placement" will sound odd. An unusal fill placement asks for some kind of implicit explanation. Just like a picture taken from an unusual point of view or with an odd composition asks for an explanation, or the viewer will just think it's odd and lose interest. The explanation may be in the lyrics - the fill may symbolise something described in the lyrics, like a sudden rage of anger (can't think of a real-life example), so that may be a reason to have a fill in the middle of a verse, but I personally find that sound artificial. Beware also of repeating odd fills (or odd anything) too often, or they will become a gimmick in the song and lose their point if there was one.
 

Dr_Watso

Platinum Member
It's not math, it's music. Placing fills somewhere because you have an itch to put fills on say bar 3, is not musical to my way of thinking. It's a great place to start writing music that's different, but shoe-horning a fill into a song based on the fact that you're bored with how it usually works sounds a bit silly.
 

drummingman

Gold Member
For me its about taking a different approach. The way I think about such things is if no one does anything different in a way that seems odd at first there is no progress that moves things forward in a new way. That's not to say this has never been done,cause it has I'm sure.

Puting a fill on say the third bar can make an 8 bar phrase seem elongated in a way that really changes the phrasing. It can really play around with the listeners perspective. Kind of like odd time playing in a way.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
You asked for thoughts, here's some.....

The musicians in my little limited world don't like drummers who fill too much. Fills can and do halt forward progress and impede the flow, a big no no in my world. Unless you are a master of execution, taste and placement. So I try to not do them unless the song screams out for them.

If fills are put in at bar 3...if a singer is singing, they are probably being stepped on, if a soloist is soloing, that fill could be clashing with their phrasing...they probably will feel that the drummer isn't listening to them. Fills work best in the spaces where no one who "has the floor" is stepped on or interrupted. Listening for the spaces is key.

Instead of focusing on fills, I put more thought energy into time feel first, the dynamic topographical map of the song, marking the song form, (very important) staying out of the way of the soloists, yet listening and playing to their spaces, making the quarter note feel good for EVERYONE, blending the drum volume to the room, the song, the band, and the solo
STICKING the dismount....stuff like that. Not that I'm a master of any of this stuff but this is what concerns me as a drummer first and foremost. Badly used, poorly chosen and placed fills....are amateur pitfalls. JMO.

Fills need to be used for a real musical function, they are not something to be thrown in willy nilly just because technically they will fit. That's like saying "I like the word wack-a-doo. I'm going to use the word wack-a-doo every 26 words." That's insane!

I'm not saying you need to do any of this. I'm just sharing thoughts you asked for.
 
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Wavelength

Platinum Member
For me its about taking a different approach. The way I think about such things is if no one does anything different in a way that seems odd at first there is no progress that moves things forward in a new way. That's not to say this has never been done,cause it has I'm sure.

Puting a fill on say the third bar can make an 8 bar phrase seem elongated in a way that really changes the phrasing. It can really play around with the listeners perspective. Kind of like odd time playing in a way.
Could you record an example of this sort of thing? Take a road worn classic, such as "Have you ever seen the rain" by CCR, and start filling in odd places. Let's see how it sounds!
 

Hollywood Jim

Platinum Member
You asked for thoughts, here's some.....

The musicians in my little limited world don't like drummers who fill too much. Fills can and do halt forward progress and impede the flow, a big no no in my world. Unless you are a master of execution, taste and placement. So I try to not do them unless the song screams out for them.

If fills are put in at bar 3...if a singer is singing, they are probably being stepped on, if a soloist is soloing, that fill could be clashing with their phrasing...they probably will feel that the drummer isn't listening to them. Fills work best in the spaces where no one who "has the floor" is stepped on or interrupted. Listening for the spaces is key.

Instead of focusing on fills, I put more thought energy into time feel first, the dynamic topographical map of the song, marking the song form, (very important) staying out of the way of the soloists, yet listening and playing to their spaces, making the quarter note feel good for EVERYONE, blending the drum volume to the room, the song, the band, and the solo
STICKING the dismount....stuff like that. Not that I'm a master of any of this stuff but this is what concerns me as a drummer first and foremost. Badly used, poorly chosen and placed fills....are amateur pitfalls. JMO.

Fills need to be used for a real musical function, they are not something to be thrown in willy nilly just because technically they will fit. That's like saying "I like the word wack-a-doo. I'm going to use the word wack-a-doo every 26 words." That's insane!

I'm not saying you need to do any of this. I'm just sharing thoughts you asked for.

I agree with most of the comments in this thread.

I especially agree with Larry..........


.
 

Davo-London

Gold Member
Maybe fill and accent can be part of this discussion. I note that Stewart Copeland would often accent and sometime fill within bar 3 - I really like this and it was definitely part of his style and the music. I've been thinking more about this and paring back on my fills to 1-2 beats. Or having a fill with less sticking than the std groove.

Live and with certain musicians you will get negative feedback but I think it's good to experiment and keep it fresh!

Davo
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
In a trio like the Police, with the guitar style ala Andy Summers... that left a bit of space for Stewart to exercise some latitude with the drum figures. Andy left a lot of space. I love the trio sound. Nice and uncluttered.

But in a band where you have 2 guitars, keys and a horn for example, fills like the kind Stewart did in the Police might not fit. If the whole front line wants to fill the spaces then there's not going to be much left over for the drummer. It can become a cluster f&%! when the musicians don't allow space for the others. In my 6 piece band, there is so much sound going on, it sounds better when I leave space for everyone and try and tie them all together rather than playing a "bitchin" fill.

So the question as whether or not to play a fill is dictated more by the surroundings and the song than anything. That's one way out of a million to look at it. IMO the drummer who steps all over everybody to play a cool fill is a little clueless of the other's tasks.

I wouldn't want to stifle anyone else's personal style though. The Keith Moons of the world need to feel free.
 

Davo-London

Gold Member
That's the thing. Have you ever heard ...

"Don't overplay."

"You're the drummer you need to lead."

"You should bring in your own personality."

"Follow the leader!"

etc etc

All very contradictory. So the trick is to walk the line right down the middle. Once everyone is confident in you, you can start to experiment a bit and add your own personality.

Well that's one take on it.

Davo
 

Pachikara-Tharakan

Silver Member
if the drummer steps over the guitars and vocals and it is officially recorded in a studio, approved by everyone including the producer and the leader of the band and released , I am sure everyone would say...the drummer played for the what the song called for...thats the way it should be.....and if during a live concert , everyone would expect the drummer to play like the way it was recorded and if the drummer didnt play that way, there would be mixed reviews.


if the drummer DIDN'T step over the guitars and vocals and it is officially recorded in a studio, approved by everyone including the producer and the leader of the band and released , I am sure everyone would say...the drummer played for the what the song called for...thats the way it should be.....and if during a live concert , everyone would expect the drummer to play like the way it was recorded and if the drummer didnt play that way, there would be mixed reviews.


just my thought.
 

picodon

Silver Member
Scenario 1 assumes producers would actually approve and people would actually buy - I think real life examples of scenario 1 are rare...
 
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