Thoughts on fill placement

boltzmann's brain

Senior Member
a lot of very, very good advice and sound observation here. let's see if i can add something that completely wrecks that. for me, it's been about having big ears. it depends not only on the music being played, but also on the musicians you're playing with. i adjust my playing to suit the style and the musicians. i'm really lucky to be involved with several very different bands, so i get to be as straight, or weird, as i wanna be. bottom line, it's all about the music. if you're not adding to it, you're taking away from it. sometimes one note in the right- or wrong- place, can make or break a song. we have power!
 

SgtThump

Platinum Member
Where the fill starts isn't all that important. However, where you end it can either make you look like the next genius master musician percussionist or a newb.

ha ha
 

theindian

Senior Member
One of the functions of drum fills is to signify an upcoming change a in a song. This is why they are normally played on even numbered bars at the end of a phrase.

Randomly playing a fill in the 3rd measure is most likely unnecessary. A subtle variation from the beat might work, but anything more will probably confuse the musicians & people listening.

It might work if the song has an odd structure or deviates from the standard A B A B form.
 

drummingman

Gold 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.
I very much agree with you!

I feel that is good to push things when one can. This does help keep things fresh and interesting for me.
 

Acidline303

Senior 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.
I'd say I agree with that. Might be great if the whole band starts working the song together with the specific idea for something unorthodox being the central framework or theme.

"This song will be in 4/4 but each part repeats 7 times except there is a three bar prechorus"
 

drumkat

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.
I have quoted this as it is in my opinion a highly intelligent thing to write about fills.

While woodshedding, I focus more on my accuracy of each stoke rather than stress over fills
 

Jeff Almeyda

Senior Consultant
Be careful with "originality". Original does not necessarily equal good.

To quote the great Bob Moses: "Everybody is creative but not everybody grooves. As far as I'm concerned that's the only goal.".

What I mean is that there are usually good reasons for the conventions in music. Great players fit within the convention and still bring something fresh to the table, while grooving hard.

Please do not take this as a reason not to experiment but do all such experimentation with a critical ear. Also, unconventionally placed fills still need to be perfectly executed, with a musical reason for their existence.

Good luck.
 

Mad About Drums

Pollyanna's Agent
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.
I agree... you can place your fill(s) anywhere in the song, but it has to fit the song, be part of it, both musically and emotionally

That's part of why certain pros are respected and in-demand... the parts they play are typically 'right' at the start.
So true, the likes of Vinnie Colaiuta, Simon Phillips or Steve Gadd can certainly throw fills in a song that almost spontaneously felt.

I read on Simon's FAQ web page that he plays a song only once or twice before recording it, it's all fresh and spontaneous, he also added that it's one of the reason he is so much in demand... he provides the right track with the right fills almost immediately.

You need to be a monster to do this in so many styles, these guys have played on hundreds and hundreds of records in various styles, can you imagine the kind of musical and technical knowledge and experience you need to be able to achieve this? That's why these guys are in such high demand and so respected in the music world.

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.
Stewart Copeland managed the space around him brilliantly with taste, feel, innovation and emotions, that's also thanks to Andy Summers and Sting, both left lots of space for the drum to shine. It's also why we rate Stewart's playing so high, you hear everything he's doing.

Where the fill starts isn't all that important. However, where you end it can either make you look like the next genius master musician percussionist or a newb.
I agree, where you land your fill can make all the difference, like going across the bar and accenting the second beat of the next bar, it can be awesome.
 

SpareRib

Senior 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.
I think it's something fun and interesting to experiment with in personal practice and maybe band rehearsal. I would only bring something to band rehearsal if you have analyzed the fill and it may fit within the context of the lyrics and music. This type of practice definitely has it's place. It can even help you create new parts and grooves. Maybe that fill can turn into a groove and you would never have known that without experimenting with fill placement. I would definitely say to do this in private so as to not waste rehearsal time.

I wanted to say this because I think the comments haven't addressed practice versus rehearsal/show. I will reiterate a lot of the other posts in saying to not overly distort the agreed upon structure of the song. I also agree that fills are placed where they are to help create tension and release at pivotal section changes in the song and this can occur within a verse.
 

Diet Kirk

Silver Member
Is this in the context of an original band?

If so, then you and your band mates get to decide what sounds good and right. An interesting fill placement might inspire the bass player to join you and the vocalist to alter the melody.

But, the only way we can say for sure. Record it, play it to us, then you will have real and more valuable opinions on whether what you are trying to do works.

All of the above advice is of course wonderful and valid. But in the right context, different stuff works, so I for one would like to hear it!
 
M

Mike_In_KC

Guest
I don't know if this is funny or not - it maybe just is... I played with a guitar player this weekend for the first time. It was a very relaxed jam - I would play a beat and the guitar player (who has played way longer than me) would play a riff around/with it. We were playing this shufflie 12 bar blues "thing" for a few minutes when we took a break. The guitar player complimented me saying how I did not clutter things up with a bunch of "show off stuff". Truth be told I was not sure when TO show off - limiting myself to a small fill during the turnaround and even had I known where to show off I only have a few fills in my "pocket" right now that I play all the time - I am working on that. But I guess the kinda funny thing was that the guitar player was really happy that he did not have a more experienced drummer to clutter stuff up
:)

MM
 

SgtThump

Platinum Member
I don't know if this is funny or not - it maybe just is... I played with a guitar player this weekend for the first time. It was a very relaxed jam - I would play a beat and the guitar player (who has played way longer than me) would play a riff around/with it. We were playing this shufflie 12 bar blues "thing" for a few minutes when we took a break. The guitar player complimented me saying how I did not clutter things up with a bunch of "show off stuff". Truth be told I was not sure when TO show off - limiting myself to a small fill during the turnaround and even had I known where to show off I only have a few fills in my "pocket" right now that I play all the time - I am working on that. But I guess the kinda funny thing was that the guitar player was really happy that he did not have a more experienced drummer to clutter stuff up
:)

MM
Hey MM... I'm a LONG TIME gigging guitarist that only took up drums a few years ago. Trust me, guitar players love a solid groove with transitions to steer the band into the chorus, verse, etc... It's very annoying to play with a drummer that is ridiculously busy, unless the music calls for that (I guess?) So yeah, good job!!! :)
 
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