When to fill or not to fill.

MikeM

Platinum Member
I'll echo the sentiment that fills need to remain inside the groove. I remember reading Modern Drummer interview years ago where some Big Shot drummer (can't remember who) said that fills should only ever be extensions of the groove, and that really stuck with me.

Sometimes new drummers think of beats and fills as being separate entities - keep simple straight time and when it's your turn, then bust out your fancy chops. I don't care for this model; too jarring. If the beat (or the music itself) is straight and simple, then I'll match it with a straight and simple fill. It's about cohesion and making all that you play match aesthetically.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
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.
Well it's got a name now I guess, The Ron Carter Principle.

I totally agree with your assessment.

It just plain works. Someone has to play the role of the glue.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
I'll echo the sentiment that fills need to remain inside the groove. I remember reading Modern Drummer interview years ago where some Big Shot drummer (can't remember who) said that fills should only ever be extensions of the groove, and that really stuck with me.

Sometimes new drummers think of beats and fills as being separate entities - keep simple straight time and when it's your turn, then bust out your fancy chops. I don't care for this model; too jarring. If the beat (or the music itself) is straight and simple, then I'll match it with a straight and simple fill. It's about cohesion and making all that you play match aesthetically.
Right, if the beat is stripes, the fill can't be plaid. It has to be something that goes with stripes.
 

hyruleherojoe

Senior 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.
Thats not a nice thing to say about our significant others!!!






(Joke please dont kill me)


As for fills, its been said around this forum for a while. Depends on song structure, mood, feel, idea and what not. I'm very fill happy with my playing.
 

Boomka

Platinum 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.
You mean the Ed Thigpen Principle.
 

tcspears

Gold Member
Playing drums should always be part of a conversation, so any fills you have should be in response to something "said" in the song. In jazz we aren't locked into playing the beat, so we're free to comp or fill as part of call and response, or to resolve/create tension. If I hear the lead player changing modes, or changing key, I'm going to react to that so the the conversation is continuous, fluid, and interactive. If I'm playing the blues, my part in the conversation is to really play the grid and not break from the triplet subdivision. When playing rock, the conversation is more about the groove and the syncopation.

Drummers tend to think too much about fills, and often play something completely out of place. Imagine 5 guys are sitting around talking about a sports game, then there's a break in the conversation and you start talking about quantitative easing and it's effects on GDP. You might have said something brilliant, but it doesn't go with the conversation. Mundane and boring as it may seem, you should just fill that space with something to do with the sports game.

Think about what fits the song you are playing musically. It might be that you don't play any fills at all, but find something that makes sense in the song, and don't worry about "to fill or not to fill"... just listen and interact with the other players.
 

Mad About Drums

Pollyanna's Agent
What about songs with no drums at all for 2/3 of the songs and then the drummer comes in with dramatic effect... the first time I heard this song I went "Woaw!", it enhanced the song beautifully :)

Joan Armatradind's Promised Land with the great Manu Katche on drums.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CArV87jd798

We could debate until the cows come home and really resolve nothing.
Agreed Grunt, but the views and opinions from our fellow members of such a topic are always interesting to read, some posts can be quite revealing and/or mind changing, some of us might have a different view/approach after reading some of the wisdom this forum provide :)

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).
Fills do both, release and create tensions, the drummer can raise the adrenaline of an audience, this clip of James Taylor with Steve Gadd on drums explain better what I mean than words.

https://youtu.be/_BYb3u0aZVY?t=3m

The reason why Vinnie can do this is because his fills are inside the groove. They're not separate entities, just part of his personal dynamic approach to his instrument, reacting, expressing, communicating...
Vinnie's a master, my favourite clip is the whole session of Sting's Ten Summoner's Tales, Vinnie absolutely kill it, from the simplest groove to the most intricate patterns, he's right on the money, highly inspiring.

https://youtu.be/PmNmxBX7kU8?t=30s

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

I think we sometimes forget that a rhythm section can fill as one, not just as players in isolation.
I agree, I remember doing rehearsals with just the bass players in some bands, we elaborated fills together and it worked beautifully.

Right, if the beat is stripes, the fill can't be plaid. It has to be something that goes with stripes.
That would be Meg White then... :)

Playing drums should always be part of a conversation, so any fills you have should be in response to something "said" in the song.
Yes, especially in jazz bands or in improvised music where a "conversation" is actually happening and you're actually "saying" something on the spur of the moment within the conversation, but if you're writing a book you want your phrases and syntaxes to be perfect for the reader to be absorbed by the story telling, so some "thinking" has gone into what you're gonna write (play), sometimes the music you create is like writing a book, there's a particular style and feel you want to communicate... I've seen many bands who actually perform on stage a perfect copycat of their records.
 

Anon La Ply

Renegade
I can't add too much to what's been said but it's refreshing when a drummer doesn't play squared off fills on the 4, 8 and 16. Ringo, Stewart Copeland, etc.

What is a fill anyway, but an obvious variation? It's when the drummer at the back is the lead "voice" just for a moment. I'd like to say that I only play fills when the melodic flow of the music requires it but in truth I usually just fill in when it seems right and hope for the best :)
 

Mad About Drums

Pollyanna's Agent
I can't add too much to what's been said but it's refreshing when a drummer doesn't play squared off fills on the 4, 8 and 16. Ringo, Stewart Copeland, etc.
It's also refreshing when a drummer who hasn't posted on this forum for a while show up again :)

This place miss you big time... (insert massive drum fill)
 

SmoothOperator

Gold Member
When guitarists noodle around between songs, that is a good place to *fill*, especially if they noodle before they count off, I like to fill over that, and totally just bury it.
 

supermac

Senior Member
For me, drum fills are deep in the DNA of popular music.

Listen to early Elvis or Buddy Holly singles from 60 years ago, for example, and drum fills added to the excitement of the music.

Fills are integral to the push, pull, tension, release and transitions in a song.

Of course, they can be overdone and can be completely unmusical if applied incorrectly.

When I started playing as a kid, every fourth bar I'd fly around the kit like Billy Cobham on speed. And when I mastered the Bonham triplet, I remember using in it in a UK workingmen's club gig playing Neil Diamond's Sweet Caroline. Not sure what the audience made of it!

Now, like others have said, I might try to do a fill inside the groove - a la Steve Gadd - to just punctuate or signpost the song.

I do a lot more fills incorporating the closed hi-hat so the basic 'texture' of the drum part doesn't radically change while I'm doing the fill.

Huge, fascinating topic though.
 

SmoothOperator

Gold Member
Playing drums should always be part of a conversation, so any fills you have should be in response to something "said" in the song. In jazz we aren't locked into playing the beat, so we're free to comp or fill as part of call and response, or to resolve/create tension. If I hear the lead player changing modes, or changing key, I'm going to react to that so the the conversation is continuous, fluid, and interactive. If I'm playing the blues, my part in the conversation is to really play the grid and not break from the triplet subdivision. When playing rock, the conversation is more about the groove and the syncopation.

Drummers tend to think too much about fills, and often play something completely out of place. Imagine 5 guys are sitting around talking about a sports game, then there's a break in the conversation and you start talking about quantitative easing and it's effects on GDP. You might have said something brilliant, but it doesn't go with the conversation. Mundane and boring as it may seem, you should just fill that space with something to do with the sports game.

Think about what fits the song you are playing musically. It might be that you don't play any fills at all, but find something that makes sense in the song, and don't worry about "to fill or not to fill"... just listen and interact with the other players.
In jazz though a fill is part of the legato interpretation of written sheet music, for example if a whole note is written you are expected to fill the entire note in, ie you play for the duration of the note.
 

Anon La Ply

Renegade
It's also refreshing when a drummer who hasn't posted on this forum for a while show up again :)

This place miss you big time... (insert massive drum fill)
Cheers Henri. I liked the topic, which is why I posted. I've been quiet since I quit gigging because most of the threads here are (understandably) geared towards the concerns of gigging drummers.
 

Mad About Drums

Pollyanna's Agent
Cheers Henri. I liked the topic, which is why I posted. I've been quiet since I quit gigging because most of the threads here are (understandably) geared towards the concerns of gigging drummers.
Glad you liked the topic, blame Larry for giving me the idea :)

Staying quiet because you're not a gigging drummer anymore???

I didn't gigged a single time since I joined this forum and now I haven't played my drums since I left France, only drumsticks and pads these days, but hell, this didn't stop me joining this forum and participate in all the rambling that's going on in here... in many ways it's what keeps me in touch with the world of drumming, I had to stop posting twice for a while due to other commitments/priorities, but with serious withdrawal effects.

... then there's the members here, so many of which are a delight to discuss drummy things, life and other topics :)

C'mon G... please!
 

Euphorialus

Junior Member
I think fills are fairly multifaceted; I've heard songs where I think, "Dude, how did he think to put that fill there? What was that?", and I've heard songs where the fills break up the groove of the song - which in itself can be good or bad.

When it comes to deciding when to or when not to fill, I think the song itself is definitely a deciding factor. Fills can be incorporated into grooves, beats, anything. They can be linear with the structure, and they can break it in a way that pushes and pulls with the song and adds dimension to the part.

It's already been said. It's completely subjective. I like them myself, and try to incorporate them as efficiently as I can.
 
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