As a drummer, you've probably heard the term "drum fills" thrown around a lot. But you might need clarification on drum fills or how to use them. Well, you're in luck!
We will demystify rock drum fills and show you how they can add spice, fun, and variety to your drumming. Whether you're just starting or have been playing for a while, we've covered you with beginner-friendly tips and tricks for incorporating drum fills into your playing.
This article will cover the following:
What Are Drum Fills?
In the most basic sense, a drum fill is an improvised transition, or bridge, from one musical section to the next. It is every drummer's opportunity to shine, demonstrate personality, and embrace the rhythm. Fills can be used to create a specific atmosphere and draw attention to what is being played by the drummer.
Characteristics of Drum Fills
Drum fills can be as straightforward or as complicated as you choose, but they must always match the drum music you are playing. A simple fill can communicate a lot of emotion. Fills can liven up songs and get the audience enthusiastic about what's coming.
Beginner drum fills are an important component of drumming and are simple to learn with practice. Ensure that you practice your drum rudiments and independently work on your hand and feet before jumping into the fills.
In most drum-fill situations, other band performers either cut out or play very short phrases, enabling the drum set to take the spotlight for a single full measure.
Some drum fills may bleed into the next measure. However, if you play a fill any longer than two measures, you're practically playing a drum solo instead of a fill.
Check out this video for a solid demonstration of drum fills by Gabe Helguera.
How Long Should a Simple Drum Fill Last?
A drum fill is performed in two ways:
- A brief period at the end of a measure that acts as a bridge between sections
- A short solo to showcase the drummer's abilities.
There is no correct answer regarding the drum fill length because it depends on the music and the drummer's intentions for the song. Most fills are four to eight beats long.
A drummer can generate an exciting mood by using a brief fill. An extended fill is preferable when the drummer wants to create suspense, building tension or give the rest of the band a break.
When playing a drum solo, it's often wise to have a general idea of how the composition will be constructed. It's best to start with a repeating drum fill and gradually increase your speed.
When Should You Play Drum Fills?
Drummers play fills when the band transitions from one section of the song to the next. During these transitions, it’s good to develop a habit of always performing a small fill. However, avoid overdoing it with extreme fills at every transition.
Some common moments to play a drum fill include:
- Between verses or sections of a song, to create a transition and add variety to the rhythm.
- During a break or "bridge" in the song, to provide a musical interlude and build tension before returning to the main groove.
- At the end of a musical phrase or section, as a final flourish or punctuation mark.
- At other moments, adding excitement or energy to a musical passage by introducing a new rhythm or pattern is appropriate.
Ultimately, the decision of when to play fills groove is up to the drummer and can be influenced by various factors. It's important to listen to the other musicians and the song's overall feel and to play the drum set to enhance the music and add to the overall performance.
Why are drum fills important?
You will improve your confidence when you learn how to perform and feel comfortable improvising a fill. A drum fill is a vital and essential part of a drummer's practice and performance routine because it offers the following:
- Depth and character to the beat
- An opportunity for a drummer to place his rhythmic signature
- A bridge from one musical phase to the next
- A creative outlet
- Opportunities for drum solos.
How Do I Start With Drum Fills for Beginners?
For some beginners, rock drum fills come naturally; for others, learning to improvise can take a while. The best approach is to master the basics, and then you can play fills more organically on a whim.
Drummers who feel comfortable with their skill level might want to start experimenting with the timing of a song. In that case, a drum fill is the best ally for breaking up the timing.
An excellent way to start playing drum fills is by trying to play beginner drum fills every eight measures over a simple 4/4 beat. You can try to switch things up as you get better.
Are you struggling to master drum fills for beginners, or could you use some help to kick-start your drum career? You can get a free 4-part drum course with Drum Beats Online here!
How do I Get Better at Drum Fills?
The first thing beginners need to do is acquire a basic understanding of rhythm. To accomplish this, learn how to read music, count music, and grasp your sticking.
When we mention sticking, we're referring to which hand plays which note. This leads to a good orchestration for drum beginner drum fills. While this may appear to be a simple notion, efficient note sticking requires a combination of the aforementioned rhythmic fundamentals: reading and counting.
What is the Best Way to Play Beginner Drum Fills Faster?
Endurance is what is going to make the difference in performing fast on the drum kit. Your endurance and strength of your hands and feet will empower you to play faster for extended periods.
The better question is to ask how to increase your endurance! Here are some tips to improve your endurance:
Understanding that you are not in a race is vital to learning any new hobby or skill. Improving and growing will require time, and there is no substitute for time and practice. There is no quick solution for learning how to play fills. You must adopt a growth mindset and learn patience.
Your objective is straightforward:
- Practice as much as possible, preferably daily.
- Learn from your errors.
- Compare yourself to who you were yesterday.
We've discussed in a few previous posts that a metronome will be one of your best friends during the learning process. The metronome will assist you in increasing your speed while remaining on track!
The technique is key when playing the drums, especially when enhancing your speed. How you hold your sticks can significantly impact the outcome and your pace.
Choose a grip that allows your arms to be relaxed and fast when playing. You should concentrate on your stick-holding technique. You will notice that you tense up if you use your arms more than you should. You will stiffen up if you use your fingers excessively.
The key to perfecting your technique is concentrating on your wrists and wrist control. Your arms and fingers will naturally follow your wrists. So, how can you improve your wrist control?
Turning your sticks is an excellent way to improve your wrist control. When you think about iconic drummers, images of them spinning and twirling their sticks come to mind. Playing with the sticks is one of the best ways to improve wrist control.
Once you develop wrist control, you can begin working on speed-increasing activities. Playing patterns on a practice pad with a click track is good exercise.
Practicing pads are convenient because you can place them in front of you while watching videos or entertain yourself in another way. The more you do this, the more endurance you will develop.
When playing patterns, keep your wrist control in mind. The greatest technique to improve your speed is to identify the highest BPM you can comfortably play and then increase the tempo every few minutes.
Related: Check out our free 5-lesson Hand Speed Challenge Course!
What Else Can I Do to Learn Fills?
Numerous good books cover this subject if you can read and count music. However, too much theory may produce ambiguity. Remember that you will be reading a lot of opinions as well.
For holistic guidance and how to get better at Drum Fills and become a Master Drummer, check out the video lessons at Drum Beats Online. Here you’ll learn through reliable examples and guidance.
Final Thoughts on the Drum Fills for Beginners
It's crucial to realize that drumming involves more than just playing fast. Fast playing isn't the best option unless you're playing extreme metal.
The exercises to improve endurance and control have helped many beginner drummers.
They are proven and true methods. Just remember your metronome and be patient with yourself. Schedule your practice time to include some endurance work.
If you dedicate just 20 minutes a day, you will notice a significant improvement in a few months.
Drum fills are where drummers get their chance to flex their creative muscle.
Remember that it does not matter if you do not yet have a solid foundation and your drum fills are all over the place.
Keep pushing forward, my friend!