The Elements Of Fills
The best drummers care more about making beats and fills groove hard than impressing their peers. This may seem like a daunting task that can take decades to figure out and perfect. Fortunately, there’s an easy three-step process to achieve this.
1) Lock your ego away in a box. You won’t need it if you’re trying to enhance music with your infectious grooving. Okay, I lied. It’s not all that easy.
2) Go for flow. Play fills that outline the same rhythmic “feel” as the song or style. Is the song frenetic? Play busy fills on top of the beat. Is it laid back? Play sparse fills that feel lazier and sit behind the beat.
3) As all great groovers know, simple fills usually work better than complex ones because they don’t interrupt the flow of the song or demand too much of your attention. If the left side of your brain needs to decipher that a drummer just played the speed of light over the square root of Pi, the fill was probably a little too ambitious. This doesn’t mean your fills have to be dull. Don’t hesitate to add dynamics or embellishments to your fills like flams, drags, and rolls. Adding subtle amounts of swing to your grooves and fills can transform the mundane into the magical. These common yet easily overlooked techniques can add extra flavor and just the right spice to your playing.
Following are some suggested fills that you can apply to the beats found in the article “49 Grooves Every Drummer Must Know,” from DRUM! Magazine’s May 2014 “Style Issue,” which goes on sale on April 15. You can buy the issue on newsstands o match the grooves and fills, or order it online by going here.
Latin/Caribbean Styles (Bossa, Samba, Mambo, Cha Cha)
Latin music usually doesn’t need busy fills, if only because the basic grooves are usually busy enough. Sometimes a simple fill can be like a breath of fresh air. So for Latin styles, shorter fills often work better and many have that hint of swing that lands somewhere between a straight feel and a triplet. Imagine an egg rolling end over end. Widely spaced flams and buzzes can be very effective here. At first, it’s easier to pause the foot ostinato when you play fills, but if you can, play them over it.