Focus On Your Foot

Add Bass Drum To Fills

This may shock some of you but most drum students today seem to have little to no knowledge of great bands like e Beatles or Led Zeppelin. You might as well ask them about the Tommy Dorsey band or to pick their favorite John Philip Sousa march. So I recommend my students occasionally tune in to a radio station that plays music they usually don’t hear — like ’70s and ’80s classic rock or ’50s and ’60s “oldies” — to check out the drum parts.

My reason for doing this has less to do with educating them about the rock bands their grandparents loved and more to do with how drum styles evolve every decade or so. The things drummers used to do are often later lost simply because they sound old fashioned to the next generation of players.

One example of this is how drummers like Keith Moon and many others would often play bass drum under fills. He’d routinely add busy syncopated fills on top of an eighth-note bass drum pattern, which would add a steady pulse on the bottom and make the fills drive harder. is technique can be used in lots of fills, and doesn’t need to be composed of only steady eighth-notes. Sixteenths played with double bass is a modern adaptation of the idea, and even quarter-notes can be effective.

Another way to make a syncopated fill more interesting and challenging is to use your bass drum as a third voice. Adding bass drum notes in the gaps creates modern and interesting linear fills. Many drummers like to plug all the gaps in their fills, creating more flowing and ultimately less syncopated fills, but it’s hardly a rule. You can leave holes (rests) and add bass drum notes wherever you desire, which creates a more broken and syncopated feel that seems to start and stop.

Build With Your Bass Drum

A “build” is a simple and subtle fill — most often unison eighth- or sixteenth-note crescendos on the snare and floor tom — that can effectively transition from one song section to another. However, they can also be played with the bass drum alone under your backbeats to indicate a section change. Try playing a crescendo during your builds for more impact.

Another related technique is to play simple fills over bass drum builds. Combining both effects together adds more power under the fill.

Feel Change

You can use your bass drum to change from a straight feel to a swung feel by modulating to a triplet bass drum pattern.

Style Change

First, play a lightly swung rock groove with the kick on 1 and 3. is is the grandmother of all rock beats. Guess what happens when you move the bass drum to 2 and 4 to coincide with the backbeats? Instant reggae groove!

Page 3 of 4
Get the How To Tune Drums Minibook when you subscribe to our newsletter