Ruffling Up Classic Fills

I was on a recording session years ago and the producer asked me to play a fill that was more “classic.” He was referring to the special fills created by drumming legends such as Al Jackson, Hal Blaine, Ringo Starr, Charlie Watts, John Bonham, and Nigel Olson. I understand what he meant because I’ve listened to and studied all these fine drummers. Most of the rhythms associated with these fills are simple eighth-/sixteenth-note combinations. A slinkier, more “soulful” quality can be achieved by using drags and ruffs before and within the fill.

Practice the basic rhythm and then incorporate ruffs. The ruffs can be played very open (both notes speak perfectly) or closed (buzzed). Both ways communicate different attitudes. Check out Otis Redding, The Beatles, The Stones, Elton John, and Led Zeppelin as a start. You will hear these fills! Incorporate them into your playing and make them your own. Remember: “Good composers borrow, but great composers steal.” Get busy stealing now!

DRUM! Notation Guide