Beginner's Course

What you’ll learn in this lesson:

  • What are drum fills are and why do we play them?
  • A new counting system
  • How to develop simple drum fills
  • How your drum fills and grooves can fit together to create interesting drum parts


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What exactly are drum fills?

As drummers, our most important role is to create a solid sense of time on which the other instruments can build their parts and most often, we achieve this by playing grooves. Consequently, the ability to play many different and interesting drumbeats is indispensable.

However, now that you’ve taken your first steps towards accomplishing this, it’s time start developing your ability to play drums fills.

Drum fills are short patterns, commonly involving the use of the snare drum and toms, which are used to ‘break up’ the groove and add interest to your drum part. It’s common to use drum fills to link different sections of a tune. So for example, drum fills might be used to create an interesting transition between the verse and the chorus of a song.

Next, you’ll begin developing your ability to play fills incorporating sixteenth notes.

Another counting system

So far, everything we’ve played has been based around a single counting system which divides each beat into two. In this lesson we’ll be using another counting which divides the beat into four. Here it is:

1 e + d   2 e + d   3 e + d   4 e + d

Notice that there are sixteen counts here. This is how we say them:

“One… ee… an… duh…   two… ee… an… duh…   three… ee… an… duh…   four… ee… an… duh…”

When counting, all of the counts should be evenly spaced. The numbers still represent the beats and the ‘ands’ still represent the halfway points between the beats but in order to subdivide the beat further, we introduce the “ee’s” and the “ah’s” in between.

One complete cycle of this count is called a bar unless you’re American, in which case it’s called a measure.

Because there are sixteen counts, this counting system is referred to as the sixteenth-note count.

Check out the video clip to hear exactly how this should sound.

Once you feel comfortable with this count work through the following exercise, which guides you step-by-step through the process of developing some simple but effective drum fills.

Step 1

In the same way that you began playing the hi-hat in Lesson 1, count eight-notes out loud and when you’re comfortable, play a single note with the right-hand, this time on the snare, with each count:



Step 2

Next we’re going to double the number of notes in the second bar by adding the left-hand. Notice the part that the right-hand is playing doesn’t actually change – the extra notes come from playing the left-hand in between the right-hand.

When you’re comfortable with this, try changing the count in the second bar to the sixteenth-note count so that it matches the snare drum part.

BC 16th Fills Notation 2.png

Step 3
The next step is to move all of the snare drum notes in the first bar to the hi-hat. Notice that the second bar doesn’t change so the right hand will have to move from the hi-hat to the snare at the end of the first bar.

BC 16th Fills Notation 3.png

Step 4
Now we’ll complete the groove in the first bar by adding bass drum and snare drum. As in Lesson 1 the bass drum will come on counts ‘1’ and ‘3’, and the snare drum will come on counts ‘2’ and ‘4’.


Step 5
Finally, let’s make the whole thing a little longer by turning it into a four bar loop. We’ll d this by playing the groove three times and then the fill in the fourth bar. To keep things tidy, play the crash cymbal on beat ‘1’ of the very first bar.

BC007.5 Notation.png

 Excellent work! Keep practicing this until you are very comfortable with it. Then move onto the next lesson where we’ll develop this drum fill further.