Tired of the Same Old Stuff You've Been Playing? Use This Step-By-Step Process To Create New, Incredible Sounding Drum Fills.

5 Steps To Great Sounding Drum Fills

Table of Contents

The Problem: Stale Fills

A frequent complaint I hear from students it this: “I am sick of the drum fills I play. They’re always the same and I’m just tired of them. I need something new and fresh.”  I understand. And I can help. I’ve got a method that will help you come up with some new fresh ideas.
So, what to do? If you will indulge me here, I’ll share with you one way that is guaranteed to result in some interesting new vocabulary. 

A Solution: These 5 Steps

Let’s go through the steps. Note that I’ve provided a PDF for you that follows the exact steps we’ll talk about here. You can check that out and download it here: 5 Steps to Great Drum Fills

Step 1: Choose a Metric

What rhythm are you going to work with?

Chances are you’re going to want 16th notes or 16th note triplets or maybe even 32nd notes.

But whatever it is, just choose one to start. It can be whatever subdivision you want, but we need a place to start. In the example on our PDF worksheet, we start with 16th notes and we’re thinking about coming up with a two measure phrase in 4/4 time.

Step 2: Pick a Pattern / Phrase 

Now, we want to add some shape to this.  In our example, I picked a 7 note phrase consisting of a paradiddle-diddle followed by a bass drum note: RLRRLL plus FOOT.

Why?  It’s not something I spent much time thinking about. I just thought it might sound cool and I like applying 7 note phrases to things because of how different they can sound.

It doesn’t matter that much what you pick. Just choose something that appeals to you for whatever reason.  If the fill you come up with doesn’t sound so good to you, you can just start over and pick a different idea to apply. So, no pressure.

Step 3: Write It Out Until It Resolves

Look on the worksheet and you’ll see how this works. Simply write out the pattern as 16th notes and continue writing it until it resolves back to “one.” In our example, it takes a full 7 measures of 4/4 time to get there. 

But now, you have everything laid out for you–like a map–and you can choose the bits that work for you. It will be easy to pick the parts that make the most sense.

Step 4: Pick a Chunk from Step 3 that works

You’ll see by looking at the PDF that I chose measures 5 and 6 from step 3 on the worksheet.

I chose those measures because of the ease in getting in and out of the fill. You have to think practically. Is it awkward to play? Does it sound good? In the case of the choices made here, it’s NOT awkward, but it DOES sound good. 

Mission accomplished. That’s why we wrote everything out in Step 3.

Step 5: Orchestrate

Now that we’ve got an idea we like and found a way to get in and out of our groove with it, we can polish it up a bit. One way to do that is just to orchestrate how we’ll play it on the drum set. 

Orchestrate in drum set just means we decide what drums and cymbals we’re going to use. In our case the stickings made that orchestration on #5 rather easy to play. It’s natural to hit the toms as indicated. And it sounds great.

Now What?

Finally, practice it. Live with it. Record yourself playing it. Do you like it? Does it sound like you? 

If so, roll with it (no pun intended). 

If not, start again. You can keep trying this until you find something you like. 

Here’s the PDF again for your convenience: 5 Steps To Great Fills

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