Playing a drum fill in any song is one of the coolest things you can do as a drummer. A drum fill (also known as a drum break) is your little window to show your skills. Learning how to play drum fills can be just as fun. Think of a drum fill as a small solo, in which you must transition the song to the next section. Before you move onto the Drum Soloing page, stop; a drum solo and drum fill are not the same thing. There are a lot of dos and don’ts with drum fills. So take this mini lesson as a guide to playing a drum fill!
To learn how to play drum fills, you first need to know where you are going to play them. There are many places you can play a drum fill. There is an intro fill, where you play something before the song starts. There is an outro fill, where you play a small fill as the song ends. Then there is the most common, the transition fill. This fill is used when a song transitions from the verse to the chorus and vice versa. Once you figure out where you want to play a fill, you need to determine how long a fill you want to play. This is very personal depending on the song you are playing. If you are playing a really fast song, you may want to only want to play a 2 bar fill. Determine how long you have before transitions. If you want to play a longer fill, you may want to start your fill during the regular beat to get a head start.
Now you need to determine what type of fill you want to play. Most beginner drummers will start thrashing away at their toms and end with a cymbal crash. This is because they think that a fill is supposed to be full of loud drumming and cymbals. This is far from the truth. A fill is not just a solo piece; a fill is a break in time where you play special patterns to add feeling. A fill can be anything from a 32nd note roll to a single hit on the bass drum. You can play these simple drum fills an any style of musc, even the Latin style and jazz style! Take a look at these next examples, they are 2 bar fills that are pretty different. One is a pretty fast fill with a loud cymbal crash; the other is a quieter fill, with a single bass drum beat. Try both of these in your next song and see what the difference is! (click here to learn how to read drum notation)
These are just 2 of many examples you could use for drum fills. There is literally no end to the variety of fills you can play. Experiment with both types of fills and see which ones work best for certain songs.If you really want to master the art of drum fills, make sure you can play the double bass drum, adding this into drum fills will increase your level of drumming by alot! Also, try playing these drum fills in different time signature grooves. Remember that a fill is supposed to fit the song and accent the other members of the band; in rock bands especially! So really take some time to feel the song and chose the right fills for you. You will have a lot easier of a time joining a band when you know how to play propper drum fills and breaks.
Learn how to play drum fills with Mike Michalkow's complete Drumming System!