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spacerx img Play Perfect Ad-lib Fills (rolls) in Mid-Song, Every Time.

[NOTICE: This lesson is also in the TD Archives: Lesson Menu #4 - TD #24 . It first appeared as an e-mail (newsletter lesson) back in December of 1998. As time has passed, the message within this lesson has begun to seem so important as to deserve a more prominent position within this course of instruction. That's why you are seeing it here.

This lesson is designed to help you create or improvise fills on-the-fly. It will help you discover a more natural way of playing, as opposed to (robotically) memorizing the classic note value fills. The wise student will learn to do their fills, both ways.

Learn to 'wing it' or improvise creatively and artistically, but also ponder rhythm theory and the note-value relationships as well. This particular lesson is designed to help you learn to 'wing it' creatively. ]

spacerx img Play Perfect Ad-lib Fills (rolls) in Mid-Song, Every Time.

As working drummers, we do essentially two things onstage, with the band. We play beats and rolls. Even our solos are made up of beats and rolls.

"The drummer who dies with the most beats and rolls . . . WINS!"

A 'fill' is a very short roll-burst the drummer may play on the snare drum, tom toms or other accessories, to 'FILL' the dead spots in a song. Usually, we may play a 'fill' when the vocalist or singer takes a breath between the verses of a song.

Sometimes we play 'fills' to add dynamics as the band goes into the more exciting parts of a song, like the bridge, chorus or instrumental ride.

In this lesson, I want to help those of you who may be having trouble with fills and rolls. This is a very simple lesson, but it could save years of grief after you've learned to adapt this knowledge to the songs you'll be hearing every day.

Ad-lib fills, are fills we may create or invent spontaneously as we play along with a song.

We may do anything as a fill, if our timing doesn't get lost in the shuffle . . . . Our fill could be one note or 100 notes, provided we never lose track of the (bass drum) beat and the beat of the song.

In a nutshell . . . It is all in the way we use the bass drum (right foot) to mark-time as we move from a beat to a fill, then back to the beat.

Simply learn to maintain a steady bass drum to mark-time while playing every fill! Once this habit has been established, solid timing and thundering, explosive fills will be the end result.

To be more specific:
As we play most beat patterns in 4/4, the bass is 'natural' when played as half-notes on the counts of 1 & 3.

If we maintain the bass at a constant (half-note) tempo . . . and remember to return to the beat pattern on a bass note (any bass drum note) . . . it will always work out.

Play a Basic Rock beat with the bass on 1 & 3. That's the beat you learned in the 'Drummers Aptitude Test', ( Lesson #1, on Lesson Menu #1.)

Drop your fill. Play anything, on a tom or the snare, but keep your bass constant! Return to the beat on the next (or any) bass drum. The bass will always be at the same tempo. Each bass drum note represents the potential resumption of the beat you were playing before the fill.

Play the 8th 'Rock Beat' we learned in the (first) 'Aptitude' lesson! Just get it going and repeat it over and over . . .

Now, . . . STOP the hands completely, but keep the BASS DRUM going. That 'empty-time' between the bass drums . . . is where your fill will go. Return to the beat on any successive Bass Drum note.

You just played a fill . . . but it was pretty lame! You didn't do anything around the toms or other drums during the empty time.

NOW . . . Do the same thing again . . . but do something (anything) during the dead-space, this time.

*  Play an improvised (ad-libbed) fill . . . within the dead pace . . . then return to the beat.

That's all there is to it! Practice many types of fill patterns using this same simple formula. Invent the fills as you go . . . or listen, then imitate the drummers you'll be hearing on your favorite recordings. You'll discover that they are often doing this very same thing. They're making the fills up on-the-fly, most of the time.

Actually, ad-lib fills are mixed assortments of all the classic note-value fills.

No matter what any drummer decides to play as an ad-lib 'fill', it will end up being a mixed-bag of different note-values and stroke-pattern arrangements . . .

In other words, we can mix any roll-type with any other roll-type. We can do anything, and it will always end up being something, as long as we remain in-time with the music.

It is acceptable to mix any note-value type (ie; 8th notes, 16ths, whatever), with any other note- value type.  (Mix fast notes with slower notes) . . . but keep one ear into the recorded music and return in-time with the recorded drummer, and the beat of the music.

  1. Accent certain notes louder than others . . .
  2. Rest or leave out notes randomly as you prefer . . .
  3. Move to different parts of the kit, while doing all the above.

The possibilities are limitless and there are no mistakes, if we maintain our timing by marking-time with the bass Drum. The objective is to always return to the beat and remain in-time with the music.

To get really good at this, you'll eventually want to learn all the standard fills, as they are described in the Classic Fills, lesson.

In the classic note-value fill lessons, you'll learn (train yourself) to play a bass drum note along with the first note of each half-measure fill-segment, so that the Bass Drum will always be constant, whether playing a beat or a fill. The constant steady bass drum will become a HABIT after awhile.

Also, in Rudiments, Rolls and Fills Part II , we will learn to extend all of the standard fills and a few others, to any length we choose. These standard fills may be varied around the kit, to any of the toms and stretched to any lengths, using this same 'half-measure' formula, marking-time with half notes on the bass drum.

IMPORTANT NOTE: I should also mention here that there are few rules. We do NOT have to begin and end our fills on the bass drum (or downbeat). That isn't a rule! I'm simply teaching you this way to help keep it simple. We may actually begin and/or end our fills at any time we choose. There is really just one rule and one rule only:

spacerx img RULE: We must always remain in-time with the beat of the music.

You'll easily and quickly discover that your fills may be any length, (ie; half-measure, whole-measure, one-and-one-half measures, two-measures or more). It is the drummers choice and it is easy to accomplish, once we 'feel' the bass drum part and the half-measure segments of each fill, first. After that, it's a simple matter of doubling, tripling or quadrupling and mixing the half-measure patterns.

Also; as we are learning at home, there is absolutely no reason we must copy the recorded drummer. That drummer played what they thought sounded best. We should too. Fills may be injected into the music anywhere we choose. It's okay to copy the recorded drummers but it isn't mandatory.

Onstage; there is an 'unwritten rule' that we should usually save our fills for the little lulls that occur as a song progresses. Sometimes the vocalists (singers) get angry if we over-power them with too many (impolite) rolls as they are trying to express themselvess' in a song. However; when we are practicing and learning at home, we are at liberty to play fills anywhere within the song we choose.

spacerx img THOUGHTS & GRINS

A drummer and a bass player were walking in the middle of a forest. Suddenly they saw a hungry tiger barely 10   feet away. The drummer calmly opened his knapsack and took   out his jogging shoes. The bass player said " Hey you   dummy . . .  Do you think you can outrun a hungry tiger?"   The drummer replied . . .  " I only have to outrun you"

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