Drum fills are one of the first tricks drummers want to learn when getting their first drum set. No matter the style of music that you’re into – rock, jazz, metal, funk – you can use a fill to increase the playing experience for yourself, your band, and your audience.
These short passages full the transition between parts of a song. Drummers will use them when they want to let the band and listener know a change is coming. Not only does it make the playing experience more enjoyable for everyone in the band, but it helps listeners anticipate the next section of a great tune.
So, how long should a drum fill be? This all depends on your preference. We wanted to explore drills brought forward by the legend himself Neil Peart to give you a better understanding of what they should sound like and how you can incorporate them into your playing.
If you haven’t done so already, we invite you to listen to the following fills by Neil E. Peart! Now a retired musician, Peart is remembered for his epic rock career as the primary lyricist for the rock band Rush.
Here are some iconic fills to enjoy and revisit:
1. “Tom Sawyer”
The percussion solo in this song should be mandatory listening for drummers of all ages and skill levels. There are two fills within this piece the first one being trickier than it seems. The second is the famous quadruplet with triplet fill. If you want to go straight to the drum fill fast forward to 2:35 in this tune.
2. “The Enemy Within”
If you listen closely, he is playing a lot more notes than it may seem during his drum fill within this song. It’s a bit deceptive but it just shows how you can create an illusion for your audience that gets them hyped.
3. “Between the Wheels”
The fill in this song is found at the end of the solo section and makes a great example of how Peart used precision and control. It’s a great one to practice and we’re sure you’ll have a lot of fun trying to get it down. If you don’t get it, remember it’s a challenge even for experts.
4. “Free Will”
The fill in this tune comes before the second chorus. You can really hear the control and strong feel incorporated into it. Notice how Peart takes the hi-hat to the ride cymbal. There are so many great fills in this song making it hands down one of his best!
The fill that brings this song to an end is considered a masterpiece not only by us but many listeners. Peart combines all his best elements up to date with this breathtaking fill. If you haven’t heard it, prepare for it to be etched in your mind forever!
There are a few fills in this tune, one of them beginning in the solo section. This is a 4-stroke riff, however, it’s a bit difficult to get the right feel for it even if you understand how to play it. Peart does an amazing job landing an “off” beat. You’ll notice in his other song, “The Digital Man” he shares many of the elements found in his “YYZ” fill.
These are all great drum fills brought forward by the legend himself. Other great tunes by him that you should listen to in your free time include “Leave That Thing Alone”, “Vital Signs”, and “The Spirit of Radio”.
How To Create A Drum Fill?
Excited about learning how to play a drum fill? With practice and dedication, you’ll get to the level you wish to reach. Always trust a few steps.
1. Start with a Rudiment
You want to begin with a rudiment which is fundamental in percussion music. Familiarize yourself with the stick pattern on the snare drum. After you’ve mastered it try playing this same rudiment on different drums.
2. Practice with a Pad Set
While you can play a fill on one drum, things get more interesting when they are played on multiple drums and cymbals. Consider purchasing a practice pad set to work on your drum fills. This helps you get comfortable with the movement and practice drum fills repeatedly without damaging your hearing.
3. Don’t Expect Great Results Right Away
Just like anything else you’re trying to learn, begin slowly. Get all the fundamentals and basics down before going into a more difficult drum fill (like Neil Peart’s). You want to practice every day – even if it’s just for a little while – to see the best results.
When To Use a Drum Fill?
There are times when a fill is appropriate. For instance, you must treat them as ad-libs since they can be played at just about any time during a tune. They contribute to songs when you’re switching from one structural element to the next. For example, just before a chorus begins you can use a loud rumble on the toms to tie both sections together.
Other great times to use a drum fill include:
- When you’re playing a drum beat and want to break up the pace.
- At the end of a bar or as a transition between versus and choruses.
- Use a drum fill when changing time signatures halfway through a song.
To play to the best of your ability you need to learn how to successfully leave a beat and then come back to that same beat again. These ad lib characters of fills relate to both the position and contents of the tune.
Learning how to play successful drum fills is essential to your playing abilities. If you need help creating unique patterns, consider getting a drum fill system. This is a step-by-step program that will teach your fills through many different music genres including jazz, rock, or metal. You’ll eventually grow out of the repetitive rudiments and be on your way to creating stunning fills.