A drummer often serves a supportive role within an ensemble, but drum fills offer a drummer the opportunity to add some personality and excitement to the music! Drum fills are an essential part of a drummer’s toolbox.
What is a drum fill?
A drum fill is a short musical transition that signifies to a listener that the music is shifting towards a new passage, such as a chorus.
In this article, I’ll share with you a selection of 8 awesome beginner drum fills that should be reasonably easy to get to grips with behind the drum set. They’re all in standard 4/4 time and 1-bar in length.
Important note: For each of the following drum fills, I have included a simple 1-bar beginner drum beat that appears before the fill. This helps you understand what it’s like to play a drum fill in its intended purpose; as a musical transition!
Beginner Drum Fills
Beginner Drum Fill 1:
The “Straight Eight” is a super easy and straightforward drum fill! It’s 8th notes played around the drum set, starting on the snare drum and then working your way around the rack toms and finally the floor tom. When practicing this, aim to develop a smooth transition between the drum beat and the drum fill, getting ready to lead with your right hand on the snare drum.
Beginner Drum Fill 2:
Next up, we have a really fun and simple drum fill that’s all played on the snare drum. The first two beats are made up of 8th notes, before it accelerates to 16th notes for the second half of the bar. These 16th notes will be counted as ‘3, e, &, a, 4, e, &, a’. It’s a really popular fill that can be heard across countless songs in popular music!
Beginner Drum Fill 3:
I call this one “The Pause” - it’s incredibly simple yet super effective at building tension in music! It’s often unexpected and does a great job at allowing the music to breathe before the new musical passage hits. Simply hit the snare drum, floor tom, and press down on the bass drum pedal all at the same time. Play the beat with loud dynamics at Fortissimo for maximum effect, and don’t forget to count the measures!
Beginner Drum Fill 4:
Alright, next up is the “2 Over 1” and this is an exciting drum fill because it sounds much harder than it really is. It’s straight 8th notes just like Fill No.1, but here after we play R L with the hands it’s followed by a single kick drum with your foot, and then goes back to the hands again. This drum fill sounds great fast but don’t get ahead of yourself! Be sure to master it at a slow tempo before building up the speed.
Beginner Drum Fill 5:
I like to call this the “Build Up,” and it’s another one of those classic rock drum fills that adds a serious amount of power and punch into a transition. Aim for consistency with the gradual crescendo as you play the 8th notes on the rack tom with your left hand, floor tom with your right, and kick drum with your foot. This staple fill can be heard on plenty of hits, trust me!
Beginner Drum Fill 6:
Now we’re entering mostly 16th note territory and we’re picking up the subdivision pace a little! This is a cool fill that utilizes crash and kick drum accents in between the 16th note snare drum hits. Each grouping of snare drums has four hits: R L R L sticking. Remember to count the 16th notes as: “1, e, &, a” etc!
Beginner Drum Fill 7:
Here we have one of the most fun beginner drum fills to play, hands down! It’s a bar of continuous 16th notes, but it’s a linear drumming pattern that has a sticking of R L R K - right hand on the snare, followed by left hand on rack tom, then right hand floor tom and finally a kick. Once you’ve locked it in it’s satisfying to play, and it’s something you’ll carry with you even when you progress onto a pro drum set.
Beginner Drum Fill 8:
Lastly on this list of drum fills is the “Classic Triplet”, and these are 8th note triplets. These triplets are three evenly spaced notes in the space of two 8th notes. I like to count triplets as “1, trip, let, 2, trip let” and so on. It might take some time to familiarize yourself with, but learning to play a triplet rhythm will open up so many more avenues to your drumming.
When learning to play beginner drum fills, it’s important to remember to lead with your dominant hand into the fills. By this I mean, if you’re right handed, you want to lead with a sticking pattern of R L R L.
You’ll also want to practice with a metronome to help you stay in time and really strengthen your understanding of meter. It’s super important for drummers to play with consistency at an even tempo!
Another thing to remember is not to get ahead of yourself when practicing. Although it might feel like you’ve grasped an exercise fairly quickly, the reality is that it takes a lot of repetition to build the muscle memory that allows you to remember how to play a pattern with ease.
Enjoy practicing these drum fills, and have fun incorporating them into your daily drumming!
Gideon Waxman is a London based drummer and music educator who holds a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Westminster. You can read more of his advice over at his popular online music resources Drum Helper and Strong Sounds.