DrumAce Blog - Where do you start a drum fill?

During a private one to one drum lesson with one of my drum pupils last night we came across an issue that we had never confronted before during our drum lessons. My drum pupil didn't know how, or at least, didn't feel comfortable breaking away from a drum beat and into a drum fill. This is quite a fundamental skill so I thought I would discuss it briefly here.

This is a skill that drummers learn naturally over time by playing along to music. As you copy the drum parts to your favourite songs you learn where other drummers break away from a groove and into a drum fill. Where you start a drum fill and how long it lasts for is totally dependant on the song itself and the context of the music. There is no stick fast rule that can be applied here so it just requires experience and time behind the kit copying, listening and analyzing the way other drummers do it. Learning from others.

You might choose to place the drum fill when the melody starts to build up just before a chorus for example but generally a fill starts where the music requires a little 'pick-me-up'. The drum fill is designed to add excitement and tension to a song letting everyone know that something is going to happen next (such as moving to the chorus or to support a guitar solo).

Knowing exactly where within a bar to actually start the fill (which beat it starts on for example) is another skill that needs to be learnt through experience. You could start the drum fill in the usual places such as beat 1 of the bar, beat 3 or beat 4 but then you could also go for some more unusual places such as just after beat 3 or beat 2. We would go over all of these points in great detail during drum lessons with me so don't worry if this doesn't make sense to you.

The one general rule that can be applied 95% of the time is that no matter where the drum fill is started from it will almost always end on beat 1 of the next bar. If you have an 8 bar verse for example then the drum fill might be started somewhere within the eighth bar but then would end on beat 1 of the ninth bar (where the melody repeats for another 8 bars). This rule isn't set in concrete and is down to subjective interpretation but is a safe and common place to end a drum fill.