Advice on rolls and fills

  I got a question a while back from a drummer in India. I typed up a WAY to lengthy response (yes, I still answer all of my own e-mail) and decided I would share the answer with all of you. Question: I’ve just recently started playing in my church and I need some hints regarding rolls and fills…any ideas? Answer: Hints regarding rolls…hmmm…that’s an ambiguous question, but I’ll give you a long answer and hopefully it’ll hit on something that will help…and if it doesn’t, hit me back up w/ a more specific question. First let me say, kudos for playing in church! I started playing in church at 14 and it gave me 3 times a week to perform in front of a live audience…PRICELESS! You’re gonna get TONS better just from learning and working through the music and getting that much on stage experience and time. Stoked for ya! The most common problems I see w/ rolls are as follows: 1. The roll gets out of time with the song or the drummer comes back in incorrectly. 2. The fill rushes/drags. 3. The fill is to “Chopsy” (in other words, it’s really flashy and shows off the drummers chops). 4. The fill doesn’t fit the style of music being played. Ok…now that I’ve diagnosed the majority of problems drummers have w/ fills, here’s some quick fixes… 1. The roll gets out of time with the song or the drummer comes back in incorrectly. This is very common w/ new drummers…lets face it, we didn’t start drumming so we could play 30 minutes of groove timekeeping…We like the flashy stuff! And fills can be flashy. Alot of times a young drummer will get excited when they go into a fill, causing them to lose the beat and get “lost” in the fill. And when we’re lost, we do the first thing that makes sense…we come back into the groove…and often we come back in on the “and” of 4…or two…or we turn the beat completely around…I did ALL of these when I first started! The cool thing about a church gig (and lots of others) is that you’ll get the music beforehand, often up to a couple of weeks beforehand. THIS IS THE BEST GIFT THE BAND LEADER COULD EVER GIVE YOU!!! It not only gives you the chance to learn new music, it gives you the opportunity to PRACTICE to that new music. So pick out a simple fill you’ve been working on, listen to the song, learn where the transitions are, and then practice playing that same fill throughout the song. Once you get that one down, make up another fill and do the same thing, and another, and another…do this repeatedly. What repitition does is build confidence. When you go to play live in front of people, you’re going to be nervous…and if you’re not nervous, you’re going to have extra adrenaline and endorphins kicking in, so the likelihood of you “screwing up” is higher due to the intensity and excitement being higher…and the way to defeat onstage nerves is to practice the things you’ll be playing in front of people until you can do them in your sleep…that and stay away from the Red Bull ;^) 2. The fill rushes/drags. My answer for the last one comes into play quite a bit with this one as well. That being said, this is where your metronome (Sounds of drummers moaning and cursing) comes in handy…and if you don’t have one, please get one. There are several you can find online that will let you use them for free as well as a ton of free/paid apps for your mobile device. Pick a groove, pick a fill, and pick a comfortable tempo. Play 4 bars of groove, one bar of fill (In time preferably). Repeat this eight gajillion times. 3. The fill is to “Chopsy” (in other words, it’s really flashy and shows off the drummers chops instead of serving the music). This is a HUGE pet peeve of mine…PLAY FOR THE SONG! When you’re playing with a group of musicians (especially in a church setting), you’re a part of a group, something bigger than your own individual playing. A huge out of place fill does nothing but detract from the song and draw attention to the drummer. Fills can often be one or two notes and fit the moment perfectly. This is very true in a church setting where the purpose is to draw peoples attention towards God rather than towards the musicians. Focus on simple fills that fit the mood and the moment…if you’re going to the bridge of a song maybe an eighth note build between the floor tom and snare is all you need to build the moment. If you’re going from the verse to the chorus maybe 2 beats of sixteenth notes on the snare will suffice. There are literally MILLIONS of options, just choose one that fits. The longer you do this, the more you’ll actually stray away from the chopsy style of playing and aim more for the tasty style of playing…one that serves a purpose bigger than you…and you’ll be suprised to find that there are a few places to throw some flash in AND serve the music! 4. The fill doesn’t fit the style of music being played. If you’re playing reggae, there are certain fills that are native to that music…if you’re playing funk, there are certain fills that are native to funk…if you’re playing jazz…and so on and so forth. LISTEN to the style of music and the types of songs you’ll be playing…take the time to transcribe and learn note for note some of the recurring fills you here in a certain genre of music. Take the songs that you’ll be performing and try playing these transcribed fills over them. Any language has words and phrases that are native to it…and music is just another language…learn it, learn how to connect your phrases…the best thing you can do is listen…in the car, at the gym, while you’re falling asleep…listen and learn.