Drum Fills Part 1

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 24,819
    Expert drummer Wes Crawford breaks down drum fills on the drum set.

    Wes Crawford

    Wes began his professional music career after graduating with a B.S. in Psychology at Virginia Tech. Soon thereafter, he began performing drumset with the extraordinary Jazz/R&B singer Jane L. Powell, a musical association that lasted eleven years and continues as a managerial relationship. The group toured throughout North America and the Caribbean performing at festivals, universities, resorts, nightclubs, and cruise ships. They opened for such acts as Ray Charles, Melba Moore, Freddie Jackson, Lou Rawls, The Crusaders, Joan Jett, Ernie Watts, and Paula Poundstone, and occasionally performed alongside artists such as Tony Bennett, O.C. Smith, and Dorothy Moore. The 1,300 colleges and universities comprising the National Association for Campus Activities voted the group Entertainer of the Year in 1990, their highest honor, and Jazz Artist of the Year for 1990-1992. During these years of touring, Wes also recorded two albums with Ms. Powell as well as for several outside artists. Wes also conducted electronic percussion seminars at VA Tech and at the Virginia Governor’s School for the Gifted. In 1992, Wes settled with his family in the Washington, DC area as an independent artist on drumset and percussion where he currently performs and records with acts such as Shahin & Sepehr (Higher Octave/Narada world music recording artists), Cocktail Nuts (aka “C-NUTS”- Jazz versions of rock classics, on Wildchild/Mapleshade Records), mrudangam virtuoso Umayalpuram K. Shivaraman (including a clinic at PASIC 2000 and a featured performance at Baltimore Drum Day 2000), Squeeze Bayou (1998 winners of the “Best Non-Louisiana-Based Cajun Band Recording” awarded by the Cajun French Music Association), and Night Life (high-energy show band). Wes has also regularly performed and/or recorded with Aisha Kahlil (of Sweet Honey in the Rock), Eva Cassidy, Catalyst Events’ “Beatswork!,” Zydeco Crayz, Mary Ann Borelli, “Oh Susannah!”, Sugar Jones, and Armadillo recording artist Daryl Davis. His other noteworthy performances and recordings include those with the David Bach Consort (2nd place winner in the 1998 BET unsigned band video contest), Hennesy Jazz Search regional winner Jerry Gordon, and performances with Milestone recording artist Ron Holloway. Wes considers education to be an important link to the future of the percussive arts and teaches drumset privately and at Goucher College in Baltimore, MD. He also performs in public school assemblies with Mosaic, which provided the musical instruction and curriculum for the 2000 Maryland Artist/Teacher Institute. Wes serves as the Director of the annual Drumset And Percussion Camp of the Goucher Summer Arts Institute and as Vice-President of the MD/DE chapter of the Percussive Arts Society. In 2000, Wes started MusicAndGames4U.com, a site to feature his interactive educational media such as his popular “Drumset Play-Along DVD.” His latest “A Rhythmic Murder Mystery” interactive DVD features a solo electronic drumset concert, which he also performs live. Wes holds Associate Artist relationships with Maryland Drum Company and with Trueline Drumsticks, and he occasionally works as Music Consultant for the not-for-profit Sustainable Environments for Health + Shelter.

    Wes Crawford: Hi! I am Wes Crawford and now as we study the performance on the drum set, we are going to talk about fills.

    Very often as weve discussed we will be playing a study pattern using our four limbs with different sounds on the drum set to keep the beat for a song and this really holds the band together, the drummer is the heartbeat of the band.

    Well, sometimes as youll notice, if you watch drummers and listen to music, the drummer will go away from that beat and maybe play something around the drums. It might be something complex, it might be something for a long time, it might be something very short, but we call all of these things fills.

    And the drummer does not display random fills wherever they want, if they do, very often the drummer will be fired. We dont want to be fired so we want to know when to play these fills. This is the first thing to learn before you even learn what to play as a fills, when to play them.

    Very often a song is made up of different sections and its very important for us to understand the form that songs are made up of, we call it a Song Form. The verse as we all know in pop music is where the story is being told, the lyrics or one part of the melody is happening. Then often we kick it up a notch, we get a little more excited and if there are lyrics, the lyrics might repeat over-and-over, its called the Hook and its the part that were seeing in our minds over-and-over when we think of that song, then we might go back to a verse and tell some more story.

    If we go to a third section of a song, its called the Bridge and this will just sound even different, and so we can mix-and-match these sections up in any number of ways to create full songs in popular music.

    As we change from one section to another very often, its left to the drummer to do a short or small fill to act as punctuation to show everybody, hey, the next sections coming up. So, thats the most important place to do a fill. This is one place youll probably be asked to do a fill if you are playing a song, to mark the end of one section in the beginning of another.

    Another place you might do a fill would be in some section the song that is very sparse or there is nothing going on, maybe there is silence and its up to the drummer to fill that up, maybe thats where the word Fill came from, but we want to do a fill or play around the drums or whatever during the section to fill it up the space sonically.

    So, those were the two main places youll need to or want to do a fill in popular music.