Free Drum Lesson: Beginner Lesson 5 – 12/8 Basic Drum Fills and Licks
Here is a selection of basic drum fills written in the 12/8 time signature for you to try. Eventually you want to be able to play them with the drum beats found in the 12/8 Basic Drum Beats lesson. These fills are to be learnt off by heart (if possible) so that when played you aren’t having to think about it so much. This allows you time to be thinking about the more important things such as where to place the drum fill and what drum fill to use rather than how to actually play the drum fill itself.
If you find that you are able to play these ideas already then you can skip straight to the intermediate lesson by clicking here.
Each drum fill has been written with a basic drum beat leading into it and all the examples either start on beat 3 or beat 4. This is where most drummers choose to play their fills. It’s rare for a drummer to play fills over more than a couple of beats but again, there are plenty of examples where this is not the case. If you are not sure how to count these drum fills then please re-visit the 12/8 Basic Drum Beats lesson for examples and explanations.
Once each fill has been mastered it is up to you to perform them with varying drum beats from the 12/8 Basic Drum Beats lesson. A full explanation of how to use the fills with the drum beats is explained at the end of the Basic Drum Fills lesson.
All the fills have the hands written above them, that’s R for the right hand and L for the left hand. Remember that the suggested sticking (the hands used to perform the fill) are merely that – suggestions. It is up to you to if you want to experiment with your own hand combinations but the stickings I have used here are the ones that I (and most drummers) tend to use and are a great starting point to work from.
Some of the drum fills start with the left hand (if right handed) so be careful to look out for those. The reason for this is that some of the drum fills last for only three notes; they need to start with the left hand to allow the right hand the freedom at the end of the fill to move back to the Hi-Hat for the next bar.
It’s just a suggested hand order but the stickings used here really help when the fill is played at a fast tempo and when there is a risk of the hands getting confused, muddled up and hitting each other. Try playing theses drum fills using opposite hands (to the stickings suggested) and you’ll see what I mean!
Most of these drum fills include at least one kick drum note so be careful to look out for those. Using the bass drum is one way for the drummer to free up their hands when playing fast drum fills. It also makes the fill sound more interesting and exciting (in my humble opinion).
An audience watching a drummer will often be surprised and impressed to see the drummer play a drum fill which includes the kick drum because the audience can hear the bass note but can’t see where or how the note was played. It allows the drummer time to rest his hands, just for the fraction of a second, and move the hands to another drum if required.
Be careful that the bass drum notes used in the drum fills do not interrupt the flow of notes. All the notes should be evenly spaced and the bass drum should not disrupt the timing of the hands in the drum fill.
Play these slowly while at the same time listening to the sound of the fill. If it sounds like the bass drum is causing the fill to “stutter” then slow back down again and focus on making the flow of notes smooth and even.
Great, if you’re ready then we can get started!
Drum Fill 1
This drum fill starts on Beat 4 of the bar and lasts for just three notes. I have suggested you start this fill with your left hand so that your right hand is then free to move back to the Hi-Hat for Beat 1 again. Make sure that these three snare drum notes are played at the same speed as the Hi-Hat notes as they are all the same speed.
Drum Fill 1 (Drum Kit Variation)
The first two notes are played on tom-toms with the left hand on the high tom (sometimes called the first rack tom) and the right hand on the low tom (sometimes called the floor tom).
Drum Fill 2
Very similar to Drum Fill 1 but this time starting on Beat 3 of the bar and lasting six notes instead of just three. The fill can start with the right hand because the six notes (six being an even number) allow the fill to end with a left hand – allowing the right hand time to move back to the Hi-Hat as explained previously.
Drum Fill 2 (Drum Kit Variation)
The six notes that make up this drum fill can be split up into three groups of two. This allows the drummer to split the drum fill up over three different sound sources; in this case, the snare, high tom and floor tom. Make sure that all six notes are still played evenly; there should be no breaks or rests when moving between each drum.
Drum Fill 3
This is the first drum fill to include a bass drum and it actually falls on Beat 4 of the bar followed by the hands (RL). Try playing the three notes that make up the drum fill on their own in a loop to get an idea of what the fill sounds like in isolation. This is a great little “drum lick” in its right and if played evenly at fast tempos can be very impressive. Drummers such as John Bonham and Steve Gadd have use these three notes (one bass drum and two hands) a lot and prove to very popular amongst other players too. Try it out!
Drum Fill 3 (Drum Kit Variation)
You can simply move the two hand notes to any drums you like. I have suggested the floor tom but try different drums or even splitting the hands up over two different drums. Your own ideas are just as important as the ones I have given you.
Drum Fill 4
Exactly the same as Drum Fill 3 but this time starting on Beat 3 and played twice. The two groups of three notes make a six note drum fill and should be played evenly to sound like six notes. Remember that the bass drum is actually being played on Beat 3 and Beat 4 so use this to help you play it accurately.
Drum Fill 4 (Drum Kit Variation)
Again, try your own ideas on which drums to use for the two hand notes. This variation suggests playing the first two hands on the high tom and the second on the floor tom.
Drum Fill 5
This drum fill takes Drum Fill 2 one stage further and includes a bass drum note at the beginning. Be careful to play exactly five notes on the snare drum starting with the left hand otherwise the drum fill won’t sound correct.
Drum Fill 5 (Drum Kit Variation)
The fill starts on the snare drum then moves down the tom-toms in order of pitch. Make sure that the snare drum note, after the bass drum note, is played only once and is followed by the right hand on the high tom. The hands can get very muddled with this drum fill but it’s well worth practising as it sounds great!
Drum Fill 6
This is the opposite of Drum Fill 3; this time the hands start the fill and the bass drum is played on the third note. This can be tricky as another bass drum note is played on Beat 1 – straight after the last bass drum note of the drum fill. In essence, there are two bass drum notes next to each; the last note of the bar and the first note of the bar.
Drum Fill 6 (Drum Kit Variation)
Play the first note on the high tom, the second on the snare and the third note on the bass drum. Voila!
Drum Fill 7
This can sound really cool at fast tempos but can be tricky to loop as the two bass drum notes (at the end of the drum fill and on Beat 1) are played next to each other. Don’t try to play this too fast at first as mistakes can occur.
Drum Fill 7 (Drum Kit Variation)
The hands are moving around the drums in interesting ways. The first two hands are played on the medium tom while the next two hands are played on the floor tom and snare drum. Make your own combinations up but try not to get your hands confused, if you stick with the RL sticking then you should be ok.
Drum Beat 8
This drum fill combines Drum Fill 6 with Drum Fill 1 and can be a lot of fun to play. It can also cause problems for drummers who aren’t able to place a bass drum note in the middle of the fill without breaking up the flow notes. I have suggested using the sticking LRL for the last three notes so that you find it easier to get back to the Hi-Hat on Beat 1.
Drum Fill 8 (Drum Kit Variation)
The three notes on Beat 4 are played on the snare, high tom and floor tom. That means (if using the LRL sticking) that the left hand is going to cross under the right hand to play the floor tom (this is called cross sticking – where sticks cross over and under each other). With a little practice it is possible to play this fill at a fast tempo without the sticks hitting each other. Just take it slow to start off with and be patient!
In order to learn how to use these drum fills properly you need to be able perform them with different drum beats. It’s no good being to play a drum fill on its own if you then can’t play it with a drum beat, or indeed, different drum beats.
I suggest that you take each of the drum beats from the 12/8 Basic Drum Beats lesson found on this site and carefully play each bar of groove with each of the drum fills written here. Yes I know, that’s A LOT of variations but then you should want to play lots of variations; it’s no good being a one trick pony or, in this case, a one groove drummer!
To start off with you want to practice playing the whole bar of the chosen drum beat once and then, on the repeat of the bar, insert the chosen drum fill onto the end. Simply play this two bar groove around and around without stopping until it is comfortable and effortless. You can then speed it up if desired.
Visit the end of the Basic Drum Fills lesson for two examples of how to include a drum beat with a drum fill and make it into a two bar exercise.