Free Drum Lesson: “Fa-De-La-Dump” Famous Classic Triplet Drum Fill & Lick
This free drum lesson is going to look at a very famous and popular drum fill that I’ve come to known as being called the “Fa-De-La-Dump“. Any drum fill or drum lick that’s given it’s own name tends to be popular and well used for good reasons.
The name comes from the way it sounds when played around the drums. I’m not sure where I heard the name being used first but most drummers know what you’re talking about it when you refer to it by it’s rather silly sounding name.
I’ve heard many many drummers use this idea before but it tends to be played mostly by rock drummers due to its heavy and tom tom sound. Some of the great drummers that have been recorded using this drum fill include Dave Grohl, John Bonham, Steve Gadd, Vinnie Colaiuta, Matt Sorum, Dave Weckl, Jon Theodore, Keith Moon, Lars Ulrich and Thomas Lang to name but a very few.
It really can be used in any genre of music, not just rock, and has been heard on many recordings for many years! It’s a shame that I don’t know who originally came up with the drum lick but it’s such an obvious combination of strokes to play that it was inevitable that some drummer would have played it eventually.
This famous triplet drum fill can be used in many drumming situations. For example, you might here it as part of a drum fill, as part of a drum solo or even as definitive and punchy ending to a song. In fact, this is where I first heard the lick being played. Many rock drummers play this drum pattern at the end of a song, usually after doing a long cymbal wash or a crescendo around the drums.
Lets look at the basic hand and foot pattern before moving onto the actual drum fill itself.
Basic Hand & Foot Pattern
The drum fill itself consists of just four drum strokes, three with the hands and one with the bass drum. In this musical bar example we see that the pattern has been written out twice (two groups of four notes) but it’s really just the first four notes that make up this drum lick.
The hands are played in a single stroke manner (right, left, right) and all four strokes are to be played smoothly and evenly. The idea when practicing this is to not loop the four notes around again and again but instead to get the four notes to flow one after another in a controlled and even manner. If you then want to loop the four notes then great!
Orchestrating The Hands Around The Drums
The next step is to move the hands to the appropriate drums. This is what gives the “Fa-De-La-Dump” it’s distinctive sound. The right hand plays on the snare drum, the left hand then on the high tom, the right hand then moves to the floor tom and then finally the bass drum at the end.
The drum fill moves around the drums in order of pitch with the highest pitch drum at the beginning (snare drum) and lowest at the end (bass drum). The drum fill/lick is sonically very pleasing to the ears because it moves around the drums from high pitched to low pitched. Very musical!
Once more, all four notes should be played as smoothly as possible. Try to increase the speed the four strokes are played without sacrificing the evenness of the four notes.
Playing Through Eighth Note Triplets
Now we can finally play the drum fill through triplets. This is the drum pattern in its final form. The hands and sticking are exactly the same except now we play the pattern as a triplet based rhythm.
This means that the snare drum falls on the down beat (beat 1 of the bar in the above example) and the bass drum on the next downbeat (beat 2 in this case). All four notes are played evenly spaced between beat 1 and beat 2 of the bar. Beat 3 and 4 are exactly the same as beat 1 and 2.
Playing Through Sixteenth Note Triplets On The Downbeat
This is the most common form of triplet the drum fill is played through, the sixteenth note triplet. Instead on each group of four notes lasting one whole beat of the bar the drum lick now last for just half a beat.
In this example each group of four strokes is started on the downbeat of the bar and ends on the upbeat (the ‘+’).
This drum fill sounds great played at speed so work on increasing the tempo of the drum lick, again, without sacrificing the quality of the sound or the evenness of the four notes.
Playing Through Sixteenth Note Triplets On The Upbeat (Most Popular!)
The sixteenth note triplet drum lick could also be started on the upbeat of the bar as shown in this example. In this case, the first of the four strokes (snare) is played on the ‘+’ and the last note (bass) on the downbeat of the bar.
This is definitely the most common and popular variation because the bass drum ending on the downbeat really helps to sonically resolve the fill in a very satisfying manner. The bass drum falls heavily onto the downbeat of the bar.
Played As A Drum Fill Example 1
Now that we’ve learnt the basic pattern and started to move the drum lick around the bar we can start to play it in context as a drum fill. This above example shows the most common way this drum lick is played as a drum fill.
It starts on the ‘+’ of beat 4 and ends on beat 1 with the bass drum. I’ve written this pattern as out as two bar example to show you how you might continue with the drum beat in the next bar. You can see that the hi-hat is not played on beat 1 of the second bar but comes back in on the ‘+’ of beat 1 instead.
Played As A Drum Fill Example 2
We can also mix the pattern up with other subdivisions as well. In this example the “Fa-De-Le-Dump” is played in between some sixteenth notes. The lick itself starts on the ‘+’ of beat 3 with the bass drum falling on beat 4.
Remember that the sixteenth notes are played slightly slower than sixteenth note triplets.
Played As A Drum Fill Example 3
How about using the other variation, where the triplets start on the downbeat? In this case the drum lick starts on beat 3 of the bar.
Played As A Drum Fill Example 3 (Different Orchestration)
Here we see the previous example but this time the drums being struck have changed. This one bar pattern sounds better when the snare drum is only struck on beats 2 and 4 of the bar maintaining a steady backbeat.
In order to achieve this the snare drum is not included in this orchestration variation, instead we have two medium tom notes, one floor tom and then the bass drum as normal. This gives this variation plenty more bass and power due to it being played predominantly on the tom toms.
Moving The Bass Drum
We can also play around with the order of the notes. In this example the bass drum is played first with the hands after. This variation changes the sound of the drum fill because now the drums aren’t played in order of pitch.
Playing Through Non Triplet Subdivisions (“Stairway To Heaven” Drum Fill Example)
This idea involves playing the same number and order of strokes but instead of it played through triplets, we play through sixteenth notes and thirty second notes.
In this example we see the first two notes of each group of four played as thirty second notes. This means that all four notes take just three sixteenth notes in time to resolve. In other words, the four notes take the same time to play as three sixteenth notes in a row would.
This specific example of thirty second note and sixteenth notes is taken directly from the song “Stairway To Heaven” by the band Led Zeppelin. John Bonham plays this idea during the guitar solo. This drum fill, as well as some other great drum fill/beats, are explained in this free Stairway To Heaven drum lesson available by clicking here.
Extending And Adding To The “Fa-De-La-Dump”
Whenever I learn something new on the drums I’m always looking to take it further. If I invest time and effort into learning a new drum lick then I want to squeeze as much use from it as possible. This drum fill lends itself well to be extended by adding more notes either preceding or following the main drum pattern.
Adding Onto the Fa-De-La-Dump (“Aja” Drum Fill) Example 1
This first example is taken directly from an idea I heard Steve Gadd play on the song “Aja” by Steely Dan. This famous drum solo that Gadd plays has this rather cool sounding extended “Fa-De-La_Dump” lick played through triplets and sixteenth notes.
In the above example the basic drum pattern is proceeded by two extra snare drum notes played with the let hand making this now a six note pattern. This means that a left hand double now starts the lick on the downbeat of each beat of the bar.
You can see that it wouldn’t be too hard to add an extra two notes to the basic pattern and you’ve got yourself a brand new sounding drum fill/solo idea to play with. Cool, eh?!
Adding Onto the Fa-De-La-Dump (Steve Gadd Inspired Licks & Fills) Example 2
This is a very similar idea to the previous example but it sounds completely different because two notes have been added to the end of the basic pattern instead of the beginning. The two extra notes are played on the floor tom and high tom by the right and left hand respectively.
This is one of my favourite ideas and use this a lot. It sounds so cool the way the hands run up and down the tom toms.
Basic Hand & Foot Pattern
This idea evolved from one of my old favourites, the Bonham Triplets. This classic John Bonham drum fill idea involves playing three notes as a triplet, two with the hands and one with the bass drum.
In this example the “Fa-De-La-Dump” basic pattern is preceded by two Bonham triplets (two groups of three notes). The hands play on the snare drum and high tom copying the the first two notes of the basic pattern.
This has a cool effect where the bass drums in the Bonham triplets are played on the triplet upbeats (third partial of triplet) of beat 1 while the basic pattern bass drum (last note) plays on the ‘+’ of beat 2.
To view a full free drum lesson discussing the Bonham Triplets in greater detail you can click here.
Adding Double Bass Drum
One of my favourite ways to extend the usefulness and longevity of a lick is to insert some double bass drum into it. Sometimes that might not be appropriate but with this lick we can have some fun. Of course, you might like to also try playing the bass drum parts with a single bass drum pedal too, depending on the tempo and your technique.
Double Bass Drum Variation 1
With this variation we can add an extra bass drum to the end of the lick creating two bass drums next to each other. If we then add a single tom tom note, played with the left hand, we have a brand new six note drum pattern to play. I play this one a lot!
Double Bass Drum Variation 2
In this next example I’ve taken the previous example and simply swapped the last three notes with the first three notes. This means that the six note drum fill now starts with two bass drum notes and a single high tom note.
This can be quite tricky to play as the two bass drum notes starting on and just after the downbeat can really throw your ears off. Make sure to practice this one with a metronome to ensure the note placement is correct in relation to the downbeat of the bar.
Mixing It Up!
Now we can take all that we’ve learnt in this lesson and mix it up to create brand new bars of drum fill/solo ideas all based on the “Fa-De-La-Dump” drum pattern.
These next examples are just two of the many many combinations possible. Have fun and experiment with your own combinations. It only requires a little imagination and pre-thought and you’ve got yourself some really cool sounding and totally unique drum ideas!
Combination Example 1
Combination Example 2