Fundamental Fills Part 5
Part 5: Six-Stroke Stickings
by Donny Gruendler
This month’s lesson will help you master 16th-note-triplet six-stroke fills. We’ll start working with these figures on the snare before orchestrating them on the kit. As we move these figures fluidly around the toms and cymbals, many creative doors to additional ideas should open up.
First we’ll get comfortable with playing 8th-note accents on the downbeats and upbeat accents with a shuffle feel. We’ll also connect downbeat accents and upbeat accents. Let’s look at each in detail.
Exercise 2 demonstrates how to play accented downbeats within a 16th-note-triplet six-stroke sticking.
Here’s an upbeat accent pattern.
Now let’s work though a series of fill fragments. Although these are written in 2/4, they should be practiced in 4/4 as well.
Here’s a demonstration of how to apply the previous sticking patterns to one-measure fills. We’ll start with the first measure from Exercise 7.
Next, set your metronome to 70 bpm with an 8th-note subdivision, and play rimshots for each of the accents while filling in the unaccented notes with the appropriate sticking. To maintain a steady pulse, play quarter notes on the bass drum and beats 2 and 4 with the hi-hat foot.
Once you’re comfortable with Exercise 9, orchestrate the accents around the toms. Here’s one possibility.
Finally, try replacing the snare or tom accents with hits on the bass drum and cymbals while filling in the unaccented notes on the snare. Continue to play beats 2 and 4 with your hi-hat foot. Here’s an example.
Let’s apply this method to another fill fragment. In this instance, we’ll use the fourth measure of Exercise 7.
Again, play rimshots for each accent, and fill in the unaccented notes with the appropriate sticking. Play quarter notes on the bass drum and 2 and 4 with the hi-hat foot.
Once the previous exercise is comfortable, experiment with orchestration by moving the accents around the toms. Here’s a possibility.
Try replacing the snare and tom accents with a bass drum and cymbal voicing while playing the unaccented notes on the snare, as shown in Exercise 15. Continue playing beats 2 and 4 with your hi-hat foot. Repeat this process with each fill fragment.
Once you’ve mastered these concepts, pick any comfortable groove, such as an 8th- or 16th-note funk beat, and practice these fills at the end of a four-bar phrase. Here’s an example using a tom orchestration of the fourth measure of Exercise 7.
Here’s a bass drum and cymbal orchestration using the same fill fragment. Repeat this process for each measure of Exercise 7.
The number of variations and orchestrations using the fill fragments from parts 1–5 of this series is limitless. But remember that we’re striving to develop authoritative, confident, and consistent fills. Oftentimes in music, simple and clear fills work best. It’s my hope that you’ll apply these options tastefully and carefully when you play with a band. Best of luck!
Donny Gruendler is a Los Angeles–based drummer and president of Musicians Institute in Hollywood. He can reached at [email protected].