A Smattering of Favorites from a Few Top Pros

This month we’ve gathered a collection of favorite beats and fills from some of the top drummers in the world.
Each of these transcriptions was pulled from a Modern Drummer exclusive video lesson that was filmed at DrumChannel.com.

Gregg Bissonette: A Ringo Starr Fill

Gregg Bissonette is the touring drummer for Ringo Starr’s All-Starr Band, and he is one of the most celebrated musicians of our time. “Here’s a Ringo fill that I’ve heard on so many tracks that he’s done,” says Gregg. “I lead with my right hand. You can play it slow, or you can play it fast. [Ringo] also often plays the fill with 8th notes on the bass drum. Remember to let the hands swing a little.”

Curt Bisquera: Five Beats Every Drummer Must Know

Curt Bisquera has played with Mick Jagger, Elton John, Tom Petty, and many other top artists. Here are five beats Curt feels every drummer must know.

“I was born in 1964, when Ringo Starr played an 8th-note rock beat [measure 1] that changed the world,” says Curt. “Next is the basic jazz beat [measure 2]. Here’s a trick: as you play the right hand, say, ‘Spang, spang-a-lang.’ I started playing the bossa nova [measure 3] in nightclubs when I was eleven. Next is an 8th-note syncopated James Brown–style R&B groove [measure 4]. Last is a groove by one of my heroes, Morris Day of the Time [measure 6], and it’s a little different from the James Brown groove.”

Mike Clark: Shuffle Variations

Legendary jazz and funk drummer Mike Clark rose to international acclaim during his time playing with Herbie Hancock and the Headhunters. He’s spent the past few decades leading his own bands and working steadily in the New York City jazz scene. “The first shuffle is the ‘big boy shuffle,’ where you get a full shuffle sound,” says Mike. “Next is one of the several different styles of the Texas shuffle, where the notes are closer together. After that is the ‘flat tire shuffle,’ where you play the bass drum on all four and accent all of the upbeats. Then there’s the ‘no backbeat shuffle’ and the ‘back half shuffle,’ where I play the back half of the shuffle with the right hand on the ride cymbal.”

Raul Pineda: Latin-Jazz Pattern

Raul is a three-time Grammy-nominated artist and is one of the most innovative Latin drummers in the world. “Here’s a Latin pattern that’s a little complicated,” he says. “I’m playing the cascara pattern with the right hand and cowbell on the downbeats. The left hand can do an independence pattern, moving around the drums, while I’m incorporating the bass drum. I’m trying to get the bass drum to work more in relation to the left hand. When you’re comfortable, you can then change the left-foot cowbell to the clave pattern, which is of course more advanced.”

Rick Latham: Fills that Don’t Distract from the Groove

Rick Latham is the author of the groundbreaking book Advanced Funk Studies as well as an in-demand musician and clinician. “A lot of drummers have problems when they play fills,” he says. “They tend to stop the fill at the end of the phrase, which can stop the groove. Sometimes you don’t want to stop at the end of a phrase—you want to play through it. You hear this a lot in jazz phrasing, where you often play over from 4 to 1.”

Nate Morton: Favorite Fill

Nate Morton is the house drummer for NBC’s hit show The Voice. “This is a lick that is fairly straightforward and simple,” he says. “I hear it a lot in R&B tunes and want to use it when I play that style. I think of the main part as triplets starting on the backbeat with left-hand lead. The cool thing is that it keeps the backbeat on the snare. It’s a way to [sound] busy and maintain the pocket.”

by Don Lombardi