Threes and Fives

Fills With Odd Groupings

by Jayson Brinkworth

I’ve always found it fun and interesting to explore the possibilities available when using common subdivisions such as 8ths, 16ths, or 8th-note triplets. For example, we can play a double-stroke roll or paradiddle sticking within 8th-note triplets to create a rolling, over-the-bar feeling.

When teaching, I stress the importance of exploring different sticking possibilities, especially within 16th notes. And although we’re only working with sixteen notes in one measure of 4/4, there are endless options.

The following exercises explore some three- and five-note groupings using 16th notes. In Exercises 1–4, a four-on-the-floor groove leads into each phrase, and we’ll continue playing quarter notes on the bass drum during the fill to feel each three- and five-note grouping move in and out of the pulse. In Exercises 1 and 3, we’ll end each phrase on the “&” of beat 4. In Exercises 2 and 4, we’ll add one extra note to the “a” of beat 4 to fill out the final 16th note.

I like to experiment with the following stickings for three-note groupings: RLL, LRR, RRL, or LLR. When working with five-note groupings, I usually prefer using a paradiddle sticking, or one of its inversions, while adding an extra note to the end of the grouping. These stickings allow me to free up some mental energy to concentrate on how the phrase feels and sounds.

The last four exercises combine three- and five-note groupings together. The bass drum is omitted, but feel free to place it on quarter notes or at the start of each grouping. Also try moving your hands to different parts of the kit to experiment with orchestration.

These ideas present many possibilities when experimenting with stickings, accents, and more. Great players such as Vinnie Colaiuta, Dave Weckl, Dennis Chambers, and others incorporate this concept. Just like any other exercise, practice slowly, be patient, and have fun!

Jayson Brinkworth is a freelance drummer, educator, and clinician in Canada. For more info, visit