Jazz Drummer’s Workshop

Elvin Jones–Style Triplet Fills

Part 2: Orchestrating Accent Patterns

by John Xepoleas
Welcome to our second lesson covering triplet fills based on the playing of jazz great Elvin Jones, who made a huge impact on drumming as part of legendary saxophonist John Coltrane’s quartet in the 1960s. The goal with this series is to show you how to construct high-energy fills like those Elvin played, in an effort to take your drumming to a new level. I’ll teach you his sticking patterns and then show you how to apply them to the drumset.

Here’s the sticking pattern for this lesson. Practice it until it becomes part of your muscle memory.

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Now let’s move the pattern around the drumset. To start, play the accented notes using the ride cymbal and bass drum. Play them with an aggressive feel, and make sure they’re the lead parts in the pattern. Play all of the left-hand notes softly on the snare.

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In this example the right hand starts on the snare and then moves to the toms.

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Now the right hand starts on the snare and then moves to the ride cymbal (played along with the bass drum); it concludes by hitting the high tom.

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This is the same as the previous example, except the right hand ends on the low tom.

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Now combine a couple of the previous examples and play them as a two-bar fill after two measures of time. In the following pattern we’re playing one bar of Example 2 followed by one bar of Example 4 for the fill.

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For this version we’re combining Examples 3 and 5 to create the fill.

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That wraps up this lesson. Check back next month for the third and final installment of this series.


John Xepoleas has written two drum books, Style Studies for the Creative Drummer and Essential Drum Lessons With the Greats. He is also an active online educator. For more info, visit johnxdrums.com.