Utilizing Clockwise and Counterclockwise Motions in Fills

In this workshop, we’ll explore moving fills around the kit easily in two directions: clockwise and counterclockwise. Most right-handed drummers orchestrate fills in a clockwise direction. For example, they may start a fill on the snare, move it around the rack and floor tom, and end with a crash cymbal. In other words, it moves in a clockwise direction around the kit in a typical right-handed setup. Fills that move in a counterclockwise direction are relatively rare in typical musical settings.

Before exploring counterclockwise motion further, let’s first take a look at a fill in a clockwise direction, which serves as the basis for the examples in this lesson. All fills in this workshop utilize a 16th-note-triplet subdivision, and the stickings will always alternate.

Motion In Fills 1

Now play the same figure in a counterclockwise direction without changing the sticking. To play the fill quickly, play an odd number of beats on the deepest tom. For example, play the first 16th-note-triplet partial on the deepest tom using your right hand, and then lead with the left hand as you make the motion to the rack tom, as demonstrated in Exercise 2.

Motion In Fills 2

The odd number of tom beats at the beginning of the fill will prevent your hands from getting mixed up with each other. Alternate playing this fill and the original figure as notated in Exercise 3.

Motion In Fills 3

For another variation, start with three 16th-note-triplet partials on your deepest tom, and then lead with the left hand in a counterclockwise motion around the kit.

Motion In Fills 4

This next example demonstrates a combination of Exercises 1 and 4. Play the first part of the fill in a clockwise motion just as you did in Exercise 1, and then reverse the fill in a counterclockwise direction around the kit.

Motion In Fills 5

Next we’ll change the phrasing of the previous figures to create some interesting variations. Instead of playing quarter notes on beats 2 and 4, play 8th notes at the end of the seven-note phrases. Play clockwise around the kit on the quarter-note pulses, and utilize a counterclockwise orchestration when the fill starts on an off beat. The counterclockwise orchestration starts with one stroke on the deepest tom just like in Exercise 2. Continue to utilize a single-stroke sticking.

Motion In Fills 6

Now let’s add the bass drum. Fill each gap between the clockwise and counterclockwise phrases with two notes on the bass drum while keeping the hands’ sticking the same.

Motion In Fills 7

For a video demonstration of Exercise 7 played at different tempos, check out the video linked below. And if you’re interested in more ideas on fills in general, check out my latest instructional method, Jost Nickel’s Fill Book.


Jost Nickel is a top session and touring drummer in Germany, as well as an international clinician and author who endorses Sonor, Meinl, Remo, Vic Firth, and Beyerdynamic products. For more information, visit jostnickel.com.