Basics

Fundamental Fills

Part 4: Triplets With a Right-Hand Lead

by Donny Gruendler

During the 1970s and ’80s, session greats Bernard Purdie, Steve Gadd, and others resurrected and embellished on the right-hand-lead triplet fills that were made famous by jazz greats like Jo Jones, Louie Bellson, and Sonny Payne. Some of today’s top drummers—Steve Smith, Keith Carlock, and Stanton Moore, for instance—continue the tradition of these fundamental yet sophisticated fills.This lesson focuses on right-hand-lead fills using 8th-note triplets. The following exercises start on the snare and toms before moving to the bass drum and cymbals. These fragments should also open many creative doors to additional fill ideas.
 

To make the most of the following exercises, first become comfortable playing downbeat accents and upbeat accents, and with connecting a downbeat accent to an upbeat accent. Let’s look at each in detail.

Downbeats

triplets with a right-hand lead 1

We’ll play the accented downbeats with the right hand while filling in the last two unaccented partials with the left hand.

triplets with a right-hand lead 2

Upbeats

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Now we’ll play accented upbeats with the right hand while filling in the first two unaccented partials with the left hand.

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Connecting a Downbeat to an Upbeat
Now we’ll connect a downbeat, such as beat 1 of Example 5, to an upbeat (the “&”of 2).

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Play the first beat of this phrase as single strokes, and then combine the previous stickings.

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Let’s work though a series of 8th-note right-hand-lead fill fragments. Here are our one-measure ideas.

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Fill Creation
Here’s a demonstration of how to apply the previous sticking patterns to each one-measure fill fragment. We’ll use the first measure from Exercise 7.

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Set your metronome to 100 bpm with an 8th-note-triplet subdivision, play right-hand rimshots for each accent, and fill in the unaccented triplet partials with the left hand. To maintain a steady pulse, play quarter notes on the bass drum, and play the hi-hat on beats 2 and 4 with the foot. All together, the exercise is played like this:

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Once Exercise 9 is comfortable, orchestrate the accents around the toms. Here’s one possibility.

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Finally, try moving the snare or tom accents to the bass drum and cymbals. The left hand will continue filling in the unaccented partials. Continue to play beats 2 and 4 with your hi-hat foot. Here’s an example.

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Let’s apply this method to another fill fragment. In this instance, we’ll use the fourth measure of Exercise 7.

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Again, play right-hand rimshots for each of the accents, and fill in the unaccented notes with the left hand. Continue to play quarter notes with the bass drum and beats 2 and 4 with your hi-hat foot. All together, the exercise is played like this.

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Once the previous steps are comfortable, experiment with orchestration by moving the accents around the toms. Here’s an example.

triplets with a right-hand lead 14Try replacing the snare and tom accents with a bass drum and cymbal voicing while playing the unaccented notes with the left hand on the snare. Continue playing beats 2 and 4 with your hi-hat foot. Repeat this process with each fill fragment.

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Fill Practice
Once you’re comfortable with these concepts, pick any triplet-based groove, such as a shuffle, half-time shuffle, or traditional swing beat, and practice your fills in the context of a four-bar phrase.

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Here’s an example using the fourth measure of Exercise 7 with accents on the toms.

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Try orchestrating the accents on the bass drum and cymbals. Repeat the process with each fill fragment from Exercise 7.

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Donny Gruendler is a Los Angeles–based drummer and president of Musicians Institute in Hollywood. He can reached at [email protected].