Part 3: Right-Hand Lead
by Donny Gruendler
This month’s installment of Basics will help you develop right-hand-lead fills on the snare and around the drumset. The following exercises build upon part one of this series and should open many creative doors for your own ideas.
Let’s work though a series of 16th-note right-hand-lead fill ideas alongside our 16th-note ostinato. Here’s the main pattern.
The following one-measure fill fragments show the accent pattern that the right hand will be playing once we start creating our phrases.
Here’s a demonstration of how to work through each fill fragment alongside the main pattern. First, pick one measure from Exercise 2. In this case we’ll use bar 1.
Using a metronome set to 80 bpm with an 8th-note subdivision, play snare rimshots for each of the six accented 16th notes, and fill in each unaccented 16th note with the left hand. Continue the quarter-note pulse from the main ostinato with the feet. Put together, the exercise looks like this.
Once the previous steps are comfortable, freely move each of the six accented 16th notes around the drums. Here’s one voicing.
Also try playing the accents with the cymbals and bass drum. The hi-hat foot will continue playing beats 2 and 4 as it did in the main ostinato.
Follow this same procedure with another fill fragment. In this case we’ll use measure 4 from Exercise 2.
Again, using a metronome set to 80 bpm with an 8th-note subdivision, play snare rimshots on each accent, and fill in unaccented 16th notes with the left hand. Remember to continue the main ostinato’s foot pattern.
Once that’s comfortable, move the accents around the drums.
Here’s another voicing.
Finally, place the accents on the cymbals along with the bass drum. The hi-hat remains on beats 2 and 4. Repeat this process for each fill fragment.
Once you’re comfortable with the previous exercises, pick any groove within your repertoire and practice fills using the method below. To start, play three bars of time and then a fill in measure 4. The following exercise demonstrates this method using the fourth measure of Exercise 2.
Once that’s comfortable, orchestrate the exercise around the drums. Here’s an example. Repeat this process for each fill fragment.
Although the orchestrations and variations you can create using these ideas are endless, try to remain within the confines of the concepts discussed in this lesson. The goal is to develop commanding, confident, and consistent fills. Best of luck, and have fun!
Donny Gruendler is a Los Angeles–based drummer and president of Musicians Institute in Hollywood. He can reached at [email protected].