Fundamental Fills

Part 2: Solid 16th-Note Triplets

by Donny Gruendler

During the 1960s and ’70s, popular rock drummers like John Bonham (Led Zeppelin) and Ginger Baker (Cream) resurrected massive single-stroke-triplet fills that were initially made famous by jazz greats like Buddy Rich, Gene Krupa, and Art Blakey. Today these powerful fills have once again come to the foreground through the work of popular retro-rock drummers like Michael Miley (Rival Sons), Patrick Carney (Black Keys), and Daru Jones (Jack White). 

This month’s installment will help you develop single-stroke 16th-note-triplet fills both on the snare and on the full drumset. The following ideas build upon last month’s lesson and employ many of the same practice and performance strategies.

Solid Singles: 16-Note Triplets
To start, let’s work though the ostinato and a series of single-stroke, 16th-note-triplet fills. Here’s our main pattern followed by the fill fragments.

Fundamental Fills 1

Fundamental Fills 2


Fill Creation
Here’s a demonstration of how to work through each one-measure fill fragment alongside the main pattern. First, pick one measure from Exercise 2. In this case, we’ll use the second bar.Fundamental Fills 3

Using a metronome set to 80 bpm with an 8th-note subdivision, play the main pattern during the first three beats of slash notation, and play snare rimshots on the accented 16th notes on beat 4. Put together, the exercise looks like this.

Fundamental Fills 4

Once the previous steps are comfortable, move the accented 16th-note triplet on beat 4 around the kit. Here’s an example.

Fundamental Fills 5

Follow this same procedure alongside another fill fragment. In this instance we’ll use measure 5 from Exercise 2.

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Again, using a metronome set to 80 bpm with an 8th-note subdivision, play the main pattern on beat 1 and the first 8th note of beat 2. Starting on the “&” of beat 2, play snare rimshots for the remaining accented 16th notes to finish out the measure. Here’s the full exercise.

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Once the previous steps are comfortable, freely move the fill around the drums.

Fundamental Fills 8

Here’s another voicing idea.

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Repeat this process for each fill fragment.

Fill Practice
Now pick any groove within your repertoire and practice fills using the following method. To begin, play three bars of time and then a fill in measure 4.

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The following example demonstrates this method using the fifth measure of Exercise 2.

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Once comfortable, orchestrate the exercise around the drums. Here’s an example.

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The orchestrations and variations you can come up with using these fragments are unending. But remember that we’re striving to develop commanding, confident, and simple fills rather than intricate or syncopated patterns. Have fun!

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