16th Note Drum Fill Flow Builder

In this lesson, I’m going to help you build on something that is game-changing when it comes to your confidence behind a kit. Have you ever seen a pro drummer fly through a load of ideas in a drum fill or solo and wondered ‘what on earth is that person playing?’ or ‘how are they even playing this stuff?’ – let me explain a concept that, if practiced, will help you achieve a high level of ease and confidence with drum fill patterns – some of which you already know how to play!

Have you ever played a fighting game like Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter? If so, you’ll know all the best moves happen when you punch in a bunch of buttons in a sequence – you create a combo. It’s the exact same thing on the drums – the sickest fills are realized by getting comfortable transitioning between a couple, or a few different ideas. In this lesson, we’re going to learn to combine simple sticking patterns into a free and dynamic 16th note flow.

The way I like to practice this is to simply put a quarter-note metronome on and challenge myself to only play 16th notes using different patterns that I’m familiar with. For example, I’ll use only five-stroke rolls and linear heel-toe patterns, or I’ll use displaced double strokes with linear heel-toe or perhaps a longer repeating pattern.

Why is this useful? It’s a super-effective way of building your drum fill abilities and dynamic fluidity. Practicing the patterns this lesson has unlocked for me the ability to transition cleanly from one idea to another, within the context of a 16th note, 16th note triplet, and sometimes a consistent 32nd note drum fill.

Exercise 1 – Five Stroke Roll + Linear Heel Toe

This is a great little fill in its own right but is also an excellent way to transition into longer flows as we’ll discover in later exercises.

Exercise 2 – Two Five-stroke patterns

This exercise realizes a fill combo that fits nearly into a bar of 5/4, but you could use this across a couple of bars of 4/4 (or any other measure), ending the fill wherever you need to transition back into the groove. We’re going to use the five-stroke roll and the first part of the heel-toe pattern from the previous exercise, then add another 16th note onto the end to make it two groups of five. The sticking can stay the same each time, but practice it across different voices on your kit.

Exercise 3 – Displaced Double strokes + Linear Singles

Let’s play something totally different now. Alternating/Displaced double strokes for a bar, into a linear single stroke pattern, using both hands and the kick. These are two more of the patterns I tend to gravitate towards when free-flowing / jamming. This is just an example of course – please explore other voicing options around your kit.

Exercise 4 – Combine all of these ideas!

Let’s get a flow going that uses all of these ideas. Four ideas, in one drum fill. Remember to start real slow!

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