Alternating Double-Stroke Drum Fills

In this lesson, I’ll show you how to realize ways to use displaced double-strokes musically around the kit, as drum fills. When we think of a double stroke, we probably think of playing R R L L or L L R R but we can also play them as a displaced double stroke like this R L L R or L R R L. I cover this as a concept with exercises in the alternating double strokes lesson that I recommend working through before jumping into this lesson.

Why is this useful? I find this pattern to be extremely useful within grooves and drum fills, particularly when combined with other patterns within linear drum fills. Playing doubles stroke in this displaced way allows for more interesting and, in my opinion, less commonly-heard voicings around the kit. It also can be built up to a point of incredible control and speed.

Your options for ways to play and voice this particular technique are limitless and the exercises I present in this lesson are meant as examples of ways to learn and improve the technique. I strongly encourage you to sit with this technique, to work on it, and to try playing it in different ways, on different voices around your kit.

The exercises below demonstrate a couple of ways you can express this pattern:

Exercise 1 – Learn the fill across toms

First, learn to play this fill across a couple of different voices on your drum kit, with one bar of rest in between repetitions, at a comfortable tempo – this means, play at a speed that you can consistently repeat this exercise without making many mistakes. This is an essential part of the learning process as it begins to turn a previously unknown technique into something that you no longer need to think too hard about.

This pattern requires us to lead into the bar following the fill with our left hand / non-dominant hand:

Next, I will present a couple of options for ways to progress this exercise.

Exercise 2 – Increase BPM

A great starting point is working on increasing the tempo. Remember the number 1 rule: consistency before speed. If you can’t play this exercise cleanly at a slower tempo, you’re not ready to play it faster. I recommend starting at 80bpm as 16th notes and, depending on your abilities, set yourself a goal to increase this up to 160bpm gradually. This can be as simple as 10bpm per week.

Exercise 3 – End the fill with heel-toe kick

I love ending fills with a double stroke on the kick, or more specifically, playing that double stroke over the bar. It feels so solid coming back into the next bar with that 2nd kick drum hit of a heel-toe stroke. It also means we’re not having to play a left-lead / non-dominant lead at the beginning of a bar, which to me, is preferable.

Exercise 4 – Using the hi-hat within the fill

A super-effective way to add some interesting dynamics and voicings into this type of fill is to learn to include the hi-hat. I like to play a closed hat followed by a slightly-open hat hit, accompanied with the kick drum:

Exercise 5 – Looping with groove

A very important step to take when working on any new fill is to be able to incorporate the fill into and out of a beat. So in this exercise, we’ll play a single bar of groove, followed by a bar of displaced doubles strokes as a drum fill. Please feel free to be creative with the double stroke fill – it doesn’t need to be exactly what I’m playing in this exercise.

Exercise 6 – Start the fill in different places

Something that is helpful to realize, and to practice, is starting fills in places other than the first beat of a bar. You can break a simple 4-count up into multiple subdivisions: dotted quarter notes, 8th notes, dotted-8th notes, 16th notes, dotted 16th notes, 32nd notes…. the list goes on. You can practice starting drum fills on any of these subdivisions, for example, we could start our fill on the ‘3’ instead of the ‘1’ – as demonstrated in this exercise. We could start the fill on the seventh 16th note or the 23rd 32nd note – there are no rules here – only the limits we set by our own creativity.
If you want to realize what some of these options sound like, particularly starting in trickier places, I recommend programming the fill into a computer so that you can listen to exactly how it should be played, before attempting to play it.

Note – the transcription in this exercise is an example to demonstrate starting on the ‘3’. Each time I play the fill, I play it differently

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