8 Astonishing Drum Fills From Iconic Songs - with Music Transcriptions!
I wanted to write this article to break down some really cool drum fills. Everybody can 'air drum' the fill in 'In the Air Tonight' by Phil Collins but I wanted to focus on some more obscure drum patterns. I also wanted to include multiple styles of music.
Having a one-bar drum transcription is a great way to see how the drum fill works.
1. Diamonds and Pearls - Prince
This drum fill is OUTRAGEOUS! What makes it more impressive is that it was in a pop song that was on the radio.
The drummer Michael B accents groups of 4 notes over 16th note triplets for the first half of the bar then plays 6 clear notes for the second half of the bar. This gives the illusion that the drum fill speeds up at the start.
Although it sounds confusing at first, it makes sense when you look at the transcription. Check it out here at 2.50 seconds.
2. Postman - Living Colour
This drum fill is deceptively difficult until you realize it doesn't start on beat 1! Instead, it starts on '4a', the last beat of the previous bar.
Playing 32nd notes this quickly and evenly is evident this is played by a master drummer, none other than Grammy Award-winning musician Will Calhoun.
Check it out in the song's intro here.
3. The Favorite - Directions in Groove
This is one of my favorite drum fills of all time! It is played by legendary drummer Terapai Richmond.
Although it is played entirely on the snare drum, its difficulty lies in the accents. The first part of the fill is broken up into groups of 5 notes, which is what makes it sound unusual.
Make sure you play the ghost notes quietly when you attempt this fill. That is what will make it pop!
Check it out in the song's intro.
4. Talkin' Loud - Incognito
This is a very clever syncopated drum fill spread over 2 bars. When you play it, make sure you count the quarter notes to avoid the fill speeding up or slowing down.
Drummer Richard Bailey of Incognito has done a great job of executing a funky drum fill that is the perfect intro to the song.
5. Sunless Saturday - Fishbone
This is a great drum fill. The triplets in the first half of the bar really create a strong impact.
The broken sixteenth notes in the second part of the bar double the guitar part which creates a heavy rock feel.
Drummer Phillip 'Fish' Fisher is masterful at playing drum fills that enhance the energy of the song. Check out this fill at 0.10 seconds in the intro.
6. Break the Chains - 24-7 Spyz
This fill looks easy but it isn't! Playing unison notes on the toms precisely at that tempo is difficult.
Throwing 2 quick 32nd notes on the bass drums also makes this drum fill challenging.
Drummer Joel Maitoza does a great job of mixing metal and funk. Check out this fill at 0.16 seconds.
7. Can't Stand Losing You - The Police
What made Stewart Copeland famous as a drummer was his ability to make incredibly complex rhythms sound musical.
This fill is no exception. Although this fill starts the song it doesn't come in on the FIRST beat of the bar. It comes in on beat '2a' of the previous bar. Starting with 2 quick thirty second notes on an upbeat lets the listener know what they are getting into.
An incredible drum fill. Check it out in the song's intro here.
8. I Got You (I Feel Good) - James Brown
This is a classic song with classic drum fills. Upon first listening the accents that the drummer plays sound simple. I can assure you they are not! There is no reference to the beat when James Brown sings the lyric 'so good, so good, I got you'. The drummer and band play accents that sound like they are on the beat when they are actually on the OFF beat. The accents are spread out over 4 bars. Check it out at 0.14 seconds.
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