Fill Of The Week #31

Here’s a fill from the great Ginger Baker.

This fill is Ginger Baker’s fill from the Cream song “White Room.” He uses variations of this fill throughout the verses of the song. When I first learnt this song I was in a rush, I had over 100 songs to learn in a short space of time and I didn’t pay attention to the fills on the verses; I just noted that I needed to fill every fourth bar on the verses. I paid more attention to the 5/4 introduction and the arrangement of the song.

So off I went and played this song with my band and, for quite a while, I played it my way. Then one night I recorded my band playing the song and I realized that my fills weren’t quite working so I went back and really listened and picked up this fill. Once I brought this fill (and the 16th note triplet fill that ends each verse) into the song, the song just sounded right.

Repeating a fill throughout a song creates a rhythmic motif for the song. Another song which does something similar is “November Rain” by Guns n’ Roses. Matt Sorum plays variations of one fill throughout the whole song – he plays the same fill around 50 times! You know what song you’re listening to just from hearing the fill. Maroon 5’s “She will be loved” also repeats one fill throughout the song.

Learn The Fill

Let’s start learning this fill by looking at the basic rhythm:

This fill is basic
The Basic Fill

This looks like a fairly simple rhythm, however, Ginger Baker tended to swing his 16th notes most of the time. So, just like the 16th notes on Groove Of The Week #31, we need to think of this rhythm more like this:

Swing your basic fill
Swing it!

It’s not quite as easy to read or write the second version, which is why we tend to write it the first way and just give a directive to swing the 16th notes. I would encourage listening to the original song to hear how Ginger swung this fill and try and copy his feel.

The next step is to orchestrate the fill around the kit. The orchestration Ginger chose is fairly simple but sounds great.

Orchestrate and swing it!
Swing it round the toms

The other thing to note is that Ginger added the bass drum on beats 3 and 4. This adds more weight to the fill and keeps the time flow going.

adding the bass drum
Drop the boom

In the song Ginger is playing the groove right up until the moment the fill starts, so let’s just add that back in.

The full fill
The full fill

You’ll also note from my video that I don’t hit a crash after each fill – only on the final one. This fill is played during the verse of the song; Ginger Baker doesn’t want to overpower the singer with a crash after the fill, so he returns straight back to the hi-hat. I’d suggest practicing your fills both ways: hitting a crash after them and skipping the crash and going direct to the hi-hats.

Taking It Further

The obvious way to take this fill further would be re-orchestrate it around the kit. I’ll leave you to imagine ways to do that. Instead, let’s focus on playing the bass drum on the beat under the fill.

A lot of beginner drummers learn to play all sorts of fills around the kit with their hands but never add the bass drum underneath. The bass drum j helps to ground the fill, add more weight to it, and keep the time flowing so the listener and band don’t lose track of the beat during the fill. A drummer that employs this approach a lot is Tre Cool from Green Day.

Try these fills to get started, all fills are played using single strokes – RLRLRLRL etc…

Adding the bass drum to simple fills
Boom Boom Boom Boom

Our first three fills all start on beat 3. The first fill is played just on the snare to get you started. The second fill moves groups of the two around the kit and the third fill is a 3-3-2 fill.

The last three fills are whole bar fills. The first fill just moves groups of 4 around the kit, the second fill is a 6-6-4 fill, the final fill is a 3,3,3,4,3 fill.

When playing the fills pay attention to your accuracy, make sure your bass drum is really together with whichever drum is being hit at the same time. Work with a metronome and focus on keeping the bass drum playing a rock solid pulse together with the beep of your metronome.

I hope you’ve enjoyed fill of the week #31. If you’re in Singapore and you’d like drum lessons, send us a message on our contact us page.