08 Feb, 2016

Your first "go to" fill


So you have a few basic grooves under your belt and you're wondering how to spice things up a little. You've been watching other drummers and you've noticed they add little bits of vocabulary to their grooves. But how do they know what to play? Well, luckily this vocabulary is simply just that—a language you can learn like any other language. We call these bits of vocabulary "fill-ins", and in this series of lessons I will introduce you to a few easy "fill-ins" I call #1BeatWonders and demonstrate how to add them to your grooves.

The first of these is the ta-ka-di fill. In this lesson I'll show you how to add the ta-ka-di fill to your Billie Jean groove and then voice it in different ways around the kit. This will become your first "go to" fill for almost all pop songs.

The ta-ka-di rhythm is used as a fill on countless recordings, and once you’ve learnt it you’ll notice drummers play it all the time. The rhythm is simply three strikes of the drum over 1 beat (Figure 1-1).

Figure 1-1

Play two even strikes of the drum with your right hand on “ta” and “di"  (just as you would play on the 8 On A Hand exercise) but with a left-hand stroke in the middle on the “ka". The result is “ta-ka-di”.

To add the ta-ka-di fill to the Billie Jean groove you simply replace what you are playing on beat 4 with the ta-ka-di rhythm on the snare drum. Notice we are replacing what we previously played with the fill, not adding the fill afterwards. If you were to add the fill afterwards you’d have more than 4 beats in the bar and you'd get out of time with the track/band. Look at Figures 1-2 and 1-3 displaying a “before and after”.


Figure 1-2

...and after...

Figure 1-3

The right hand continues playing at the same speed throughout the bar, first on the hi-hat over beats 1, 2, and 3, before moving to the snare drum on beat 4. The left hand fills in on the “ka". Exercises #1-2 of the worksheet help build up to this.

Once familiar with playing the ta-ka-di fill on the snare drum try the same fill on different drums. This is called voicing the fill. I have written out three different ways to voice the fill on the worksheet (#a-c). This is just the beginning! Experiment playing the fill different ways around the kit, just remember to keep to the same ta-ka-di rhythm at all times.

Have you noticed this fill on any recordings? I’d love for you to tell me your favourite examples. Make a comment below with the name of the song and the time it occurs. I’ll start you off with “Sing A Song” by Earth, Wind & Fire from the album Gratitude. It’s the first thing drummer Maurice White plays on beat 4 of the pick up bar at 0:01.

Make a video of yourself practicing the ta-ka-di fill and upload it to Instagram with the hashtag #1BeatWonders, or share your YouTube videos on the Drumadiddle Facebook page. I’d love to see you playing it, and I'll be sure to write a comment! Have fun, and see you for the next instalment where we will start extending the phrase length before we playing the ta-ka-di fill!