How to Play 1-Beat Drum Fills

Learn how to play one-beat drum fills from drum teacher Jason Gianni in this Howcast drum video.


  • Step 1: Understand what a fill is Understand what a fill is: a transition that bridges two phrases of a song.
  • Step 2: Simple and complex fills Know that a drum fill can be as simple as one note or as complex as many notes. Also, a crash cymbal typically follows a drum fill on the beat 1 of the following phrase.
  • Step 3: Playing a fill Try playing a 1-beat fill in count 4 of the measure using sixteenth notes so it sounds like "four-e-and-a."
  • Step 4: Fill variations Trying adding variations to it by keeping the order of the fills the same, but move the notes around the drums to the snare or high-top.


An important thing about understanding how to play the drums is experimenting and defining what a drum fill is. Now, if I had to stick a definition on it, it would basically be a transition, and what I'm talking about is a transition between phrases. If I am playing a groove for four bars, or eight bars, or a certain section of a song, what you usually do it transition and connect phrases by a drum fill. In a drum fill could be as simple as one note, or as busy as a full bar of information.

You could experiment with some different things, and most importantly what usually follows a drum fill is a crash symbol on the beat one of the following phrase. What I'm going to play right now is a one beat drum fill. Now, when I talk about one beat, I'm talking about one count. If you count a full measure, you're talking about beats one, two, three, and four. I'm going to play a drum fill and count for the measure, and I'll play just four 16th notes, four a and ah, four a and ah, so you can hear what I'm talking about, and what I'll do is follow up the four a and ah with a crack on beat one.

I'll play the entire phrase twice, four bars, one beat drum feel and a crash at the end. One, two, three, four. One, two, three, four, one, two, three, four. [plays music]

To get more variation in what you're playing, you don't have to change the rhythm that you're playing, or the beat, or the time. You can change the surfaces that you're playing on.

So as you know, you have other surfaces to play, you have toms, you have a mix of toms and snare, even base drum. So, what I'll do right now is play the same notes on the upper tom, so you hear how it sounds with a tom-tom involved. One, two, three, four, one, two, three, four, one, two, three, four.

[plays music]

And finally, I'm going to take the same rhythm and the same fill and I'm going to place it over four different surfaces using the snare and the toms. Each stick I play will hit one surface at a time, for e and ah. When I play it, it will sound like. In a groove, it will sound like this. One, two, three, four, one, two, three, four, one, two, three, four.

[plays music]

So, remember this is an example of a one beat fill. A fill that falls on just count four, or the last count of a measure, and I just played one example. There are so many different variations. Try some different things on that count four and see what works for you.

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