This is the last part (for now) on my thoughts about counting and playing drum fills.
Why play a drum fill anyway? It’s important to play for the music first and foremost. Drum fills are great when done musically. There should be a reason for them — not just because you can do one or one hundred of them! Listen to your favorite recordings and pay attention to when the drummer plays a fill. Listen again and then ask yourself why the drummer played that particular fill at that moment.
It does get easier as you practice it. There are only so many rhythms out there, yet infinite ways to combine them. Repetition is key as well — as long as you’re playing and counting correctly. Muscle memory plays a large part of all this so please start slowly with the goal of making very few, if any, mistakes. If you play the same thing over and over, your body will remember it. It has been said and often repeated, that practice makes perfect. However, it has been my experience that practice makes permanent.
In the previous post, I said that making mistakes is OK. I truly believe this. However, the goal is to play what you hear and/or what is written. I have found that the more I practice “mistake-free,” then the more I perform without those mistakes. I find that if I am not concentrating on a high enough level, then that is usually when I play something that I did not intend to play. (I plan on discussing this more at a later date.)
If you have a way to record, then do that too. You could even record yourself with a metronome while counting out loud. When listening back to yourself, play along with that and count along. Your recording will act as a guide for you.
Playing with music is a great tool as well. Most recordings are done with a click track and also fall into eight bar phrases. You could begin by playing what the drummer has played — start with something fairly easy and not too fast. Get comfortable playing your time with the drummer’s time and try to cop the feel of the song. After that, you could try playing different rhythms and slightly more complicated rhythms, but sing/count the phrases. Work out some drum fills that you can play over and over and then see about varying them.
Count out loud when you listen to music as well. Even more complicated music has a pulse that can usually be felt through even very difficult passages (try clicking your sticks). If you can, get used to hearing these ideas and counting/singing along with them. You’ll then find it easier when you’re behind the kit.
Lastly, a good teacher is also helpful — if that’s in your budget. Please feel free to send specific questions my way via email. I’ll make sure that I get back to you!