Sam Morrow


It’s All About Beat Two

Several drum books talk about ‘filling over the bar’. It’s a cool idea, but without reason it is pointless, and I’ve learned more from using my ears, than from any book. I’m going to look at what I call ‘landing on the two’ for this post. Check out this audio example of an awesome gospel group doing exactly that:

As well as Gospel there are examples of this kind of fill in the pop world too, for example:

Ginger Hamilton, killing it with one of these fills, on tour with Jesse J

In backbeat driven music (most popular music), musicians tend to always hit strong crashes on the one, which is classic and is what you should do most of the time. There are times when you want to change the emphasis though, to keep things interesting. This is where landing on different beats can change things up. The reason I focus on beat two in this article, is that it is the next strongest beat to ‘land on’ after the one.

Filling over the bar creates a bit of suspense for general listeners, who get lost without a strong beat one, but then you bring it all in on the two and that certainly gets peoples attention. Because of that I’d say use this idea sparingly, but it is something you’ll hear a lot of great drummers do (particularly in styles with strong gospel influences). All you need to do is identify a strong vocal, or stab on a beat two (or something like that), and fill all the way up to it, and I’d suggest trying it first by flamming hard on the snare to finish the fill. How long you build towards it can only be guided by the music, and to some extent your chops. The goal here is to know where you are landing, and be able to fill up to it from anywhere. The landing is the key element, not the fill.

Karl Brazil showcasing this idea along to an Irish jig!

I’ve gone for examples, instead of notating fills, because there is no method for this – you have to feel it, and there has to be a reason. You could be filling the whole bar before, or starting on beat one of the same bar, depending on the music. Whatever it is in the music that you are highlighting, this is going to give a lot of emphasis to that beat, so make sure it is deserved.

The main reason for writing about this concept, is that lots of professional session players perform fills like this, especially live, and if you want to learn new ways to make fills and arrangements more interesting, I think this is a great place to start looking.

The main pitfall is loosing the groove. All the musicians in the band need to keep great time, you are not strongly marking the one, and you are possibly playing a complicated fill building up to it. Your fills should groove anyway, but filling over the bar will only make your band sound tighter if you all keep the groove, and don’t stray.

Another issue, when getting to grips with this, is returning to the beat/groove. Just don’t force it, let it breath. Let the music guide you. You’ll probably want a little air space after, but this shouldn’t interrupt your flow. The whole point is to enhance the groove, so if it doesn’t sit, maybe it shouldn’t sit.

Aaron Spears landing on the ‘1 and’ in a great video with transcription, playing at Modern Drummer Festival (the same Usher song as linked to below).( should be your homepage).

Used musically this is a great weapon in your arsenal, and it will have you making some serious funk faces when you throw it into an arrangement and nail it with your band.

Aaron Spears playing with Usher, watch this whole concert if you have time.