BY STEWART JEAN
As a drum instructor I am constantly meeting with students who claim that they “need more fills,” as if there were a secret book of fills where every lick has a name accompanied by a list of the proper musical applications each can be used in. While yes, there are clearly textbook example fills (Steve Gadd and John Bonham come to mind), classic fills that start tunes (just look up J.R. Robinson), and fills that are integral to a tune (hello, Neil Peart), the road to expanding your fill vocabulary leads you back to your roots: rudiments.
Applying rudiments to the drum set is one aspect of drumming we all love to explore although some rudiments are more practical to kit orchestration than others. One “drum set friendly” rudiment is the Swiss Army Triplet. This rudiment is aptly titled for its usefulness in many situations. It’s non-alternating and it contains one of the greatest drum set rudiments: the flam. Let’s dive in and explore one way on how to add this wonderful rudiment to your toolbox of fills.
The Swiss Army Triplet is a very drum set-friendly rudiment that is non-alternating and utilizes a flam. First, start with the right-handed version (Ex. 1).
Let’s now flip this over to a left hand-lead approach with a left-handed flam on the downbeats (Ex. 2).
Next, invert the rudiment by moving the flam to the second partial of the triplet (Ex. 3).
We can now shift the flam over one more eighth-note to land on the third partial of the triplet (Ex. 4). Be mindful to keep the flams nice and wide, avoiding “flat” flams.
By separating the hands within this particular sticking we see that the right hand produces a shuffle pattern while the left hand plays on the second and third partials of the triplet (Ex. 5).
With this in mind we can move the right hand up to the ride cymbal to begin to create our drum set orchestration of this rudiment (Ex. 6). When playing this rudiment of two different surfaces it is acceptable to turn the flams into double stops where the hands line up evenly when they play at the same time.
Next, play a four-bar pattern consisting of three bars of time and a bar of the orchestrated rudiment (Ex. 7).
This is an excellent drum set orchestration as the kick and ride maintain their pattern without jeopardizing the groove. The next step is to move the right hand back and forth from the ride to the snare drum, bringing the flam aspect back into the fold (Ex. 8).
Now try this as a fill on bar four of a four-bar pattern (Ex. 9)
Get the tom toms involved by moving the right hand around the kit (Ex. 10)
Again, throw tom ideas on bar four of a four-bar pattern (Ex. 11).
Lastly, get creative by playing the rudiment twice, every three beats to go over the bar for a spell (Ex. 12).
Stewart Jean is Program Chair for Drums at Musicians Institute in Hollywood, CA.