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How do YOU approach doing a fill?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Lichtaffen, Jul 11, 2012.

  1. Lichtaffen


    Sep 29, 2008
    Rhode Island
    I'm a pretty solid player with a good sense of time (so I've been told). Definitely a pocket player. I think one of the reasons I play so solid is that I stick to the necessary lines and don't add much in the way of fills. When I do it's usually a safe arpeggio type thing. The leader of my bad loves it when I throw in fills, especially in a live context, but I tend to shy away from them most of the time unless it's something I've planned out ahead of time.

    My question is simply: how do you approach doing fills?

    I want to get really good at it. I've been working really diligently on 16th notes lately. I'm feeling like this is one key to getting fills to sound right and in the pocket.

    Any thoughts?
  2. burns_isaac


    Jun 5, 2010
    For what its worth, transcribe. Just sit down and start learning fills and licks by your favorite players. Learn one, take it through all 12 keys, then repeat the process as many times as you choose. In my opinion once you've transcribed around 30 different fills and such, they will just begin to show up in your playing. Don't try to copy a fill note for note in a performance setting, you will most likely screw it up. Instead, let all the work you did transcribing help develop your own voice and ideas. Transcribing is the way to go. It is tough work but your ear will get sharper and ideas for fills and such will just present themselves during performances and your fingers will respond in an almost subconscious manner!
  3. Yeah, work the 16ths, it's more about rhythm than the notes, IMHO.
  4. portlandguy


    Feb 15, 2011
    Portland, OR
    I am with burns isaac on this - I have about 20 fills that I will use and my fingers know without thinking.
  5. groooooove

    groooooove Supporting Member

    Dec 17, 2008
    Long Island, NY
    just relax and let it happen, is the idea i'd say..

    i dont have an "approach." often if im rehearsing ill be more lax about playing fills, and fairly often the band will insist that i remember the one i just played, and they want their tune to get recorded with that fill.

    if you know music, have some experience, (particularly with improve, obviously) its just a matter of not over thinking..

    experimentation is key. i suppose hearing good ones helps too, but we woulden't want to get into the zone of cloning someone else. mccartney was the master of a tasty fill on electric bass.. there's some inspiration to be drawn from there.

    particularly in the sir paul-style fill, i'd say the objective is to play something that if this tune were to become a big hit, and a group of drunkards were singing along, they would include the fill in what they sing.

  6. I approach from the left, in a crouching tiger kind of stance. With arms extended and fingers in the striking cobra (You're fired!) position I pounce forward and attack the fill like a fat kid on a smartie...
  7. DBCrocky


    Oct 18, 2011
    Cary, NC
    I go crazy with fills. Of course, I usually play with bands where we improvise a lot. You need to have your ending note in mind before you start, and the scale. Then just let em fly! As long as you end on the right note, it's all good.

    One of my favorites is to play either 1-8, 1-5, or just 1 and then up it a fret over and over for about two measures or more: takes the intensity through the roof!

    Going into (and back out of) triplets is another great fill technique.

    Also if your scale is going to change when you come out of the fill, playing the fill in the new scale (foreshadowing the scale) can be a cool thing, too.
  8. burns_isaac


    Jun 5, 2010
    Transcribing doesnt make any player a clone. If anything it opens up your ear and mind to new ideas and new approaches. Vinnie Colaiuta used to transcribe Tony Williams all day long. Does Vinnie sound like Tony? No. Vinnie has definitely developed his own voice and no other drummer sounds like Vinnie. If your transcribing 30 different players and your internalizing those patterns and sounds then the eventual outcome will be your lines becoming a mesh of those 30 different guys. You wont sound like them because the idea is not to copy their ideas in performance but to learn them and use them so your minds ear has many different options and routes to travel. Dont stop at 30. My tenor sax player friend has binders and binders full of transcribed licks. Does he sound like parker or coltrane or rollins? No. He has his own unique voice because he took hundreds of great ideas, internalized them, and now his own sound comes out of his instrument. Transcribing is not cloning. It is a way to take many ideas from master musicians and fuse them into your own sound. Your sound will happen naturally if you do this. You dont have to sit around and figure out some new individual sound. Transcribing opens up your mind to eventual limitless possibilities and trust me and the millions of other musicians who transcribe, you will never play an idea that sounds just like another player.
  9. Tupac


    May 5, 2011
    I have no clue what I'm doing, so I just kind of do little pentatonic Flea thingies if it fits or play with octaves.

    This is the best fill approach for metal.
  10. jmattbassplaya

    jmattbassplaya Looking for a gig around East Islip, NY!

    Jan 13, 2008
    Minor pents all day long. Add in some chromatics or accidentals to spice things up and people will think you're a much better bassist than you really are lol.
  11. FretlessMainly


    Nov 17, 2010
    I wouldn't say I approach fills in any particular way, but when there is a natural break or lull in a piece of music (generally between verses or leading in or out of a chorus), I try to create some type of connectivity that plays off of what the drums are doing. Being mostly an improv type of player, I don't necessarily prepare for these types of situations; rather, I try to make them reflect what is happening in the moment.

    But, that's not to say that I don't play these types of fills in my own practice time or in band rehearsal time. Like anything else creative, the ability to spontaneously generate fills comes with time. The last thing I'd want to do in a performance is actually think about it.
  12. millertx


    Dec 18, 2006
    Flower Mound, TX
    ^This, after doing this for a while you will just naturally start to hear ideas for fills while you are playing, without even trying.
  13. FrednBass


    Feb 24, 2012
    lol that's pretty much 90% of the fills i do.
  14. Jazzdogg

    Jazzdogg Less barking, more wagging!

    Jul 29, 2006
    San Diego, CA
    I play the bass line I hear in my head while I'm listening to what my band mates are playing to make sure what I'm hearing in my head is appropriate. When it doubt, keep it simple.

    What's the quote from Wooten's "The Music Lesson?"

    "You should never lose the groove in order to find a note."
  15. nysbob


    Sep 14, 2003
    Cincinnati OH
    Music is all about tension and release. Instead of just pumping along on tonic roots, explore hitting 9's, 4's etc. If you stay within chord scale you really can't go wrong... and then to take it a step further if you approach those scale tones chromatically (over or under) you can really wind up sounding like you know what you're doing. :D

    I try to cover a lot of ground rhythmically and melodically when coming up with a part. If you study what the players you like do, you'll start to figure it out.

    Obviously everything has to be supportive and serve the song, but there's always some wiggle room to put your own personality in there.
  16. Phalex

    Phalex Semper Gumby Supporting Member

    Oct 3, 2006
    G.R. MI

    You probably said it better than I do it. Bravo sir! :bassist:
  17. When I started off it was really just V, IV, iii, ii, I, and when I felt extra frisky it was vii, vi, V, IV, iii, ii, I.

    Now it's usually a pentatonic of the chord I'm in and I'll try to approach the next chord well. Doesn't always happen, but I'm successful more often now.
  18. dbd1963


    May 18, 2010
    Northern Virginia
    Shoot, I don't even know what I'm doing while I'm doing it. My fingers just take off and do something. But I learned how to play by copying lots of different bassists straight from the record. (That's a frisbee sized round disk of vinyl for you young guns. There was actually music on it!) I'm sure I internalized what I was hearing and my subconscious has some things already lined up.

    If I try to think about it, I'm too slow and I screw it all up. Though if I stop and listen, my brain will suggest something that I can try to learn and use for that spot.

    What I'm doing now is trying to go back and learn music from reading and practicing. When I get good at that, I might try the transcribing thing mentioned here, but I don't know if I will ever figure out how to write the rhythms correctly.. I should have done this when I was young, but I didn't want to work hard.

    Take heed, young bassists!
  19. Lichtaffen


    Sep 29, 2008
    Rhode Island
    Wow! All really great responses. I didn't expect such wisdom all at once. Thanks, guys. I'm definitely keeping all this in mind when I practice tonight. And much more transcribing!

    I like what groooooove said about Sir Paul. I grew up on Sir Paul's playing and his fills were like tiny solos in my mind.

    Keep the ideas coming. Hopefully, this post will help more people than myself.
  20. Dave W

    Dave W

    Mar 1, 2007
    White Plains
    I usually just wing it, but my band is very much a jam oriented cover band.

    I should sit down to transcribe a bunch of stuff or at least come up with some cool stuff on my own time. A lot of times I'll just be noodling around at home and stumble on something that sounds cool, then I'll remember it and use it.

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