Time Feel

Breaks and drum fills

In pop music drum fills are often played on specific cyclic spots e.g. every 4 or 8 bars and are often improvised. The following exercise will assist in keeping time during the fill. The first example uses simple in time fills with no rests. The learning objectives in this case can be loosely defined e.g. use an easy, well mastered exercise to play along and keep time.

Exercise 01: fills

Note that the 3 bar groove consists of 3 different drum groove alternatives and the 5 fills are played randomly every 4 bars. The groove is inspired from “Kissing my Love"1 by Bill Withers.





Exercise 02: 2 beats rests

Exercise 2 is more challenging by leaving 2 beats of rests in bar 4.





Exercise 03: start with rest during break

Exercise 3 reverses the concept of ex. 2 and starts random breaks with 2 beats of rests.





Exercise 04: full bar of rest

Exercise 4 stops right before beat 4 of bar 3 and leaves a full bar of rests. This exercise can now be extended to 2 or even 3 bars of rests.





Random mix of rests and fills with count-in

The next iteration would be very difficult recreate in some DAWs, even Ableton (especially if non metered audio files were used). It leverages the adaptive audio features by creating a mix of all preceding exercises. Now for every cycle of four bars the following happens at random:

  • one of 4 drum pattern is picked
  • one of 5 fills is selected
  • one of 5 exercises is selected


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Behind the Scenes

On the technical side the same short drum loops are used in all the preceding examples and then recombined which multiplies the number of possibilities from simple base material. Please refer to the chapter from the main thesis for further technical details and the problems with cutting perfect loops and testing all possibilities.


  1. Bill Withers - Still Bill (1972) - Sussex ↩︎