As a session drummer in Nashville, TN I learned that producers and songwriters are more interested in a drummers ability to keep time and make a drum pattern FEEL good, than in his/her technical prowess around the kit.
The two most important fills in a Nashville drummers repertoire are “Pat Boone” and “Debby Boone,” and these fills still continue to be used every day in sessions for countless hit songs.
It was impressed upon me that if I played a “Pat Boone” or a “Debby Boone,” when a fill was needed, I would be on my way to becoming a good studio drummer. On the rare occasion something more complex was needed, putting the two fills together one after the other (“Pat Boone Debby Boone”) was the way to go.
After many years of experience teaching privately here in Durham, NC and in the continued session and live work that I do, I have expanded upon the “Pat Boone Debby Boone” Fills and created what I think are the 4 essential fills every drummer should know. These fills are as follows:
Because of their simplicity, these fills work well for beginning drummers. Creating a unique name for each of the fills (corn chip, scrambled eggs, etc") - though a bit silly and unconventional - aids in learning the correct rhythm, allowing for a student who doesn’t read music to play them correctly,
Still, as simple as they are the rhythms do serve as a great introduction to reading and counting more complex figures.
Corn Chip consists of two eighth notes, played with your leading hand (for most drummers that would be your right hand). In the example below measure 1 consists of cymbal and only the fill (all played with your right hand) to aid in learning, where as measure 2 puts the fill in context with a drum beat):
Essentially a reverse Debby Boone fill, in that the “Boone” comes before the “Debby,” Hot Koko consists of one 8th note followed by two 16ths. As in the example above, I’ve written out two measures, the first measure consisting of only the cymbal part and the fill, and the second measure consisting of the fill put in context with a simple drum beat.
Guacamole is the most complex of these 4 fills, and consists of four 16th notes.
And last but not least is Scrambled Eggs. It is like the Guacamole Fill, without the final 16th note. It also sounds like “Debby Boone.”
You will note that I did not “voice” the fills. I believe that learning the rhythm correctly on one surface (snare drum) should precede any movement of the rhythm around the kit. However, once you have learned these exercises and feel comfortable doing so, experiment with playing them on different sound sources, drums, and/or cymbals.