For the right-handers of the world, the drum kit is set up (generally) in a certain manner that usually promotes this dominant hand to be the ‘leader’. For the left-handers, the same can be said, presuming the drum kit is the opposite/mirror image of the right hand kit, i.e. the way we traditionally set up a drum kit. Some people are awesome though, and are ambidextrous, finding it easy to use both hands to lead equally. I call these people unicorns. Let’s explore some options that might allow the opposite hand to dominate more during fills and might even lead to some other options you might not have tried.
Thought I’d start with something simple – the three basic rudiments. I always show these three simple basic applications for fills to my students early on. They’re an easy way to start using the rudiments around the drums and explore ways to approach using the other drums on the kit. But for so long, it’s been the right-handed versions. This time, I’m including a left-handed version of each.
Looking at Figure A, we have single strokes as 16th notes starting on the snare and moving around the drums, finishing on the floor tom and hitting the crash with the right hand to finish the fill – easy as you like (provided you keep the strokes even) and predictable. If possible, it’s great to have a crash on the right hand side of the drum kit to end fills from the floor tom. The simplest ‘opposite’ or left-handed version of this is to lead with the left hand from the floor tom, finishing on the snare drum, hitting the crash with the left hand to finish the fill. Simple.
I’ve used the same idea with double stroke roll (Figure B), but just altered the sticking slightly. Keeping the left hand on the snare drum and leading with the right hand around the drums creates a better use of the rudiment and a reasonably interesting sounding fill off the bat. But it’s the left-handed version that sounds less predictable and arguably more interesting. The same can be said of Figure C using a single paradiddle. We take the same idea as the double stroke by splitting the hands. The first paradiddle is between the rack tom and snare drum; the second is on the snare and the floor tom. This right-handed version does have a familiar sound, so it’s not surprising that the left-handed version, which is literally keeping the hands where they are and leading with the left (begins on the snare), is the more interesting sounding fill.
You’ll notice also that for the purposes of illustration, I’ve notated the fill and a groove to go into after each example. This, of course, can be anything but crucially, you can see if you’re to crash with the left hand or right hand.
Moving into something more advanced, I’ve listed two ideas or concepts for fills I use regularly. The first (Figure D) is a common accent phrasing idea using right hand accents and the left hand ghosting on the snare. The right hand is essentially free to improvise ideas and the left hand to fill the gaps. I’ve just written one idea here for one bar. I’ve used the same approach for the left hand, but kept the right hand on the floor tom and let the left hand improvise.
The last figure (E) is the famous six-stroke roll as played by Steve Gadd – another cracking fill and such a usable idea on the drums. It is very right hand heavy though, and you can really only come out of the fill crashing on the right hand. The left hand version literally just mirrors the idea so you can get the same idea with a slightly different sound. It took a little while to make it feel the same, but it’s great when you have it down.
Overall, this idea is really simple, but it allows for a couple of essential things. Firstly, you can get more mileage out of one idea and you’ll hear some new possibilities. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, it gets you moving all over the drums in different ways, and it gives you a chance to work on your weaker hand.
Image via Joshua Sorensen.