I love a great drummer. I love watching them paint with their sticks. I marvel at their limb-independence. I love the textures they produce. I love the spontaneity and the inspiration they bring, and how they can lean forward or back against the beat and even stretch time. A great drummer can defy the laws of physics.
But let’s start at the beginning. If there was a survey of advice for young drummers, the unanimous consensus would be: stop playing fills and keep steady time.
The classic rookie mistake of a drummer is to think that busy is better, to think that riffs/fills are important to their role, and then to sacrifice time keeping for flash. We’ve all done it, or something similar to it. But when a drummer shifts time around (plays a flashy fill and then rushes a little), the consequences are far graver. Instead of thinking about where the sound is going, the band is now trying to figure out where the downbeat is! Everyone gets hesitant and preoccupied, and that shows.
Consider this – instead of filling up space with a fill, have you ever noticed how producers in electronica build tension going into a new section? They usually pull sounds out. They pull out the kick, or pull out the snare, or pull everything! One of the few examples I can find of this in a worship song is David Crowder Band’s “Our Love is Loud”, although Crowder is admittedly fairly electronica-oriented in its production. (Can anyone think of any other?)