"Separate Ways" Drum Fill

Sep 9, 2022

This is one of those iconic drum fills I remember trying to learn as a kid. While on the surface it's actually not a particularly hard lick — it's basically just the "bucket of fish" lick (snare - rack tom - floor tom - bass drum) 4 times in succession — the rhythmic structure of it gives it a more complex polyrhythmic 5 over 4 feel.

Here is the version Steve Smith played on the album. While written as 16th and 32nd notes, to capture the real character of the fill you want the notes to be smooth and connected and have more of a legato feel to them. I've seen people try numerous ways to break down the timing of this, from playing it as a kind of strict 'Herta' to really going down the rabbit hole and thinking of the 16th notes as quintuplets (a grouping of five sixteenth notes occurring within the span of one quarter note) and building the pattern from there. I found focusing on starting each "bucket of fish" on the correct 16th note (1; 'a' of 1; '&' of 2; and 'e' of 3) and landing the right hand on the floor tom on the next 16th note (with the left hand 32nd note falling in-between) to be the easiest way to get the feel for it. (Your experience may vary. ;-) Start slowly and gradually work up to song tempo.

Separate Ways Fill - A

Personally, I like to double the bass drum notes as well to fatten up the bottom end even more. Take a listen to my version below and compare it to the original and see which one you like better.

Separate Ways Fill - B



And, just in case you haven't seen the official, classic 80's video for this song in a while, enjoy!