Last month, when I posted John Hammond’s fill explanation, I mentioned that I’d follow up with some thoughts on his explanation. In fact, I said I would post my comments the very next day, but we’ll pretend I didn’t say that. Anyway, here are my thoughts, and be forewarned, things are about to get technical…

First of all, many thanks to John for his super hip and inspiring playing, and for his in-depth lesson on the fill. I love it, and I love his careful description of how to make it happen. But the thing I love the most is his second email, “correcting” himself on the septuplet thing. His honesty reinforces a theory I’ve had for a while, which is what today’s post is all about.

The theory is this: I believe anytime someone claims to be playing a quint (or septuplet), they are in reality doing what Hammond described and rounding off duplets to triplets or triplets to quads.

This theory came out of my polyrhythm studies back in college, when I was learning how to do 2 over 3 and 3 over 4. I realized one day while sitting in class that hearing the subdivision behind both 2 and 3, which is 6, is the secret. So, triplet 8ths and “normal” (duplet) 8ths would need internal subdividing of 16th triplets, because the counts in BOTH triplet 8ths and normal 8ths are contained in triplet 16ths.

Sidenote: At this point it might be helpful for anyone who hasn’t already read my older posts on counting to do so. Having an accurate understanding of counts and subdivision is essential in understanding what I’m talking about here, and my counting post will at the very least get us on the same page.

Ok, back to the issue. For those who want to see firsthand what I’m talking about with the internal subdividing 2 over 3, try playing triplet 8ths and normal 8ths with 16th triplets also. To begin, play 16th triplets with single strokes…

1 – ta – la -and – le – lo – 2 – ta – la – and – le – lo – etc

Now, accent the 8th counts to hear normal 8ths amidst the triplet 16ths…

ONE – ta – la – AND – le – lo – TWO – ta – la – AND – le – lo – etc

Then you can shift to accenting the triplet 8th counts to hear those within the 16th triplet…

ONE – ta – LA – and – LE – lo – TWO – ta – LA – and – LE – lo – etc

Switching your accents back and forth will help you get used to hearing both normal 8ths and triplet 8ths. The next step is to stop playing all the other counts and simply listen to them internally while you play ONLY the notes that you used to be accenting. Then you can switch between the triplet 8ths and normal 8ths comfortably, all while hearing the 16th triplet internally.

This post is getting long, but stick with me here. The reason this internal subdivision is so important is that it gives guidance and proof to your switching from 8ths to triplet 8ths. Otherwise the switch from 8th to triplet 8th would be merely a guess. When playing 8ths, one doesn’t just switch to triplet 8ths by going a little faster all of a sudden. You’ve got to have a target in mind, otherwise you’re just guessing… which in the long run won’t work out very well. The internal subdivision provides the needed target.

So what does this have to do with the Hammond fill and septuplets? It comes down to the issue of internal subdivision vs guessing. The math behind internally subdividing so as to be able to switch between normal 8ths and quintuplets in the same space is INSANE. One would need to subdivide the quarter note in 10 in order to facilitate 8ths and quints. The more common usage would be 16ths and quints, where you’d need to subdivide the quarter in 20 in order to accomplish, and switching between triplet 8ths, normal 8ths, and quints would require subdividing the quarter in 30. THIRTY… three-zero. I mean, c’mon. Nobody does that.

I feel like Hammond would agree with me on this, which is why he clarified that the “seven” he was playing wasn’t an even seven. The best way to describe what he’s doing, in my opinion, is a set of three triplet 16ths followed by a set of four 32nd notes. I’ve never spent time trying to figure out the name of 32nd note upbeats, but here’s how that would be counted, starting on beat 5 of the 6/8 pick-up measure…

R tom (five) – L tom (ta) – R tom (la) – L tom (and) – kick (32nd upbeat) – kick (e) – R tom (32nd upbeat) – L snare (six)

Does this make any sense at all?  I hope so.  (Btw… let’s just ignore the fact that the time signature of “The Truth” is 6/8, which complicates the counting a little, and just go with the above counting).

Groups of seven could also be played starting with the set of 32nds and followed by the triplet 16ths. Four normal 16ths followed by  set of triplet 8ths would also be a “seven,” but spaced out over a half note instead of a quarter note. Quints, on the other hand, would be two 8ths + three triplet 8ths, or two 16ths + three triplet 16ths, etc.

Again, I know this post is really wordy and super technical, but I think it’s an important issue.

SUMMARY: Quints, septuplets, and other odd groupings are totally feasible and even hip (as Hammond’s fill shows). However, we have to be real about how to play them. Evenly spacing 7 notes (or 5 notes) in the same chunk of time that you’ve been spacing 2 or 4 notes is just unrealistic. In other words, don’t let your math metal friends tell you that they’re playing quints and septuplets, but spend some time exploring the possibilities that come from combining triplets and normal subdivisions within the measure.

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