'I'll Wait' Syncopated Fill

In this lesson you will be learning a full bar fill that is inspired by the song I'll Wait by Van Halen. You can hear the original fill at around 1:30 in the video linked above which is at the end of the first verse, just before the chorus starts. The fill in question follows a '33334' Syncopated sixteenth note grouping but rather than just playing a note on the first of each of these subdivisions, you will be playing on the first two. Through this lesson I will be showing various ways of orchestrating this rhythm, including that used in the song linked above.

I'll start by giving the modified syncopated rhythm. This is shown below with phrase markings to indicate where the groupings fall. It is essentially a sixteenth note followed by an eighth note, played four times followed by four sixteenth notes.

The rhythm for the fill

Spend some time playing this rhythm and making sure you are completely comfortable with it as everything else on this page is orchestrations following that pattern. As there are a lot of gaps within this rhythm sticking isn't hugely important. The technically correct way is shown underneath but if you wanted to play all those doubles as 'R L', 'L R' or 'R R' is entirely dependant on what is most comfortable to you.

Orchestration 1

This first orchestration is nice and simple, just move around the kit from left to right for the syncopated groupings then a short one beat fill on beat 4.

The I'll Wait rhythm applied as a fill

Orchestration 2

Time time you will be moving in a similar manner to the previous fill but backwards around the kit. This version ends on four straight snares.

The I'll Wait rhythm applied as a fill

Orchestration 3

Here I am pushing the difficulty up a little. In that gap on the third note of each grouping you will note be playing a kick. The orchestration is quite simple, just a snare followed by a high tom with a simple roll over two toms at the end.

The I'll Wait rhythm applied as a fill

Orchestration 4

In this fill the orchestration of the hands is a straight forward movement around the kit with a flam to kick movement at the end. The difficulty here is in the additiona of left foot crotchets. The great thing about adding this count is that it can really highlight the syncopation in the hand rhythm.

The I'll Wait rhythm applied as a fill

Orchestration 5

This is the version of the rhythm used in the song linked above. Here it will be much easier to use an alternate sticking, which I have put in underneath. This version has eighth note feet underneath,

The I'll Wait rhythm applied as a fill


  • Using the 2 minute rule, get all example fills up to a tempo of at least 115bpm, which is the tempo of the van halen song.
  • Create your own variations of these fills.
  • Try combining some of the variation ideas presented above.
  • Include these fills in a 4 or 8 bar pattern.


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