Difficulty LevelIn this series of free drum lessons I wanted to take one of my favourite Gavin Harrison Drum Solo’s, break it down and then talk about my favourite drum licks, tricks, fills and grooves from the solo.

There are plenty of great drum solo’s that Gavin has played on but the one I’ve chosen has to be one of Gavin’s greatest. Not just because of the great melodic ideas he uses but because it truly demonstrates Gavin’s rise to fame and well deserved acclaim.

The drum solo has been taken from the David Letterman Show, first broadcast on 23rd August. It was the shows drum solo week where the greatest drummers in the world were invited to come and play. Out of all the amazing drummers available, Gavin Harrison was chosen to play…and rightly so. The man is a genius! You can check out the full drum solo below.

In this first free drum lesson I’m going to take a look at the two bar pattern Gavin plays at 1:13 into the video below. First of all check out the drum solo, listen out for the cool drum lick at 1:13 and then we can examine the idea more closely after.


Gavin Harrison David Letterman Drum Solo – “The Chicken”


How To Play Gavin Harrison Drum Solo – Drum Fill/Lick (1:13)

Gavin Harrison David Letterman Drum Solo - Drum Lick (Free Drum Lesson)

Gavin enters into this sublime and smooth linear style line of notes with an open hi-hat. Gavin’s mastery of triplet hand/foot combinations is particularly evident within this example. The way he casually drops the bass drum into this pattern is truly masterful.

Gavin uses various cymbals (Crash, Splash and China’s) but I have only notated the cymbal parts using the one notation symbol. Which cymbal you strike isn’t really crucial to the sound of the lick and besides, there aren’t enough notation symbols to represent all of his cymbals! šŸ™‚

The lick starts with a six note hand pattern that’s based on a variation between the para-diddle and para-diddlediddle. The sticking is RLRRLR with the last two notes (LR) being played on the high tom and low tom. The way the sticking proceeds means that the left hand then plays the first note of beat 2 of bar 1. This is where the lick I’ll be focusing on in this particular drum lesson starts.

You can see that Gavin takes this one six note hand/foot combination and repeats it pretty much for the rest of the two bars.


Gavin Harrison Drum Solo – Basic Drum Lick

Gavin Harrison Drum Solo - Basic Drum Lick (Free Drum Lesson)

This is the basic lick written for the snare drum and bass drum only. It’s six notes long and so Gavin naturally plays it through sixteenth note triplets.

Notice the left hand lead, the double played with the right hand for the second and third notes and the three note accented idea at the end, played Left hand, Bass Drum, Right hand. These are the three unique aspects of this lick and reason that this lick sounds so quirky and cool.

  1. Any lick that has a left hand lead is going to feel and sound a little different.
  2. The three note accented triplet pattern at the end is played starting with the left hand and not the right hand.
  3. The bass drum falls on the fifth note. This is a unique place to play the bass drum within a group of six.

I recommend that you just play this idea round a few times on the snare drum and get used to dropping the bass drum in between the left and right hands. Make sure that the accents are maintained, especially on the first note, as you don’t want to loose the pulse and sense of where the downbeat is.

As you can see from the actual lick shown at the top of this lesson, Gavin moves his hands around the drums to orchestrate the lick in interesting ways. The tom toms, cymbals and hi-hat are all used to create a multi soundscape for the lick, adding to it’s random and sporadic feel. You can experiment with moving your hands onto any drums/cymbals you like.


Gavin Harrison Drum Solo – Basic Drum Lick (Right Hand Lead)

Gavin Harrison Drum Solo - Basic Drum Lick (Right Hand Lead)

I think the most obvious thing we can do with this drum fill idea is to reverse the sticking to right hand lead. This is what most drummers are used to and certainly allows the lick to be accessed more comfortably.

This is an idea that I’m currently working on as I’ve never really looked at placing the bass drum in such an interesting place within a six note pattern. Usually I play the bass drum on the first or last note of six as this is easier for me to play and for the ear to pick up on.

Gavin really has come up with a quirky and quite tricky way if I’m honest of playing the bass drum within this pattern.


Gavin Harrison Drum Solo – Basic Drum Lick (Bonham Triplets)

Gavin Harrison Drum Solo - Basic Drum Lick (Bonham Triplets)

The final idea I want to share with you in this drum lesson is a pattern that I think boils down Gavin’s lick into it’s most common and easily digested format. This particular linear drum fill shows the lick being played right hand lead still except now the six note pattern ends with the “Bonham Triplets”. This triplet idea is based around a simple three note pattern played Right, Left, Bass Drum.

This variation is easier to play because now the bass drum is at the end of the six notes (making it easier to feel) and the right hand starts the three note Bonham Triplets (making it more natural to feel too).

I’ll admit that this doesn’t sound as quirky or original as Gavin’s left handed idea from the top but it’s certainly still fun and interesting to play. Give it a go and try moving your hands around the drums for the two accent notes at the end of the pattern.

Go To Part 2…



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