Difficulty LevelIn this Free Drum Lesson I wanted to continue on from the previous lesson, available for viewing here, where I shared with you a drum lick Gavin Harrison plays in his now famous “David Letterman” TV Drum Solo performance. You can watch this full drum solo below.

In this drum lesson I’m going to look at another part of the drum solo where Gavin plays a type of rhythmic concept/fill pattern. It involves his left hand playing a grouping of three while his right hand plays a grouping of five.

This idea occurs at almost 1:28 minutes into the video below and showcases Gavin’s ability to think in odd and unique ways. Mixing rhythmic illusions into his drum solos to make them both melodic and clever, both at the same time!

Watch the drum solo below first, check out the lick at 1:28 and then we can take a closer look at it after…


Gavin Harrison David Letterman Drum Solo – “The Chicken”


How To Play Gavin Harrison Drum Solo – Drum Fill/Pattern (1:28)

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

At first glance, the notation makes the pattern look very confusing but as soon as you understand what it is that Gavin is actually playing, it’s not very complicated to understand at all.

Gavin is moving his left hand in a anti-clockwise manner between his snare drum. high tom and super high tom. This three note pattern is repeated with the hand playing the three drums in the same order every time – snare, high, super high.

His right hand however is playing a group of five notes, moving clockwise up and around the drums, from his snare drum to his high tom, medium tom, low tom and super low tom. Again, the order of the drums does not change and this five note pattern is repeated moving back to the snare drum at the end each time.

Both hands start on the snare drum and play in an alternating manner – RLRL. It not only sounds pretty but looks interesting too because his right hand is moving around the drums in one direction while his left hand moves in another.

Lets take a look at the basic pattern Gavin plays below….


Gavin Harrison Drum Solo – Basic Pattern

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

This is the basic pattern in it’s entirety. As you can see, it’s 19 notes long because that’s how many notes are played before the pattern repeats itself. Both hands move back to the snare drum and the whole 19 note cycle is repeated again but starting with the left hand instead of the right.

This example clearly shows you how each hand part is broken down. The right hand part is shown at the top of the bar and the brackets show the five note pattern the right hand plays up and around the drums. The three note left hand part is shown below, indicated with the help of further brackets.

With this example you can see that the right hand plays the five note pattern twice and the left hand plays the three note pattern three times before resolving back together again on the snare drum, starting with the left hand.

So going back to the original extract taken from Gavin’s solo at the top, we can see that he plays just one cycle of 19 notes through sixteenth notes which naturally ends on the “+” of beat 1 of bar 2. The left hand then starts the next cycle of 19 notes but Gavin plays the cycle through sixteenth note triplets when the right hand moves back to the snare drum (not the first left hand which is still played as a standard sixteenth note). This has the effect of the notes being played at a faster rate as he moves from sixteenth notes to sixteenth note triplets.

The 19 note cycle is now played another four times through triplets before ending on the “+” of beat 3 of bar 4 with the left hand on the super high tom. Gavin plays out the rest of the bar with two right hand notes on the super low tom.

Gavin cleverly worked out the number of times he could play this particular cycle of notes through sixteenth notes and then triplets without losing the pulse. Switching to another subdivision on beat 2 of bar 2 and ending the triplets on the “+” of beat 3 in bar 4 is a very precise and clever way of working out the pattern using simple math.

Lets now take a look at how you might play this idea on a drum kit with fewer tom toms…


Taking The Drum Pattern Further…

Gavin’s drum kit has five tom toms, way more than the average drummer. My acoustic drum kit only has two toms for example! šŸ™‚ This next idea is going to take Gavin’s concept and move it to a drum kit with just three tom toms.


Gavin Harrison Drum Solo – Drum Pattern (Three Tom Kit)

Gavin Harrison Drum Solo - Basic Drum Lick (Three Tom Kit)

So now our left hand is going to play snare drum, high tom and then the hi-hat. The left hand needs somewhere to move to after striking the high tom so the hi-hat has been chosen. This is really cool because, unlike Gavin’s pattern, we now have a hi-hat note which jumps out at the listener every third note creating a really cool polyrhythm within the overall pattern.

The right hand moves from snare drum, high tom, medium tom and then floor tom. The left hand is playing a cycle of three and the left hand a cycle of four. This means that the pattern now takes 24 notes to repeat but unlike Gavin’s original lick, the hands do not alternate. The right hand always starts each cycle of 24 notes in other words.

With this pattern, you can play exactly 5 beats worth of sixteenth notes (24 notes) so that the triplets then start on beat 3 of bar 2. The 24 note cycle fits exactly into four beats worth of sixteenth note triplets meaning that this pattern can end neatly on beat 3 of bar 3. It’s always easier to start and end triplet subdivisions on the downbeats of the bar in my opinion.


Bonus Idea…

Because the 24 notes fit precisely into four beats of sixteenth note triplets, this can be a great drum fill idea in it’s own right. You could perhaps practice playing a groove and then dropping into one whole bar of the cycle played through sixteenth note triplets. It would then resolve perfectly on beat 1 of the next bar. This is a really cool application of this particular pattern!


Gavin Harrison Drum Solo – Drum Pattern (Two Tom Kit)

Gavin Harrison Drum Solo - Basic Drum Lick (Two Tom Kit)

This final idea is really straying away from the complexity of Gavin’s original lick. This particular idea involves playing the idea on just a two tom drum kit. This means that it’s much easier to play and quicker to resolve but doesn’t sound as complicated and therefore, perhaps not as impressive. Still, it’s a fun idea so lets have a go anyway.

The left hand plays between the snare drum, high tom and hi-hat while the right hand plays on the snare, high and floor tom. This means that both the right and the left hand are playing a three note cycle that resolves itself every six notes. Starting with the right hand every time as well.

In this example I’ve shown the sixteenth notes moving to triplets on beat 4 of bar 1. The six note cycle fits perfectly into each beat of triplets and so could end on any beat of the bar. I chose for this example to run until the end of bar 2 just so that it ends in a nice comfortable place.


Bonus Idea…

You might like to try this pattern but with the left hand moving just between the snare drum and high tom, leaving out the hi-hat. This will create an uneven cycle that takes more than six notes to resolve. Try working this one out for yourself. In fact, the hi-hat note can be taken out from any of the examples above for a brand new left hand pattern.

Another fun concept to try out is to reverse the direction the left and right hands move around the drums. Try moving the left hand clockwise and the right hand anti-clockwise. This really throws your brain once you get used to the pattern the first way.



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