This week’s transcription is reviewing some playing by the one of the most innovative, metronomic (yet somehow simultaneously non-metronomic), meticulous, groovy and pocketed drummers of our time. Eric Harland is a rhythmic anomaly. Probably a humanoid: half-man, half-machine. He plays with the grid-like precision of an Ableton Push yet his dynamics and overall feeling is beyond the limitation of any musical algorithms. It wouldn’t be a surprise if he turned out to be a T-1000 in disguise, sent from the future to the past to terminate all other inferior rhythms.
Anyways, the clip I’m sharing today is a three bar fill whipped out during a Berklee soundcheck. Here’s that sweet piece. This performance was with Julian Lage. And if you haven’t listened to his sultry sounds, stop reading this and listen to this. His sounds are so sweet, it’ll make your teeth hurt. Just be sure to gargle some water afterwards if you can’t brush.
But getting back to the main attraction. One of the more interesting qualities of this fill are all the subdivisions he just enters and exits and transitions through so quickly. In three bars you’ve got a transition of quarter notes, triplets, 8th notes, sextuplets, 16th notes and 32nd notes. He’s dicing the quarter note feel into a bunch various sized time chunks seamlessly, and in a way that isn’t exactly predictable. And presumably all happening in the moment. This fill rolls out on beat 2. It could also be played on beat 4 for a similar effect. The setting is just a backbeat (at its core), kick on 1/3 and snare on 2/4 (but naturally with all the tasteful idiosyncrasies typical of this cyborg man). Check it out.
I’ve found it to be challenging, especially with beginning the first of the sextuplets with closing the hi-hat. Overall though, this lick hosts a sweet set of ideas to have in your pocket. There aren’t too many drummers now that would play something like this over a backbeat, so expanding into this new vocabulary will definitely unlock some idioms of your own as your explore all the nooks and crannies of the beat. Here’s another link if you want another resolution of the transcription: Eric Harland Fill.
There will be more EH in the future, along with some EH inspired licks and grooves.