micronotes: On In The Air Tonight and Experimentation
Polyrhythmics! So the structure of this fill: you can count it out as 16 beats long (sub-beats technically but let’s keep this simpler to write out), but there’s not a hit on every beat: Phil plays Duh-Duh (pause) Duh-Duh (pause) Duh-Duh (pause) Duh-Duh (pause) DUH (pause) DUH (pause).
We could rewrite that as a little string where X = hit, o = pause, like this: XXoXXoXXoXXoXoXo
At song start we get all the tones in unison, but every later juxtaposition of the XXo segments has some other set of tones mixed together. So they sound the same, but not! This is also where some of the more interesting effects in the muddier, less-coherent sections come in, as we get constantly-shifting miniature studies in melodic rhythm as those different tom tones crash against each other in little flams and arpeggios.
If you’re a drummer or just like wasting time reading about music technicalities, I highly recommend Millard’s explanation of juxtaposing the normal speed with modified speeds of this iconic drum fill.