Renowned drummer teaches master class

Lifestyles

Renowned drummer Dave Weckl dropped a stick while he was conducting a master class to an adoring audience of 75 plus in the Potter Hall Theater on Friday. He picked up his stick without any embarrassment or frustration at having done this a half a dozen times.

“I’ll explain why I keep dropping those in a minute,” he said.

Dave Weckl

Weckl, who is from St. Louis, made a stop at the campus thanks to the Allied Arts Council and Western before performing at Trails West! later that night. According to a press release, Weckl has performed with Robert Plant, Madonna, George Benson and Diana Ross. He has earned a Grammy and was also inducted into the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame, which named him one of the 25 best drummers of all time.

Weckl has recorded and produced 10 albums, and the Dave Weckl Band, which was formed in 1998, has released five studio albums, according to the press release.

“He’s an amazingly talented drummer,” said Mark Elting, an instructor in the recording arts program at Western who helped coordinate the class. “Everyone can learn something from him.”

Weckl plays a little bit of everything – rock, jazz and Latin – and advised drummers at the master class to be capable of the same.

“Bottom line is you have to get good,” he said. “You have to try to be the best. This is a business, so you have to be smart.”

He acknowledged that drummers don’t use the rudiments when playing, but rather what they feel. Still, he impressed the importance of rudiments, and he also advised musicians to learn keyboards so that they can write music.

He dedicated much of the class to physical fitness, ergonomics of the drum set up and “the independent four.”

“We just didn’t come out of mom ready to move four different things independently,” he said.

Weckl, who is obviously physically fit, stressed the importance of drummers staying in shape. He said that drummers have another option for a cardio workout other than jogging or the elliptical machine: playing the drums.

“Just set out on the drum set at a pace like that,” he said as he pounded out a riff. “It’s good exercise.”

Modern technology has made changes in the way Weckl approaches his art. He said that thanks to technology most of his work is done at home now days. In addition, it is possible for aspiring musicians to do some learning with the click of a mouse.

He said that drummers need to make musically mature decisions. When the day is done, the biggest compliment is not about an awesome drum solo, rather when other musicians like playing with a particular drummer and call them back.

“No one will touch this instrument the same way as me or as you,” he said.

He talked about the positioning of the sticks – about grip and gap. He warned the drummers in the theater about the importance of ergonomics. When setting up the drums, repetitive strain could be creating injuries in the wrists or neck.

“It’s not a big deal when you’re young, but when you get older, stuff begins to hurt,” he said.

Weckl likened playing the drums to being martial artist. As he explained the importance of staying loose while playing, he dropped a stick again.

“That’s why I drop them all the time,” he said. “Because I stay loose.”

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