In a field of endeavour as subjective as music, trying to pinpoint the best drummer in the world quickly becomes an exercise in futility with arguments about indefinable qualities like feel and musicality butting heads with devotees of chops and speed.
Yet there are a handful of players at the top of the rhythmic heap that possess the combination of technique, confidence and vocabulary behind the kit to be able to express themselves with a clarity and fluency most drummers can only dream of. And there are few to rival Dave Weckl on that score.
We were lucky enough to catch up with Dave and quiz him on the gear that he relies on to deliver his expressive, masterful drumming.
You’ve been with Yamaha for 30 years. Is a drummer only as good as their kit?
“Yes and no, to answer the question. To correlate; a good race car driver can jump into any car, quickly acclimate to it and drive very fast around a race track. Any good drummer can jump on any kit and sound pretty darn good, or should be able to.
"However, at a high level, where one is very sensitive to the details of good gear – car or drumset in this case – the driver/drummer will be able to perform easier, and be free to achieve their ‘vision’ of what they want to do, and therefore it should be better.
"For me, Yamaha drums – along with all my other gear; Sabian, Vic Firth, Remo, LP, Shure, etc – helps me to be in that ‘zone’ I strive to always be in. With lesser gear, the absolute result may not be achievable, at least at the level or vision of the individual attempting the performance, and is certainly the case for me.”
Talk us through the evolution of your kit over the last 30 years. Have you reached your optimum set-up, or is there still room for manoeuvre?
“My set-up changes based on the music I play, always has. This is especially the case in the studio, depending on individual songs, and the sound I want to create – or am asked to create – in that moment.
"If you dig up pictures of my kit from 30 years ago, you will find a similar rack tom set-up that I use now, which is offset to my left from the centre of the bass drum. When I got into the Elektric Band, the use of electronics/pads forced another set-up, then going back to mostly acoustic drums, and studying with Freddy [Gruber], forced yet another approach with different heights and angles.
"Basically though, for the most part, I think yes, I have achieved the optimum set-up, or set-ups, for me. The ergonomics, ie: the heights and angles of the kit, and getting things in a place so natural body motion can prevail, has been the biggest adjustment over the years.
"This becomes more important the older you get, so that you are not taxing your body simply by putting it in distressing positions, risking injury. But, ideas are always coming and possibly in the ‘moment’ of what I may want to hear or play, so things can always change.”
- 18"x16" kick with Remo Coated Ambassador Batter, Standard issue Yamaha front logo head, no hole. No muffling inside drum, only slight damping with a prototype external muffler being developed with Remo)
- 14"x5½" Brass shell, 30th Anniversary Signature Snare:“At times I will use two snares – 13"x5" Signature snare on my left – so the 16"x15" floor tom moves back next to the 14" floor tom.”
- 12"x8" rack tom, 14"x13" floor tom, 16"x15" left side floor tom:“THE only difference on my fusion kit is a different bass drum size – either 22"x16" or 20"x16" – and the addition of a 10"x7" rack tom, mounted on Hex Rack.It will depend on the music and band as to how the bass drum is tuned – hole or not – and muffled.”
Sabian HHX Evolution and Legacy series:
- 22" Legacy Heavy ride with one rivet
- 20" Legacy ride
- 14" Legacy hi-hats (Evolution hats with Fusion kit)
- 18" Evolution crash and 14" Evolution China stack
- 17" O-zone (special order) (18" with Fusion set-up)
- 17" Evolution Effeks with three rivets
- 10" Evolution splash (upside down on top of 20" ride – Acoustic Band kit only)
- 7" Evolution splash (upside down on top of 17" Effeks – Acoustic Band kit only)
- 12" Evolution splash with fusion kit – 7" mounted upside down, 17" or 18" Evolution crash on Fusion kit in place of 20" Legacy ride.“The 20" ride gets replaced with either a 17" or 18" Evolution/Legacy crash. The O-zone is an 18" with this kit.”
- 14" Latin Percussion Tito Puente timbale (on snare stand next to 14" floor tom),
- Latin Percussion Mambo Cowbell (mounted off ride cymbal stand with multi-clamp)
- 9500C double foot pedal with nylon straps (in place of chains)
- DS-840 drum seat
- HS-1200T hi-hat stand
- Yamaha Hex Rack II
- Yamaha O1V96i: "This is my FoH mixer as well as my in-ear monitor mixer for all on stage.”
Shure mics and monitoring
- Beta 52 for kick – Beta 91 inside on 18" kick
- SM57 on snares
- SM98 on toms
- KSM44 overheads
- SM81 on hi-hat
- in-ear pack with E550 ear pieces
All toms have Remo Coated Ambassador heads on top, Clear Ambassadors on bottom; snare has Coated Ambassador on top and Ambassadors snare-side; active snare muffler and bass drum mufflers designed in conjunction with Remo;
Vic Firth sticks and products:
- SDW and SDW2: “I mostly use the latter,”
- Rute 505, brushes, mallets, etc