On The Beat with Dave Weckl: Talks Making the Singer Happy

Hey all! I wanted to share a project that is a little different than my usual jazz/fusion content. Although I don’t get the opportunity too much these days, I’ve always loved playing with, for, and behind great vocalists. I really enjoy finding the right drum part and feel for the song. It can be a challenge when getting direction from the vocalist who may not be a drummer but does have ideas for the vibe. I always learn something in situations where I have to dig deeper than the first thing that comes to mind.

Dave Weckl

After a twenty-year hiatus from singing to raise her two daughters, my charming (Italian) wife Clivia Tanisi found the courage to sing again. We decided to do a project together, which has turned into a five song EP entitled Love’s Way Back (Autumn Hill Records, available on download, streaming sites, and

The vision included acoustic instruments, so I enlisted the amazing talents of Tom Kennedy on bass and Bob Franceschini on tenor sax. George Whitty played all the keyboards and helped me get our arrangement ideas formulated into fantastic sounding tracks for me to play to as well as layer everyone else. Most of the drums were tracked in LA at my studio, with all the vocals in Italy produced and mixed by yours truly and mastered by George Whitty. Advertisement

The brushes get a workout on a couple tunes on this project, but there are no jazz patterns. It’s all groove. For example, when Clivia said, “this section has to be soaring, like flying,” on “Learning How To Fly” the translation was smoother, softer, non-staccato strokes while still carrying the groove. When she said, “use the toms,” in “Let’s Stay Together,” I had to really think about and create a groove I felt worked for the song.

The point is that the drummer has to be open to direction, from anyone, without resistance or conflict. There’s always a way to make the song work and make everyone happy, including yourself.

Rob Silverman, of Autumn Hill Records, where the EP lives, says this: “As a longtime Dave Weckl fan, it is especially nice to hear Dave’s drumming in a vocal situation. Dave brings a very musical approach to this music with a very deep pocket and a lot of sensitivity to the singing and lyrics. At the same time, he does not sacrifice any of the technical finesse that we all love to hear. I can’t stop listening to it! Drummers can take away a lot from listening to this EP from an educational standpoint. Dave shows by example how the use of great technique and feel can be used to accentuate a vocal tune and how the drums can be an integral part of the sound of a song and not just take a back seat.”

I stay pretty consistent with my gear, which usually includes Yamaha PHX drums with my brass shell 5.5×14 Thirtieth Anniversary snare. Remo heads are my choice for skins, either Coated Ambassadors (for this project for sure) or Clear for louder applications. Drum sizes will change depending on the music, especially the bass drum. For this recording I used a 16×22 bass drum, 10″, 12″ (standard depths), 14″, and 16″ toms. Advertisement

My Sabian HHX Evolution and Legacy Signature cymbals are definitely and always a part of my go-to gear and include 17″ Evo Effeks with three rivets, 14″ Legacy hi-hats, 17″ Evo crash, a 7″ Evo splash upside down on top of a 12″ Evo splash, 22″ Legacy ride with one rivet, a 14″ Evo China stacked on top of an 18″ Evo crash, and an 18″ Evo Ozone crash.

Vic Firth Signature sticks and brushes, Shure mics, and LP percussion round out the go-to gear!

(Pictured is the Italian studio kit, Yamaha Absolute Hybrid Maple.)

Watch the video for “Let’s Stay Together” here: