Dave Elitch is not happy with all the false prophets out there. And with his new, super in-depth instructional course, he’s on a mission to tell all who will listen how to really take their drumming to the next level. “There are many courses out there, some better than others,” says Elitch, who’s worked with the Mars Volta, Miley Cyrus, and M83, among others. “But I’ve never seen things dealt with in the exact way that I see them. With social media, there’s a laughable amount of self-proclaimed ‘teachers’ who have little to no real life experience, and who are actually doing a great deal of damage to the people consuming what they are putting out into the world. I didn’t need to make this course, and I’m quite busy with my private teaching practice, but these ‘teachers’ forced my hand. There’s a lot of parroting going on but very little substance. I wanted something out there that I could confidently send people to and know they were getting the real, correct information.”
Elitch’s three-and-a-half-hour course has something for everyone, and through his years of teaching top-level pros in search of some inspiration or who were stuck in a rut, he presents material that digs into the minutiae of a wide range of topics. Sure, he tackles French grip and fulcrum and ankle-only singles with the heel up, but his philosophical musings will ultimately prove the most useful to players of any stage of development.
And his near-flawless technical command and clean playing are a serious sight to behold. “I’ve strived for the path of least resistance using the correct muscle groups and getting the most return on energy,” Elitch says. “Every expression of physical movement or energy should work the same way. It’s all about trimming the fat with people to align them with these principles.”
When asked about just who the target audience is for all this wisdom, Elitch is all about equal opportunity and having students get exactly what they need from the course. “If someone is only playing for fun with their own band on the weekends,” the drummer says, “they may not necessarily need to go as deep as someone who plays professionally and has hit a wall physiologically and needs to overcome that plateau in order to survive and make a living.”
The course is laid out across two sections. The first breaks down hand technique in Elitch’s bold, no-nonsense way, addressing real-world drumming issues with a focus on the usual stuff like double strokes and paradiddles. He gets into “Garibaldi Ghost- Note Patterns” and Moeller technique, and there’s really no rush to get through everything, as you could spend years on just one of his thirty-second examples. And if you’re okay with your hands, Elitch continues with advanced foot technique that’s not entirely easy.
“You want to avoid practicing things simply because they’re difficult or physically demanding,” Elitch says. “And hopefully by the time you get to the end of this [course], your definition of ‘difficult’ and ‘simple’ will have changed dramatically.”
The second part of the course gets into the deep stuff: phrasing, passive versus active playing, opening up odd times, ear training, tone consistency, ego and confidence in regards to pocket, playing with a click, and lots more. This is the meat of the course for advanced players and should be digested at a deliberate pace, because whether you’re playing arenas or simply a weekend warrior playing “American Girl” at that bar again, Elitch shows you how to break it down and think about what you’re playing in a new light. Plus, he gets back to basics about foundational topics like practicing.
“Forty-five-minute, focused chunks with breaks are the most optimal,” Elitch says. “Instead of basing your practice routine on duration, you should structure it around goals. The problem with time-oriented practice is that it will take everyone a different amount of time to reach a high level of execution. Only take on three to four goals or topics in any given practice session.”
Elitch doesn’t go overboard on the production value here, but a cool feature is the changing kit environment he presents. There’s an open art gallery where his drums have a natural reverb, and there’s a small room where his kit is close-miked, so you hear all the smallest details of his sticking.
“I was basically trying to combine the approach of a few of my favorite instructional courses that had a huge impact on me— [videos by] Steve Jordan, Yogi Horton, Brain—while also making it into my own and letting you into my own world in slightly different and new ways. I really appreciated the down-to-earth, real approach all of those videos had, and it was important for me to convey that energy.”
The course includes performance footage of Elitch on stage in large theaters and in a small space with an improvising noise trio. And when asked if it’s truly possible to get out of your own way, Elitch is introspective. “It’s a very Zen way of approaching this,” he says. “If you think about thinking or try to try, it will remain ever elusive. The only way to do this is by setting the stage and letting it happen. It’s the exact same thing as being ‘on fire’ or ‘in the zone’ when playing sports: you can’t will that to happen. All you can do is set the stage and hope for the best.”
Dave Elitch uses DW drums and hardware, Sabian cymbals, Remo heads, and Vic Firth sticks.