“It was the only thing my dad actually sat down to teach me”: Wolfgang Van Halen talks learning drums before he picked up the guitar

Every multi-instrumentalist’s gotta start somewhere…

Wolfgang Van Halen on stage

Image: Theo Wargo/Getty

When you purchase through affiliate links on Guitar.com, you may contribute to our site through commissions. Learn more

Growing up with a guitarist father and a drummer uncle, which instrument do you learn first?

Wolfgang Van Halen has said in a recent interview that he actually learned the drums first, following in the footsteps of his uncle Alex rather than his father Eddie.

“I started playing drums when I was nine-ish,” he tells MusicRadar. “It was the only thing my dad actually sat down to teach me. He sat me down at a table with a couple of magazines. And he had me play eighth notes with my right hand, or quarter notes, I guess.

“Then with my left hand on the two and the four, and then he’s like, if you can do your foot on the one and the three and do that all together at the same time, you’re playing Highway to Hell. So once he saw that I could do it. He was like ‘Yes!’”

He explained that he practised by listening to Van Halen‘s Best Of – Volume One and Blink-182‘s Enema of the State, as well as watching his uncle during rehearsals.

But perhaps surprisingly, he never had formal lessons with Alex. “Other than that moment of Dad sitting me down,” he said, “There was never a moment where either Al or Dad sat down like, ‘I’m gonna teach you how to do this’. I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I like how I was able to teach myself from looking at guitar tabs on the internet and just trying to replicate every one of my favourite songs.”

And while Wolfgang is predominantly a vocalist and guitarist these days, and has a band for live shows, he writes and records every single note you hear on Mammoth WVH‘s songs. He has described their live shows as a “different entity” compared to their studio albums.


The world’s leading authority and resource for all things guitar.

© 2024 Guitar.com is part of NME Networks.