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How To Be Prepared For A Backline Gig

April 13th, 2017 by Guyton Sanders

What Is Backline?

Sometimes music venues, promoters, or festivals require bands to use the same drum set (and sometimes other instruments) to make changeover much faster. You might come across a similar situation in venues that don't have room for your empty cases inside. This kind of setup is known as "backline", and if you see this word pertaining to an upcoming gig you'll want to be prepared and flexible...or prepare to be miserable.

Obviously not everything will be in your control at a backline gig. If you don't have a lot of time, tuning is out of your hands, and in extreme examples you might not even be able to adjust heights on your hardware. I've played venues where the joints on the stands were literally fused in place, meanwhile the heads haven't been changed in years. However, there are plenty of things you can control, so here's what you ought to have at every backline gig:

Stuff You Should Bring


Your Snare Drum, Cymbals, Bass Pedal, and Throne

Don't play with strangers' pedals. You never know where they've been.


Don't rely on the backline kit to have this equipment in decent working order or chances are you'll be sorry. Besides, bringing this gear is the closest thing to your personal sound and feel you'll get in this kind of a situation.

Drummer's First Aid Kit

You don't think about these little parts much, but when you need them you REALLY need them.


Get yourself a small case or bag, and put these things in it to save yourself headaches or cold sweats:

1. Cymbal and Hi Hat Felts, Sleeves, and Washers (unless you hate your cymbals)
2. Hi Hat Clutch
3. Drum Key
4. Cymbal Stand Wing Nuts (both 6mm and 8mm, you never know what stands you'll have)
5. Pocket Knife
6. Gaffer's Tape
7. A Drum Multi-Tool (the hex keys and screwdriver bits are really handy for hardware issues) like the ones offered by Pearl, CruzTools, or Tama.

If you’re on tour, you might want to bring along extra snare and bass batter heads - those are the most likely to break at the worst possible time.

Your Stick Bag

Always a good idea to have a pair of swizzles and bundle sticks in with your regular sticks.


Duh. You should always have your stick bag.

A Good Attitude For The Sound People

Sound people can make or break your show. Get to know them, give them your name and maybe some gum, and be nice!


Using Electronics

My fellow seasoned gigging drummer and coworker Robert plays with a band that uses a lot of electronics in their set, and that comes with its own problems at a backline venue. Here's what he suggests:

"My cymbal and trigger setup is not conducive to backline gigs. I'll let the stage manager and/or sound people know I'll be moving the backline hardware out of the way so I can set up my own hardware. I highly suggest setting all of the heights and angles of your hardware before you move onto the stage so you can do so as quickly as possible. Sometimes I'll even return the backline hardware to its original spot when the set's over."

He also recommends that you "...bring along extra instrument cables, a direct box, in-ears, extension cords, and any other electronic accessories you might need."


Backline Horror Stories

Do you have any tales of terror playing a backline gig? Have any other advice for drummers to heed? Put your comments down below!



Guyton is one of our Percussion Experts, helping folks out when they need to make an order or have a question about drums. He plays gigs all over town with numerous bands, and has a particular unhealthy passion for vintage drum sets.




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