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Little Things a Drummer Needs & Forgets at the Gig

July 26th, 2018 by Aaron Capers

I’ve grown a lot as a musician over the years. I started in the marching band world, but now I’m a gigging drum set player, and I try to carry over my experience as much as possible. One thing you’re forced to learn if you march in or teach a drumline is that when things go wrong, it doesn’t matter how great your gear is - the tiniest things can easily hijack a performance.

If a drumline is warming up for a performance and a snare drum falls off its stand, you could easily bust a bottom head, or break a tension rod, or even warp a counterhoop. That’s why everyone brings a “head bag” with extra drum heads, tension rods, drum keys, etc. But what about when you’re lugging a whole drum set by yourself to a gig?

I’ve come up with ten things I think every drummer needs to remember to bring to a gig other than just their drums and hardware. These are all things that can help make sure you feel comfortable and ready to tackle any gig, every time!

“It’s better to have, and not need, than to need, and not have”.

Drum Rug

If you play drums, you owe it to yourself to bring your own drum rug to every gig. Regardless if you’ve played the venue or not, it is always safe to assume that nobody else is going to bring a rug for you. It is a necessity for drummers - if you’ve ever played on a concrete floor, you know your floor toms and cymbal stands will have zero traction and will slide with every note.

Your kick drum will also run away from you, which can be super annoying. And if you’re on wood, it might be a little better, but you can damage the floor or damage your kick drum’s spurs. You can eliminate all this hassle by bringing your rug to the show!

Tech Tool/Multi-Tool

A Tech Tool is a swiss army knife for drummers - a multi-tool that contains different gadgets you’ll inevitably need at some point. These have saved me on a number of occasions.

Some have every size allen wrench you’ll ever need (which can come in handy if you have pedal issues), a bottle cap opener (in case the venue your playing has old school bottle sodas), a flathead screwdriver, and a phillips head screwdriver. All of these can come in handy with your drums. It’s a quick fix for most hardware malfunctions.

Velcro/Gaffer Tape

Having velcro is great, especially if you don’t know your playing environment. Being able to fasten your hi-hat or pedal to the ground will keep your stands or pedal from straying while you play.

Gaffer tape has a number of uses, including labeling your stands (height/positions), keeping your cords in place if your setup requires electronics, or for fixing stuff that breaks unexpectedly. Gaffer tape will also tame some wash when you put it on cymbals, although that’s just a quick little drum hack that might help your sound engineer!

MoonGel/Drum Honey

If you don’t play out a lot, it’s easy to get used to how your drum set sounds in your practice space. Problem is, the space you’re in changes your sound completely, and you’ve got to be ready for that when you get to a venue you haven’t played before. Venues that are more dry than your practice space are usually okay, but venues that make your drums sustain a little longer can be a huge pain for the sound engineer!

Happy sound engineers make you sound good. If your kit is too resonant, instead of swapping out heads or tuning your drums way too high, just throw some dampening on them. Moongel and Meinl’s Drum Honey gives you a lot of control of how your instruments sound, and can fine-tune the duration your drums resonate. Meinl’s Drum Honey slogan is literally “It’ll make your drums sound sweet.” I can’t make that up. This is a quick and easy fix that you can keep in your stick bag.

Cymbal Stand Wing Nuts/Quick Release Clutch

One of the most disheartening feelings is getting to a gig and not being able to find things you KNOW you packed. Most drummers unpack their stands before anything else at a gig, and nothing’s worse than when you open up your hardware bag and realize you’re missing cymbal stand wing nuts.

There’s no reason not to keep spare cymbal stand parts in your stick bag or pedal bag! Your stands usually only use one or two kinds of wing nuts, as well as the topper for the stand to keep the cymbal safely attached, so just keep some extras on you to avoid the sinking feeling of “now what do I do?” or “When was the last time I saw them?”

Drum Workshop, Inc. makes a cymbal quick-release clutch that you can screw on or remove by just squeezing with your fingers, so it pops on and off really easily. They even make it in the shape of a drum key, so you never have to worry about losing your key!

Bass Pedal Spring/Extra Beater

Your bass drum pedal won’t work without a spring, plain and simple. What happens if you pull the pedal out of the bag and the spring falls out? What if you look down during the first note of sound check and realize the spring’s busted? It’s important to keep an extra! They aren’t all that expensive, and they can only save you a headache down the road. (You should also consider taking the spring out when you aren’t using your pedal to keep it safe and prevent unnecessary wear!)

Having an extra beater is just as important, although for a different reason. You might get to a gig and suddenly need to get a different kind of sound out of your kick drum - maybe you usually play with a felt beater, but you end up needing a punchier sound to suit the venue or genre of music. As a drummer, sound options are your lifeblood, and keeping options on you will only make you a better gigging drummer overall!

Drum Key

We’ve covered a lot of gear in this guide, and I’m sure you can see that it is all useful in some way or another. But honestly, there isn’t a better or more needed tool in your bag than a drum key. Need to change a head? Tune up a drum? Adjust your bass drum pedal? Tighten a memory lock? Can’t do it without a key. This is overall just the most useful tool to keep on you. AND they can be put almost anywhere (read: everywhere! Keep multiple) so as to not get lost:

  • Stick bags
  • Pedal bag
  • Some pedals have a spot for them
  • Snare/tom bags

Replacement Snare Head

I keep replacement heads for all or almost all of my drums at every gig. That said, you might not need that - you know your drums and heads better than I do! But it can’t hurt you to keep an extra snare head laying around.

Of all your heads, which is the one you’re likely to hit the most times? Which one probably has the highest tension (unless you’re Daru Jones)? Your snare drum! Freak accidents happen - weather, tuning, playing, etc. - and it’s just good to be prepared. You’ll feel better if you have a spare nearby

Drum Throne

Last but not least, bring your own throne!! These things are worn out so easily, and you never want to trust someone else’s. They could not fasten properly, which means you’ll be drumming while practically sitting on the floor. They could be damp and used and gross, which can do absolutely nothing other than distract you.

It could be wobbly, which can lower your precision and confuse your center of gravity, making complicated footwork extremely tough. So just bring your own! It’s worth it.

That's a Wrap

Here’s some suggested products from each category that you can check out:

This list can help you feel more confident, and you'll be able to help out other drummers at your gigs, too (great for making some connections and friends!).

I wish I had people tell me these things when I got started, but that’s exactly why I’m telling you! Let me know your thoughts down in the comments, and if there’s anything else you can’t go without when you’re at a gig.

Aaron "AC" Capers is one of our Percussion Experts, who typically specializes in the marching percussion world. However, he has found himself in the drum set world teaching and helping young people, or as he puts it, "Our Future."

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