OTHER TOOLS OF THE TRADE - A DRUMMER'S SURVIVAL KIT

by Paul J. Fallat

   Drummers by nature have to be somewhat detail oriented given the complexity of the instrument they play. The many individual pieces of equipment that make up a drumkit require different methods of repair and maintenance. The addition of Electronic, Computer, MIDI devices and sound reinforcement to a drummer's rig further increases the possibilities of a problem needing attention. Murphy's Law states this will happen at the wrong time in the wrong place. This article describes different items you can carry along with your drumkit to prevent or remedy potentially disastrous situations. Most will fit together inside a briefcase or tool chest that you'll gladly pack with your other gear as you find how useful it becomes to you.

   Most drummers already carry a stick bag or case with plenty of spare sticks, brushes, mallets, etc., but sticks aren't the only things that may break. Spare heads, either new or used, can be kept inside each individual drum case, all together inside the cymbal slot of a trap case, or in a bass drum head box that you store in your car or truck. Many drummers carry an extra bass drum pedal and snare drum. If you don't have the room or money for those at least have spare parts of the things most likely to break. On the snare, besides the top head, those would be the bottom snare head, snares, and snare cord or strapping tape. For the pedal have an extra beater, springs, and strap or chain.

   Regarding your cymbal stands, an assortment of felts and plastic sleeves or aquarium tubing can come in handy. I've found these useful especially when playing on kits other than my own, when I may just bring my cymbals to that particular gig. The items mentioned prevent metal to metal contact. These items protect the cymbals along with reducing a potential rattling noise problem. A complete spare hi-hat clutch should definitely be included in your case. A few different sized hose clamps can prevent cymbal or hi-hat tubes from slipping if there isn't some sort of memory lock device already on those stands.

   It's also a good idea to have some miscellaneous parts such as wing nuts, lug rods, washers, metal and wood screws, nails, nuts and bolts, S-hooks, paper clips, etc. Include what seems most applicable to your set-up. An old pill bottle could be an easy storage solution.

   Some versatile small hand tools can be an invaluable addition. I'd strongly recommend spending a little extra for good quality tools that will ultimately last longer and be more reliable than bargain brands. These would include an extra drum key, needle nose and regular pliers, large and small Phillips and flat head screwdrivers, a crescent wrench, allen wrenches (standard and metric), a utility knife, scissors, wire cutters/strippers, a flashlight, and a soldering iron and solder.

   Granted, a soldering iron might not have much use on a drumkit, but being able to fix a bad cable connection, or quickly make a custom cable is a great asset. Besides averting the immediate problem, this can help bolster your reputation as a good team player. Getting back to having spares also applies to cables: AC extensions, microphone (XLR), instrument (1/4"), and MIDI. These may not be items you ALWAYS use but being able to help out your fellow bandmates helps the show that you're all doing together go on. Again, these can be stored in the bottom of a hardware case or in your vehicle. Some other things in this vein are USB Flash-Drive or RAM card backups for your various synths, samplers, and sequencers. Batteries, audio adapters, fuses, a circuit tester and/or ohmmeter, a triple tap AC plug, ground lift adaptor, and electrical tape should also be included. Many of these small parts can fit inside an extra microphone pouch or old make-up bag. Pack some contact cleaning spray to correct noisy volume controls on instruments, amps and mixers. I've even helped some guitar players by having a few picks or strings that someone left behind and I tossed into my tool case.

   Of course no musician's tool bag should be without gaffer's tape, which has saved the day more times than Spinal Tap has had drummers. A few other items are regular and manuscript paper, pens and pencils, ear plugs, light gels, business cards, demo CD's, maybe even a few band-aids and aspirin. Hopefully you'll take these ideas and come up with your own personal "survival kit" that will prepare you as much as possible for the unexpected in your drumming endeavors.