A Drummer's First-Aid Kit for Gig Survival

No, I'm not talking about a medical first-aid kit here - although a bottle of aspirin wouldn't be a bad idea, for those emergencies when the club owner asks you to let a favorite (tone deaf) customer sing with your band. I'm talking about a first-aid gig survival kit for your drumset that contains enough drum gear to help you make it through any on-gig emergencies. Let's face it - Even the most expensive drum equipment in the world can break down at the worst possible moment.

Here's how to build a first-aid gig survival kit that'll keep your gig cookin' even when your gear is out of gas!

Drumming With No Bass Drum
One time, quite a few years ago, I was playing the last tune of the set when my bass drum beater went clear through the drum head. Talk about lack of bottom to the music? Luckily the club was close to home and I got my spare during the 20-minute break. Also luckily, I had a spare. Why didn't I have it with me? I didn't want to schlep it around. Was I sorry? You bet.

Ever since that day, I never went on a gig without a spare bass and snare drum head. You can survive without a tom, but the bass and snare are critical to every song.

Tip: If you break a bass drum head and have no other option, flip your floor tom on its side and hook your drum pedal up to it. It'll be better than nothing!

Spare Drum Heads Aren't Enough
Bass drum pedals are another source of potential problems. I always bring a spare pedal, just in case a spring or the leather strap that controls the pedal linkage breaks. Even if your pedal has a metal strap or a chain linkage, don't think it can't break. It hasn't happened to me, yet, but it has happened to at least a dozen drummers that I know.

Some prefer to carry spare parts for repair instead of a backup. But believe me, even a cheap backup pedal is far better, and a whole lot faster, than trying to repair a pedal strap or spring in the middle of a tune (unless you possess the skills of the Drum Guy.)

You Can Never Have Enough Sticks
How many pairs of sticks do you bring to a gig? I would suggest at least four pair and two pair of brushes (providing you use brushes). I also use mallets for effects, but mallets are pretty expensive. I would carry spares only if I used them for tympani work.

Don't Diss Your Hi-Hat
Next on your list should be a hi-hat clutch (this is the part that goes on the top hi-hat cymbal and locks it onto the hi-hat stand). I suggest that you always carry a spare. Once the screw threads strip off of a clutch, your hi-hat will be useless. Not that you can't live without a hi-hat on a gig, you probably can. But I wouldn't want to.

If you're a singing drummer or an electronic drummer, you need to carry some spare cables. Microphone cords are notorious for shorting out at the worst times, and if you depend solely on electronic drums, the gig is over if your only cord shorts out.

If you use amplifiers, mixers, or any electronic equipment that uses a fuse, throw at least a couple of spares in your first-aid kit. This is your insurance against having to wrap a bad fuse in tin foil to get through the gig (like I've had to do), and possibly cause severe equipment damage (I lucked out on that one).

Protect Your Babies
My final piece of first-aid advice concerns your drum cases. If you use soft cases, the zippers will probably break eventually and, if you can find someone to do the work, it may or may not be cheaper to replace a zipper than to replace the case.

If you use hard fiber-type cases (like I do), you should occasionally examine the straps that hold them closed. Straps eventually wear out and rivets get loose. When you notice this, you should replace them before you find yourself standing on top of a flight of stairs watching your expensive bass drum rolling back down - while you hold the empty case in your hand (you guessed it, this also has happened to me).

Be Prepared
These are the major items you should keep in your first-aid kit. With them, you should be able to survive any gig. Without them, you're really gonna need a big bottle of aspirin. You better get the super king size!

Until next time: Stay loose.

Tiger Bill Meligari



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