As a tutor, I am often asked by students (especially when they begin their drumming journey) - 'What are the most important things I need as a drummer?'
My answer is usually along the lines off - "Passion, commitment, perseverance, a lot of duct tape and plasters!'
So, seeing as this is a really common question amongst drummers, teaching and percussion enthusiasts I thought would do short(ish) list of 11 ITEMS EVERY DRUMMER SHOULD HAVE IN THEIR GIG BAG.
A lot of these things can be found in your local shops but I have also provided some online example links under each item so you can make sure you are fully stocked for your next gig.
Here they are:
Now, you would think we would remember this one! But you would be surprised about how many times I have witnessed a drummer/student arrive at a lesson or turn up to go on stage without them and having to ask around to borrow someones sticks.
In my early years of drumming, every single teacher I had drilled it into me that being prepared is absolutely essential. It is rule 1 of looking and performing like a professional - you are well equipped and prepared for what you are about to do.
Personally, my own interpretation of this has grown into it being a sign of respect. Forgetting your sticks and turning up un equipped and unprepared gives of an attitude of laziness and 'not caring' for your craft.
Their are hundred of different types, shapes, and models out there so really get stuck in and find what stick works and feels best for you. You may decide you like different models for different styles of music. Great! Just make sure your remember to put them in your bag!
also.. playing drum kits with your hands tends to get a little difficult.
I absolutely love playing with mallets.
When used appropriately, I feel they can add so many dynamic and interesting textures and sounds to your playing and can really change and alter ambience and delivery of a piece of music.
I love the tribal feel you can get when playing the on the drums and in general, they are just great to play with and experiment with different velocity, patterns and styles.
3. DRUM KEY/S
An absolute essential to any drummers arsenal of tools. There is nothing worse than being lumped with a old, untuned house kit which has seen better days and quite possibly hasn't been tuned in months.. maybe even years.
Being able to tune drums is a skill in which I believe every musician should know in some basic form. Nowadays we are lucky enough to have tools and digital tuners (much like guitar tuners) which makes the whole tuning process much easier and bridges the gap between knowledge of tuning (or lack of) and your drums actually sounding good. I personally invested money into a piece of equipment called a Tunebot, which is essentially a digital tuner for drums. They go for about £80 and worth the money if you need to get consistent tuning with ease.
However, if I was to not have it handy, I wouldn't be at a loss as I know how to tune drums and so should you!
There are lots of straightforward tutorials online on how to tune drums. Here is a couple:
4. EAR DEFENDERS/PLUGS
As drummers, we are exposed to a lot of loud noise all the time. While you're smashing out your favourite Nirvana track and channeling your inner primitive beast, your hearing is taking more of a beating than you realise.
It may not happen quickly but over exposure to loud noise over prolonged periods can lead to things like Tinnitus and loss of hearing in general and that is the last thing to want happening.
As musicians, our ears are our most valuable tool we have and it is our job to do everything we can in order to make sure they are working in perfect form as best they can. It is good practise to use ear plugs/defenders in any live or loud noise environment.
While smashing the drums as hard as you can may feel cool... hearing loss definately isn't.
Heres my personal recommendation:
5. DUCT TAPE / ELECTRICAL TAPE
The musicians savour.
I cannot count how many times I or my band-mates have needed to patch something up on the fly.
Maybe you got forgot your dampening (see item 7) and need to dampen your drums in a hurry (make sure you've got tape that doesn't leave residue.. its's nightmare to clean off) to customising your bass drum and everything in between, it really should be an absolute staple.
I always tend to keep a roll of standard electrical tape alongside it as well.
Always keep a roll in your bag! You never know when you're going to need it.
6. CYMBAL WING NUTS, WASHERS AND FELTS
There is nothing worse than buying a brand new, shiny cymbals which you can't wait to play, getting to the show and seeing no cymbal sleeves on the stands.
The cymbal sleeves act as a barrier between the metal stand and your cymbal, allowing it to rock and move freely without abrasively smashing metal on metal. You don't want cracked and messed up cymbals.
Cymbals aren't cheap and you should absolutely want to protect your investment. They aren't expensive at all and you can commonly buy them in multipacks.
I personally keep all these bits in a little zip pouch which I just throw I just keep in my bag which I always keep well supplied.
TIP: Remember to take them back off when you are done (if the kit is not yours). These have a tendency to disappear...
Dampening simply helps reduce any unwanted overtones from your drums and makes them essentially sound more 'dead'. A really useful and re-usable tool for getting the drums to sound the way you want without having to stick a lot of duct tape all over the skins!
I personally use a dampening system called Snareweight. They are made in U.S.A, made of leather, last forever, sound great and I think they look really classy. They come in different models, sizes and colours. Definitely check them out!
However, you don't have to go for something like snareweight. A pot of moongel always sits in my bag as well for good measure! Moongel comes in blue and clear. Personally I like the clear as I feel it blends with the drums more. These can be washed and reused time and time again so you really get your fair use for how affordable they are!
Drummers.. so particular...
8. Plasters / Band-Aids
Good to have hand for obvious reasons. The last thing you want it to cut yourself and get blood all over your shiny new drum kit! You can buy these pretty much everywhere.
9. Hi-Hat Clutch
I always keep a couple of these in my bag at a all times. Venues and backline kits may not always supply them and if they do, they are normally really old and don't hold the cymbals in the way the should/used to and become loose really quickly to do the threading being worn down (in my experience).
I keep a a regular one as standard and I also carry a quick lock clutch as well. These are great as you don't have to fumble around spinning the washer on to clutch.
Check them out!
Standard Hi-Hat Clutch - https://www.gear4music.com/Drums-and-Percussion/PDP-Hi-Hat-Clutch/2UXG
Quick Lock - https://www.gear4music.com/Drums-and-Percussion/Remo-Quicklock-HH-Clutch-Assembly/EK8?origin=product-ads&gclid=CjwKCAjwiLGGBhAqEiwAgq3q_ije-uB-GWj6akxHq_24vx57dSe6W9AYwLqoo9UXP4JpsCIu-wCMqRoCalIQAvD_BwE
10. Pen and Paper / Permanent Markers
I love a good pen!
You see many drummers and musicians nowadays with iPads and Tablets next to their rigs. While this technology is great , absolutely nothing can beat a decent pen and paper.
Who knows what your going to need it for.. maybe you need to scribble down a setlist really quickly? or makes some notes on a chart? Sign those autographs?
11. Mini Torch
I think a torch is one of the most underrated bit of kit you carry in your bag. Stages and venues tend to be really dark and light can be very minimal. So having a little light handy is really useful.
Now, most commonly used phones these days have a torch on them... but you may need to preserve your battery while on the road so having an external torch is definitely a good idea.
Now, this is an often overlooked one by many (not just drummers). But I can't explain enough how absolutely crucial and essential it is too keep your body and your mind fuelled appropriately whilst your are out there playing shows, touring, and travelling.
Being a musician is a very active and sometimes exhausting lifestyle and in order to deliver our best performance every night (sometimes for weeks in a row) we need to make sure our minds and bodies and being looked after so they can run to maximum potential.
I always take essentials vitamins in my bag (A, B + B12, C D AND E and sometimes Iron) these can usually be found in the form of a multivitamin (the cheaper ones are usually useless.) As well as a couple of healthy nutrient-rich snacks such protein bars, nuts and fruits as well as making sure to drink LOTS OF WATER, all day, EVERY day.
DISCLAIMER: Please consult your doctor before taking any supplements. Different people take different things. I am not a doctor or nutrition expert, I am just sharing what works for me.
So that about wraps it up, a list of items every drummer should keep (or at least try to) in their bag.
I hope this has been helpful and has maybe inspired you to build your own 'essentials' list! After all, we are all different and we may find we need different things than the next person.
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