A great way to make a good impression on other musicians is to consistently go above and beyond other’s expectations. This applies to the music you are required to play as well as being prepared for the gig or rehearsal. There are however, other things that have nothing to do with your playing that show preparedness. Arriving early and setting up on time is a good example. You also need to have a survival kit for things that may break or go wrong.
The Survival Kit: Your Life-Saver On The Gig
A drum kit has many parts with lots of special hardware pieces. There are a boat load of problems that can arise from stubbornly tight hardware, to missing wing nuts, felts or forgetting your drum key at home. My survival kit is one of my biggest life-savers on the gig and it lives in my cymbal bag. It is a small mesh bag that contains a few small items that I have come to rely on over the years. Every single one of these items has come in handy on many occasions.
This one seems obvious, but it’s easy to overlook. The drum key is necessary for tuning as well as the assembly or adjustment of some hardware pieces. I have a drum key on my house key chain and I have it 99.99% of the time. There has been the odd occasion however, where even that amount of certainty has failed me. I have left to the gig without my house keys before, which meant no drum key. I even got to a gig once and found that my regular drum key had gotten stripped enough that it wasn’t working for me. I avoided panic, stress and excuses on every one of those occasions because I knew I had a back-up drum key.
Cymbal Felts and Wingnuts
This one is especially important for occasions when you will be playing a drum kit other than your own. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve shown up to a rehearsal space and saw a cymbal stand with nothing but metal up top. If you put your cymbal on that stand so that metal is making contact with your cymbal, you will likely end up cracking your cymbal. Having some back up felts, wing nuts and a sleeve (the plastic part that protects the hole on the cymbal from making contact with the metal of the stand) will protect your gear so that you can play music worry free. Just don’t forget to take them back with you when you leave.
A hi-hat clutch is the piece of hardware that connects the top cymbal to the pole in the hi-hat stand. This is an important item if you want to play with dynamics or use any open hi-hat sounds. Why have a back-up one of these you ask? Similar reason as above. When you play on a different drum kit, this is a piece of hardware that can give you trouble when you are least expecting it. I have experienced clutches that won’t stay closed, meaning they gradually unscrew while you are playing. I have also seen clutches that are missing a felt. As stated above, metal on metal is bad, so having a back-up in your survival kit can avoid any problems there.
Moongels are small, sticky damper pads made by RTom. They are especially handy if you do any recording or live playing. If the sound of your drums matters to you, then you want to make sure you have these handy. Rather than using some good old-fashioned duct tape, Moongels will help you control the sustain and tone of your drums more effectively. They also peel off easily without any sticky mess or damage to the coating on the drumhead. If they get dirty and lose their stickiness, simply wash them with some soap and water and they’re good as new.
Pencil and Notepad
Everyone has their own system for taking notes. There are only so many things you can commit to memory. When there are last-minute changes to the music you are playing, taking notes goes a long way. This becomes especially important during a rehearsal, where musical changes are usually sorted out. A pencil and pad of paper is useful in a survival kit. You can use it easily anytime, without needing wi-fi or electricity. Old school, but reliably effective.
I have custom-made ear plugs that I really love. I won’t get into the details here, but i will tell you that if I have lost one or forgotten them at home before. Some ear protection is always better than nothing. I know that I have lost some degree of hearing already from my teenage/young adult years, so I have become committed to always having ear protection. That’s why I keep a new pair of foam ear-plugs in a little bag for that exact reason. They are a must for every drummer’s survival kit.
Finally, an egg shaker is an unlikely hero in your survival kit. I can’t tell you how many times there are no drums for a section of a song and the artist turns around to me and asks “Can you play a shaker or something?” I keep an egg shaker in my bag for this very reason. Sometimes people need to hear the timing so that they can perform their parts correctly. If you are not expecting to play any percussion on the gig, then you are likely not equipped with anything useful…unless…you have an egg shaker in your survival kit!
Be Prepared For Anything
That’s not only good work ethic but creates a good first impression for other musicians beyond the music. If something goes missing or breaks on your drum kit, you need to be ready to deal with that. There are many instances where you might play on a different drum kit too. This could be the case if you are playing drums at a school, rehearsal space or sharing a drum kit with other drummers at a gig. Those are the scenarios where you will most likely find missing or broken parts. Nobody wants to hear “it’s not my fault, these crappy drums are missing such and such”. But if you’re ready to deal with it yourself without complaint, then you’re likely increasing your chances of getting called for the gig again.
If you can think of any other useful items that would be good to have in a drummer’s survival kit, leave them in a comment below!
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