Learn Touring | Drums on the Road

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Don''t leave home without them: road essentials for drummers.

Live shows and touring test your gear—and your patience—like nothing else. Whether you''re performing a series of one-night stands or just the occasional gig across town, the routine of packing and unpacking, loading and unloading will eventually take its toll on your instruments. And the last thing you want is a snare drum or bass drum pedal to crap out when you''re not prepared for it.

Most of us can''t afford to keep a completely redundant set waiting in the wings, so it''s a good idea to pack a few essentials that will get us through the common technical issues that are bound to happen. While it might seem like common sense to pack extras of the items we use most, I''m always surprised at the number of drummers who don''t even carry a drum key.

Let''s begin with the bits that every drummer should have and that are easy to carry, so it won''t matter whether you''re playing locally or flying internationally. From there, I''ll suggest extras that make sense when you have additional storage capacity.

These essentials are TSA-friendly and worth carrying on a plane, because you never know if your checked luggage will arrive at the airport when you do. If your gear doesn''t make it to the gig, at least you have the absolute basics if you need to quickly repair a dodgy backline kit.

Obviously, you should bring a drum key to every gig. If you''re like me and keep losing it, buy one that you can put on your keychain. In addition, I bring a plastic bag that contains several strands of snare cable (the string used to attach the snares to the drum), as well as extra cymbal felts and sleeves. Even if you''re playing borrowed kits, you want to be ready if a snare cable is frayed or breaks, or if the cymbal stands are missing the soft bits. I also pack an extra hi-hat clutch, whether I''ve got my own stand or if I''m using backline.

And, of course, packing several extra pairs of sticks is a no-brainer. If you use brushes and mallets, always have an additional pair of each. Check these in your regular luggage at your peril.

Finally, I pack a small flashlight, usually an extra-bright LED version, in my carry-on stick bag. If you drop something on a darkened stage, you''ll be glad you have it.

The next level of essentials includes two screwdrivers (one flathead and one Phillips-head), a pair of pliers, and a pair of scissors. I''ve used these to fix bass drum pedals, replace snare cables, and tighten up parts that have loosened and become noisy. Put these tools in your checked baggage if you''re flying, so that the TSA won''t hassle you.

If I''m driving or able to ship a trap case, I''ll pack a small rug (with a rubberized bottom) that''s big enough to put my bass drum and hi-hat on, a roll of gaffers tape, a roll of duct tape, and extra heads for the top and bottom of the snare. The harder you play, the more important the extra heads are.

If there''s room in the trap case and weight isn''t an issue, pack a second bass drum pedal, even if it''s a cheapie. I''ve had my pedal go out twice onstage in my career, and having a lightweight pedal as a substitute was better than having none at all.

Gear has a habit of disappearing after a gig, and a drum set has so many parts that it''s surprisingly easy to leave something behind, whether onstage during a frantic set change or backstage after you pack. Consequently, you need to be able to identify your own gear quickly, and marking your stuff will help.

The simplest and cheapest way is to use strips of colored tape, which you can wrap around essential components in an inconspicuous place. Then if something goes missing, you can call the club or the other bands and easily identify your property. For example, my touring hardware has a strip of yellow tape around the bottom of one leg on each stand. Onstage, I place the tagged legs closest to me, so they don''t distract the audience. These convenient little tags also help me locate my gear in the forest of stands backstage at the end of the night. I also tag my sticks and mallets. And a bit of tape will help you identify your cymbal felts and sleeves so you won''t accidentally leave them behind.

It''s also wise to put your name on your cases. Using stencils from the hardware store, I spray painted mine on the lid and side of each hard-shell case. And because I occasionally check my cymbal case as regular baggage on planes, I painted my name, phone number, and email address on it so that I can be contacted easily if it gets misdirected.