Taking Care of Your Equipment
Taking care of drums, cymbals, hardware, and other drum accessories comes down to common sense. For the most part, if you treat your equipment right, it should last you a lifetime. Buying expensive new gear should only be the result of a desire to upgrade, not the result of poor instrument management.
If you're like most people, you've done something absent-minded. Maybe you lost your car keys or left your bankcard in the ATM. Who hasn't left their brown-bag lunch on the kitchen counter at home?
There is probably no working musician who hasn't had something break during a performance or left something behind after a gig. As a drummer, you are usually one of the last to leave after a show. It's not uncommon to see sheet music, a stray stand light, or some other small article left behind by the other musicians, who are in a rush to get home or to another gig. Don't let this be you.
It is ordained by life that you will make some mistakes and unwise decisions. But with regard to your drumming career, minimize distressful and forgetful moments by following some basic commonsense guidelines.
Keeping an Eye on Your Gear
First of all, if you take your equipment outside of your home, keep a close eye on it. Second, if you decide to store your drums where you're not, make sure they're in good hands.
Let's look at this common scenario: You're going over to your friend Jay's house with your drums, and you're going to jam in his basement. Perhaps you plan on leaving your gear set up at Jay's for a few days.
Think to yourself, “Is there any hazard in leaving my drums?” In any situation there is the potential for disaster. Consider all possible calamities. Ask your buddy if his basement ever floods. Ask him if he has little brothers or sisters. Young children can do a world of damage.
Are these kids going to play with your drums? Are they going to get jelly or chocolate or some other goop all over your equipment? Are they going to take markers and draw on your drumheads? Worse yet, are they going to use basement tools to bang on your drums? These are very real concerns and you will have to make a judgment call.
Also, consider the neighborhood your buddy lives in. Does he live in a seedy area of town? If so, are you confident that his house is secure? A little forethought goes a long way.
Caring For Your Drums on a Gig
Here's another scenario: Let's say you're performing at a rock club. Do you feel safe leaving equipment at the club while you go and eat dinner with the rest of the band? Is it safe to even leave your equipment in the back room while you chat with friends at the bar?
Rock clubs, indeed all clubs, are potential hazards. Most rock clubs book a lineup of bands each night and time slots are given to each group. Band X plays for forty-five minutes, the stage is quickly struck, and then the next band comes up followed by yet another band, and so on. The evening's bill may include as many as ten bands, especially if it's some sort of festival or benefit concert.
Musicians will be carting equipment in and out of the club often in assembly line fashion. Usually, the backstage area of a rock club is a whirlwind of activity. To make things more complicated, there is usually only one spot in the club where musicians pile up gear. Often, drum cases and cymbals bags are jumbled together, along with guitars, speaker cabinets, personal wardrobe, and so on.
Of course, you need to know the look of your gear from afar. Drum cases tend to make everybody's equipment look identical. It's a good idea to place brightly colored stickers on your cases so that your gear doesn't get mixed in with that loud metal drummer who played before you. Also, include a tag on all of your cases indicating your name, address, and telephone number.
You don't need to be a rocket scientist to calculate that this environment equals trouble. The good news is that rarely do musicians purposely steal equipment from other bands, but mistakes do happen. In a situation like the one just described, watch your gear with an eagle eye. If you have other responsibilities such as greeting friends, first make sure that your equipment is safe and secure. If you absolutely must leave your drums' side, don't go too far and check back about every five minutes.
When you're at a club, survey the scene. Always ask yourself, “Are there back exits to the club?” If so, be extra-careful since, as mentioned, equipment will be going in and out. If there is no back exit, but you need to say hello to Uncle Gary, who is sitting in the corner, keep one eye on the front door to watch what comes in and what goes out. Again, this is just common sense.
Protecting Your Equipment from Others
Here's another scenario out on the street: Often, you're playing a small dinner club or restaurant that does not have a stage. In this setting, your drums may be set up very near the audience. Your average John or Jane Doe typically thinks drums are cool instruments. In fact, many of them don't hesitate to pick up a stick to whap a cymbal or tom-tom. Drunken patrons are particularly prone to this kind of behavior. Occasionally, a stranger will even sit down at your kit and begin flailing away.
Don't tolerate this behavior. Politely ask the person not to touch your drums and hold out your hand to take the sticks away from them. If they give you a hard time, contact the restaurant manager. Patrons must learn that touching any instrument, without the consent of its owner, is inappropriate. Unfortunately, it's your job to teach these curious passersby one by one.
If you're leaving your gear in a parked car, be very careful. It is not recommended to do this ever, but if you must, make sure not only that the car is locked, but that your gear is not visible. Always try to fit as much equipment as possible in a locked trunk. If you need to, prioritize. Make sure smaller items that can be easy to grab and run with are locked in the trunk. If you're going out to an all-night diner after a gig, request a window seat and park your car so that you can watch it from the table. Car alarms and tinted glass also reduce theft.