I know we have all read articles like this before but it is always nice to get a refresher. Our role as the drummer is constantly evolving and we are finding ourselves getting to the gig with more gear and more responsibilities. Well at least it seems that way to me. I would like to share some of my ideas and philosophies on staying organized, calm and collected. This will hopefully help keep you on track from the moment you load in, until the moment you get home way too late and are completely sleep deprived.
So where shall we start? Like most of my musician friends, I tend to suffer from a certain drummers syndrome….. Let’s just say, a musicians mind can be quite cluttered. So it is crucial to have a mental checklist. Or in my case an actual hard copy checklist – HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
Of course you want a master list of all the gear you are bringing to a gig. Unfortunately when you get to the venue you won’t have time to walk around with a clip board checking off all the individual pieces of gear you own. I strongly suggest doing this prior to a gig. That way you will have a chance to see if any of your gear is broken and may require some attention.
Here is an overview of my live rig to give you an idea of how much I have, and how I organize it all.
Kit (4 pcs)
12″ x 8″ rack tom
16″ x 16″ floor tom
22″ x 16″ kick
14″ x 6 1/2″ snare.
So I fit all of this into 4 separate cases. I’d like to make a suggestion. Invest in some good quality cases. You don’t want a case falling apart when you least expect it. Remember, these are your drums. Take care of them.
3 cymbal boom stands.
1 snare stand.
1 hi hat stand.
1 tom mount (mounts off bass drum)
3 floor tom legs.
1 single bass drum pedal.
1 accessory stand for electronic sampling pads.
Yes I fit all of this into one hardware case that has wheels. Investing in a solid hardware case with wheel is crucial and a purchase that will pay dividends down the line.
Cymbal bag #1
1 19″ crash.
1 20″ crash
2 20″ rides.
1 set 14″ hi hats.
Cymbal bag #2
Mini mixer (for backing tracks and in ear monitors)
All associated cables and adapters
Cymbal bag #3
Electronic sample pad module
All associated cables and adapters.
Wow!! Seems like a lot right? When you condense it all into cases, it’s really much more manageable but still is 8 cases in total.
Getting To The Gig
I always ask the sound tech where to set up. Often times if there are other bands and multiple drummers. I will set my stuff up off stage and have it all ready. That way it can be put up on the stage in less than ten minutes. I’m not going to boar you with a step by step tutorial on how to set your drums up. I’m trusting by this point that you already know how to do this. I will however suggest a methodical routine that remains consistent every time. This way your set up will be seamless every time.
My set up routine always remains the same. Shells (drums), followed by stands and accessories, cymbals, then finishing with electronics and cables. This becomes an art form within its self. The more you do it the better it gets. I know this sounds kind of nerdy, but I time myself and try to beat my own record . My personal best time is around 15 minutes for complete set up and ready to sound check. I’m sure some of you reading this could beat me. I applaud you. .
This is the time of night you may be tired and that is when mistakes happen.I perform my tear down backwards from my set up. I start with electronics and cables, You don’t want to lose an important adapter that could be difficult to replace. Then I move on to cymbals, then to stands placing them all back in the case as best as I can. Finally I pack up my shells and put them back in their cases. Then I do a quick scan of the stage to make sure nothing was left behind.
Sometimes band mates would rather have a beverage and mingle amongst the crowd after a set. As much as I would like to do that, I chose not to. I’ve found myself getting caught up in lengthy conversations with old friends or fellow musicians. Before you know it the time has passed and you then are faced with the task of packing up. Get it done right away. Then your gear is safe and sound.
Now that we have taken care of all the set up tear down. I would like to remind you of a few key things to always have on hand just in case you have a gear malfunction.
- I Backup snare head with me. You never know!
- Duct tape (don’t know why) Seems like the right thing to do
- Stick holder I can clamp onto a hi hat stand
- Extra sticks
- Extra cymbal felts, and wing nuts or cymbal toppers. Or the Grombal! An amazingly effective and inexpensive accessory that we sell at the store.
- Flash Light
- DRUM KEY!! I have learned this the hard way. I own tons of them and somehow I have made the mistake of showing up to a gig without them.
- Bring a bottle of water to the stage with you. Countless times I have been two songs into a set and my mouth is bone dry. Your body reacts differently when your adrenalin is pumping.
Well that’s it. I’m pretty sure most of you knew this already but sometimes we all need a reminder. If I left anything out please feel free to contact me with suggestions.
I’d like to leave you with one piece of advice that has served me very well over the years. Kenny Arnoff said it best. “You can be the most technically talented drummer in the world. Full of chops and tricks. Remember, It is your attitude that people will remember you for” Be kind, courteous, and always ready to lend a helping hand. Most of the shows I play will have 2 to 3 other bands playing that night. I always try to introduce myself, ask if they need anything, and help them with gear if the need it. Little things like that go a long way. Look at it this way. You are all playing the same venue sharing the stage. So you are all on the same team. If all the bands have a great show the entire night will be a success.
Last but not least. I always try to connect with the other bands, and people I meet at the shows on social media. It’s a great way to gain exposure to your music and expand your audience. And hey, it’s always nice to make new friends.