The Indispensables: What’s In Your Gig Bag?

(Left) My kingdom for a clutch

The Oxford American Dictionary defines the word “empirical” as follows: “Empirical - adj. (of knowledge) based on observation or experiment, not on theory.” In other words, you know something to be true because you either did it or saw it being done. What they don’t tell us is how much of this “empirical knowledge” involves unexpected and profoundly embarrassing incidents. For example, I have learned empirically that it’s possible to break the bottom head of one’s snare drum. I have also learned empirically that the felt beater of one’s bass drum pedal can work its way loose, propelling the uncovered metal shaft straight through the head. Drawing from these and countless other groove-busting moments, let’s discuss some items I’ve empirically found to be indispensable to the touring drummer.

Beginning with the hi-hat, let’s move around the kit and look for the areas with the highest “PH Factor” (Potential for Humiliation). The Achilles heel of your hat is the clutch. No sweat. Carry a spare in your stick or cymbal bag. On a few long tours, I’ve unobtrusively secured a fully assembled hi-hat, legs drawn up, to the inner wall of the vehicle. As for your other cymbal stands, pack extra discs, felts, sleeves, and wing nuts.

Like the mysteriously missing sock from the dryer, rubber feet occasionally disappear from stands, rendering them lopsided and unstable. Wrap something approximately the size of another band member’s T-shirt around the denuded leg, and duct-tape it to the floor to even things out — so to speak. Duct tape is another essential, but don’t scrimp — the cheap stuff leaves a gummy residue that takes forever to remove. Speaking of which, if you bisect your kick drumhead, do not tape over the tear. After a few minutes, the beater will wear through the tape and stick to the exposed adhesive. A large, circular “patch,” cut from a used head and fastened to the broken head with a butt-load of duct tape, will temporarily keep the drum in action. True, it sounds like crap, but less crappy than the complete absence of kick in the mix.

Regarding your snare, I have just one word: dontbeanidiotcarrytwo. The only thing worse than no kick is no snare. A word to the wise: when your snare head splits, keep time on your floor tom until you can swap out the drums. Omitting the backbeat for more than two measures is opening the door for a bass solo, and nobody wants that. You can store back-up top and bottom heads by placing them upside down and inside the top hoop of your snare. You might want to lay a spare set of snares in there as well. This same procedure can be followed with all your drums. Some miscellaneous indispensables include: secondary bass drum pedal, several drum keys, screwdrivers (for lugs, snare riggings, etc.), Allen wrenches (for pedals), pliers, a lubricant, and spare tension rods.

In conclusion, I offer you a quote from Vernon Sanders Law. I’m impelled to confess that I don’t know if that’s a person, a firm, a firm person, or all three, but here it is: “Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterwards.” Word.