Onstage Repairs: Don’t Be Caught Offguard

Speaking of pedals, the bass drum offers a hornet’s nest of possibilities. I carry an old, collapsible pedal in my trap case. Today’s pedals are often permanently mounted on a footboard, but many older ones fold down flat for storage. These take up very little space and will almost certainly take less time than remounting a spring assembly, or even refastening a thrown beater. To address the nightmare situation described in the introduction, I carry a cutout section of an old floor tom head for patching purposes. If your bass drumhead rips, secure the patch to the beater side of the head, and cover (and I mean cover) the patch concentrically, inside and out, with — right you are — gaffer’s tape. (Note: Although the patch requires layer upon layer of tape, be sure you don’t get tape in the area where the beater makes contact with the head. If this happens, the beater will soon wear through the tape and begin to stick to the adhesive beneath — trust me). More than once, this little trick has gotten me to the break, when I can put on a fresh head (stored the same way I stash the snare and all other spare heads).

In the event of the “dancing drum” (slipping bass drum), a small, heavy object, placed directly against the front of the drum, with — you guessed it — the bejesus taped out of it, will usually get you through the set. Occasionally, stagehands will have sandbags or iron weights that will serve the purpose. There are still venues out there that, mystifyingly, don’t have drum rugs. I purchased a rubber-bottomed doorway rug at one of those behemoth hardware stores for about $15. Well worth the investment.

“How about cymbal stands?” you may well ask. This is a good place to recommend the “bag of tricks”: a baggie filled with felt pads, washers, wing nuts, rubber sleeves, tension rods — all the little necessities that are the percussive equivalent of laundry day’s mysterious missing sock. The bag fits nicely into the pocket of your stick bag, and you’ll be glad you have it. Certain pieces of hardware, specifically pedals, require Allan wrenches for adjustments. The “B.O.T.” is a good place to keep these tiny, easy-to-lose tools. As to the actual stands, it’s (the envelope, please), once again, “butt-loads of tape!” Should a leg collapse, prop it up and lay on the tape. If a tilter should strip out, a “splint” can be fashioned out of a broken stick or two, and gobs of tape that will reconnect it to the main arm of the stand. Not ideal, definitely not permanent, but usually acceptable for the moment — not unlike your plans for the end of the evening.

Okay, let’s see … broken tom heads. Simple. Remove the Swiss Army-style knife from your stick bag (you do have one, right?), and with the scissors, cut away as much head as possible, then flip the drum over. Come break time, you just replace the heads (being sure to secure new ones as soon as possible, as you never know when a good head will go bad).

Memory locks are useful devices, not only during set-up, but at repair time, as well. For instance, if the positioning/locking assembly on your floor tom leg strips out, the drum will rest more stably on the memory lock, and can be secured with — do I even need to say it? If your hardware didn’t come with these cool little gadgets, you can use hose clamps, purchased at a hardware or auto supply store for next to nothing. Word of warning: Because hose clamps won’t stay as secure as the factory-installed units, frequent retightening is required.

Cymbals are the only thing left I can think of, and I’m afraid there are not only no quick fixes, but no guaranteed repairs of any type. The only surefire cure for a cracked cymbal is a new cymbal. The one good thing (if one can call it that) about a cracked cymbal is that it usually takes quite a while to spread to the point at which the cymbal is unusable, and is therefore highly unlikely to be a show-stopper — a mood-buster, yes, but not a show-stopper. My one suggestion for staving off the inevitable is to drill a hole slightly larger than the crack, at the point at which it stops — a sort of “cul-de-crack,” if you will. This will hopefully arrest the spread and give you and your cymbal more time together before it’s relegated to the practice kit.

In closing, I’d like to leave you with one piece of advice more valuable to your future than everything else in this article combined: Buy stock in gaffer’s tape, and buy big. Your children will thank you.

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