As road schedules go, it’s often all we can do to maintain our personal hygiene (and apparently even that’s too much for a few bass players I’ve roomed with), much less keep our gear glistening. If I don’t have time to shave before a show, I sure as hell don’t have time to polish my cymbals — and, no, that’s not a euphemism for something else. There are, however, a few tricks I’ve devised that we can periodically employ to discourage plant and animal life from breeding in those nooks and crannies. Uh … our drum’s nooks and crannies, that is.
Try this one at a load-in when you’re slightly less pressed for time: while setting up your stands, take two clean towels, one slightly damp, the other dry. As you assemble your kit, wipe down each section of your stands, first with the damp cloth, then the dry. To avoid rust, make sure that you thoroughly dry each piece before moving to the next. When changing heads, a similar approach can be applied to the shells. Remove the heads and hoops from one drum at a time (trust me, if you should suddenly run out of time, you don’t want your entire kit in pieces), and repeat the two-towel process, inside and out. Tighten the screws inside the shell, as playing and road vibrations can cause them to back out. Again, make certain that you’ve dried the drum completely before reassembling.
If you’re willing to sacrifice a beautiful day off for a higher cause, this more elaborate technique will provide a superior cleaning for everything but your shells. Here’s what you’ll need: a bit of sweet-talking to gain you entrée to the hotel or venue hose, several hours of sunshine for adequate drying, and plenty of clean rags. For your wash water, grab the ice bucket and shampoo (shampoo cuts grease more efficiently and rinses cleaner than soap) from your hotel room. You’ll also need a lubricant to replace the oils you’ll be removing from lugs, pedals, and such. Tri-Flow, a Teflon-based lube available at hardware stores has become quite popular for pedals — for lugs, just dip the tip in a jar of Vaseline.
Begin by completely disassembling your stands, then wash, rinse, and dry several pieces at once. Leave them in the sun to bake dry and repeat the process until you’ve worked your way around the entire kit. There are a few cymbal polishes on the market that can be sprayed on, rubbed in, and rinsed off, but for that migraine-inducing shine, you can’t beat commercial brass polish. Be forewarned, this approach will kick your butt, and can take half an hour per, but your cymbals will be straight pimpin’ when you’ve finally finished.
Sore arms and sunburn aside, at the end of the day your kit will look gorgeous, and both it and you will sound better. Oh, and on the off chance that I’m the next guest in your hotel room, would you please scrub out that ice bucket? Thank you.