Written By Jarred Tibbetts, Musician's Friend Staff Writer
Asking a guitar player to show up at a gig and play a guitar that isn’t theirs is heresy, but unfortunately, it’s common practice for us drummers. So, how can you make playing a show on backlined gear as comfortable, easy and familiar as possible? Bring along a few key pieces to achieve your sound no matter the conditions. I’ve put together a list of eight essential pieces every drummer should always bring if they’re sitting behind a house kit.
The likelihood of finding a house snare with a brand-new head and responsive snare wires is slim to none. Playing a beat-up snare with an old head is my own personal hell. The snare is your signature and you’re the backbeat of the band. My gigging snare is the DW Collector’s Series Black Nickel Over Brass 14x6.5” Snare. Brass is one of the most versatile drum materials out there and cuts through a mix.
Chances are if a venue even has a backline of cymbals, they’re not as good as yours. Cymbals, like your snare, are your voice and you want to be heard. I've played Zildjian since I started playing drums nearly 20 years ago. Although they come from different product families, my cymbals are: Zildjian 22” A Custom Ping ride, 19” K Custom Dark crash, 20” A Custom crash and 15” K Light hi-hats.
Trying to make last-minute adjustments to a worn out kick pedal right before you play is an unneeded stress. It gives me anxiety just typing that. And if you don’t adjust it, you probably won’t get used to the action until the second-to-last song. How do I keep my gigs stress-free? I play the DW 5000 Series Accelerator Single Pedal.
This should go without saying, but I’ve played too many shows where another drummer on the bill asks if they can borrow some sticks. Always bring two pairs in case you get a little over zealous and break one. My sticks of choice, Vater's 5B Wood Tips.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat down on a cheap throne and had it sink all the way down to its base. Bring yours and avoid the frustration. What I sit on for an hour every gig? Tama's 1st Chair Ergo Rider Throne.
It’s hard to play with backing tracks or queue up scenes if you left your sampler at home. Laptop, iPad, drum pad with a trigger module, whatever. The simpler the setup the better. I really dig the new Yamaha EAD10 module. It's got plenty of cool functionality that I can't wait to check out.
If you play with in-ears live (I don’t) as opposed to a drum monitor, these are absolutely necessary. Don’t count on the venue or sound engineer to have some you can borrow. Also, that'd be gross. The Westone UM Pro 30's are well worth checking out.
Another seemingly obvious one, but forgetting your drum key can make tuning and adjusting stands an absolute nightmare. I like ones you can wear on your keyring. You never forget it and it lets other drummers know you’re part of the secret society of rhythm. I rely on DW's Drum Key keychain.