Guide to looking after your Drums

Looking after your drum set is a vital part of being a drummer. It is a living breathing musical instrument and needs care and attention just as much as any other instrument.

It will not only help you sound better and look better but it will save you money in the long run. Prevention is better than cure as they say and this is definitely true when it comes to the drums.

You don’t want to get let down during a performance or recording session or any other situation. By maintaining everything from your shells and hardware to your drum skins and your electronics will set you up to feel your best in every situation.

Here is a comprehensive list I have put together of things to do weekly, monthly and annually. I have about 20 years worth of experience setting up drums, replacing drum heads, machining parts, maintaining parts, fixing up old kits, polishing and taking care of hardware and generally being hands on with this instrument.

OK so here we go and this in no particular order. I wouldn’t expect you to do all of these things but I think as an insight you could at least do some of these handy tips.

Weekly Cheeks –

Check for dust on drum shells, cymbals and hardware and remove appropriately with a dry cloth. Chrome cleaner is useful for hardware and for drum shells I use a basic spray found in any shop. Cymbals I tend to leave alone as sweaty hands tend to take the bright sound off them and I like that but it’s down to personal preference.

There are cymbal polish products on the market but I find them expensive and as I said I prefer them dirty. Of course if you are doing a TV commercial or video shoot you might want to give them a quick clean.

Check spring tension of your pedals, this could be hi-hat pedals, kick drum pedals or any other pedals you have set up. Depending on the make and model will depend upon how you set up the tension and maintain it.

For example I have a TAMA Iron cobra which has a lock on the spring tension so it want go out of tension during a show. Other pedals are set by your finger tension and can easily become loose so check this out on your pedal and definitely before every show.

Drum tuning of your top heads (batter heads). Checking this every week will keep your heads in shape and will make them last longer. If you keep the head tuned it will mean it is equally spread over the shell in tension terms thus it’s evenly stretched.

Of course you can over tighten a head or the opposite and have it too loose again this might be down to personal taste or be for a studio situation which is fine but it will reduce the longevity of the drum skin. If the heads themselves begin to sag or have dents then it’s definitely time to change them. Check for tone and rebound quality of the batter head as well.

Check drum sticks for splinters/breaks each week. This is very important as sticks when not in a healthy state loose tone and will make you not only sound different but will feel different in your hands.

It will be more difficult to execute technique and the stick could potentially break if you don’t recognize if the stick is compromised. There are simply test like rolling the stick along a level table to see if it’s becoming warped or doing a bounce test to see if the stick is responding the way you want.

It’s important to do this weekly as you can’t turn up to a gig or show without the right tools.

 Monthly –

Check for rust on hardware such as stands, clamps, boom arms, tension rods, hoop clamps, spurs, tom legs and arms and tom mounts.

Keeping your hardware in shape is vital as this is the infrastructure of your kit, it holds the whole thing up. Using chrome cleaner will keep the hardware clean and rust free.

Of course you must keep your hardware well cased and not left out in the rain or in your car where there could be condensation. Also some people use Vaseline or WD40 for moving parts, tension rods, springs etc. but my preference is white lithium grease.

Not getting to technical but lithium grease is designed for metal on metal contact unlike Vaseline.

Drum tuning on the bottom heads is worth checking monthly. Usually the bottom or resonant heads keep in tune OK as they aren’t being played unlike the batter head.

Again personal preference applies to the sound you want amongst variables like the size and type of drum you are using but in general the same rules apply as the batter head.

I would suggest checking your other sticks such as brushes, hot rods and mallets. It really depends on what drumming you are doing but generally I check these sticks monthly as I don’t use them so much. However someone playing classical or jazz weekly should probably check brushes and mallets weekly.

Annual Checks –

Every drummer should have a good practice pad, it doesn’t have to be the most expensive one in the shop but something decent will give you a better feel.

I’ve had mine for years but it’s worth checking the rebound quality every year you can do this by comparing it to a new one. You can easily pop into a shop and give a new one a tap to compare to yours

Cymbal cracks can creep up on you as they tend to start as a thin hair line crack, often you cant see it unless you are really looking for it.

Unfortunately when this happens you can’t really do much without altering the tone of the cymbal.

You can get the crack machined out but this will leave your cymbal looking different and as I said will change the sound. I’d suggest you keep using it as part of your practice set-up and retire it from any professional work.

Some other annual checks you can do are things like drum hoops, especially wooden drum hoops for cracks, your hi hat clutch, other percussion instruments you might use, ear plugs or IEM’s, it is a very vast subject but in generally if you keep up with these checks you’ll be in good shape.

Thanks for taking the time to read this blog. I hope you found it useful and got some insight into how to maintain your drum kit.

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