How to Care for a Drum Set—The Ultimate Maintenance Guide
Keeping your kit in good working order sounds like it's out of your pay grade? Think again!
If you are serious about drumming, you've put much time and thought into your kit and have worked tirelessly on your form. Still, if you forget to maintain your kit, you may be forgetting an essential way of ensuring the longevity of your drum kit.
Drums are a complicated instrument, but the basics of maintaining them don't have to be. With our breakdown and tips, you should have no trouble caring for your kit and keeping it well-maintained from practice to gigging and everything in between.
Read on to find out more!
What You Need for Drum Maintenance
Unfortunately, like any complicated musical instrument, you will not be able to fix your drum kit with your fingers alone. Having the proper tools to ensure you can make the changes you need for your kit is critical when preparing for unexpected issues.
We've picked a few essential items for managing everything from a tune-up to a quick drum repair.
The most important tool you will need to maintain and tune your drum kit is a drum key. These small devices are necessary to tighten and loosen the tension rods, which will help you get control of the pitch of your drum's sound.
These tools come in many shapes and sizes, but a standard drum key won't cost more than a few dollars. Without a drum key, you will risk damaging or breaking your drum. As well as your tension rods, you can use your drum key on your high hats and kick drums.
Most of us will already own a screwdriver, but your standard screwdriver may not quite fit when assembling or resembling your drum kit. Ensure that the screwdriver you have is not too bulky, preferably has a comfortable handle, and preferably is magnetized to help keep your screws in place.
The screws you come across in your kit are usually tiny and easy to strip. If you need to make adjustments, you may have to screw and unscrew many parts of your drum kit. It’s best to lay everything out in a diagram or rows as you remove each part to ensure that you put it back in the right place, with every screw accounted for and tightly secured.
Allen keys are classic L-shaped tools, and they might be the best thing to keep in your tool belt when you're keeping up your kit. These keys are perfect for tuning hexagonal-shaped fasteners.
There are likely to be many hexagonal-shaped fittings on the smaller side of your drum kit, and your Allen key can be handy for tuning and maintenance. Their basic build makes it easy to turn and fit comfortably in your palm.
While beginners will be fine with a standard drum tool, experts may want to invest in a drum multi-tool for more intricate kits. Like a standard multi-tool, these devices are small and foldable, housing many essential tools in one convenient set-up.
Some tools in a standard drum key multi-tool include screwdrivers, Allen keys, hexagon attachments, and standard drum keys. These tools may come in various sizes and shapes and might be as high as fifteen per tool.
How to Care for Your Drum Set the Right Way
When your drum has a problem, or when you want to avoid this happening in the future, you need to know how to keep your drums well maintained and in good working order.
Our list gives you a brief run down of the basics, how to achieve them, and how to ensure you are doing them the right way.
Lubricate the Hardware
Your drum kit has many moving parts that need to work in perfect synchronicity. Otherwise, your playing could lead to a broken instrument or even long-term injuries. The importance of the hardware is evident with parts that need to move smoothly, such as your tension rods.
Without constant lubrication, your drum kit will struggle to handle the friction and not play properly. The hardware affects the overall sound, with heavier and numerous lugs impacting the vibration, and lighter, fewer lugs producing a livelier beat. With such an enormous influence on the drum’s tonal qualities, it’s vital that you keep it all lubricated and working smoothly.
When you're ready to lubricate your kit, start by removing the tension rods and preparing your chosen lubricant. Dipping a little bit on the tip, insert your rod back in, and wipe off excess lubricant. Repeat this process as often as needed, and you will see instant results.
Protect It on the Move
When it comes to caring for your drums, the best way to keep them well maintained is to avoid them breaking in the first place. There is no better defense than a case or a bag for adequate protection, especially when moving from gig to gig.
Drum cases and bags range from lightweight to rigid and sturdy, and prices differ accordingly. While a hard case might be a good idea for cymbals, a lightweight case for the rest of your drums will help keep things less heavy. After all, you probably won't be lucky enough to have a roadie to lug your gear around for you!
Tune Your Drums
Okay, so a drum isn't as melodic as something like a guitar, but that doesn't mean it won't have to be regularly tuned. To make sure your drums sound the way they should, you need to make sure that you are regularly tuning your kit and, even more importantly, doing it the right way. Improper tuning can do more damage than no tuning at all!
When tuning, start by finding a comfortable place to set up your drum, preferably high off the ground. Start by ensuring your tension rods are firmly in place with the head centered. Then, start using your drum key or Allen key to tighten your rods accordingly. Work in a diagonal pattern so that one side doesn’t become overly tight, moving criss-cross around the head until the drums are properly tuned.
There are a few different methods of tuning a drum. You can use a tuner or tune the drum to itself. The latter is relatively straightforward. All you need to do is tap the drum at each tension rod. If the sound is uniform, you’ve successfully tuned the drum. If the sound is higher in pitch at one rod versus another, you’ll need to adjust until they sound the same.
Replace Your Parts
There are so many parts of a drum, and with a bit of research, you can replace any part of the drum, whether the head or the hardware. When something goes wrong with a bit of your kit, you might not have to go as far as replacing the entire drum or kit completely.
For example, a squeaking bass drum pedal is likely due to a lack of lubrication. It may require nothing more than a quick swap out for your tension rods.
On the other hand, cymbal cracking is usually an issue caused by drumming techniques. This issue will require a complete replacement.
Cover Your Kit
When leaving your drum kit in one place for long periods, you don't want it to get dusty or greasy. Depending on the environment where you store your kit, cigarette smoke, water, and high or low temperatures can all affect the integrity of your kit.
Placing something over it when not playing can make a significant difference. Invest in a decent cover or case. For storing it at home, you can use something as simple as a sheet draped over the top of your kit. As long as it doesn’t become exposed, it will stay clean and safe.
Keep It Maintained Regularly
It might be tempting to fix issues with your kit only when something breaks or is about to, but this is far from recommended. To ensure your drums last the test of time and perform the way you need them to, keep in mind that maintenance is a constant process.
While tuning should probably be checked every time you are about to gig, lubricating, cleaning, and checking the entire kit is something we recommend getting to a few times a month. Half an hour here or there could save you much time down the track and money.
With these tools, tips, and advice in mind, you should feel confident to handle your next drum kit's disaster on or off-stage. Drums go through a lot when being played, but with maintenance and care, you can understand the particulars of what makes up your kit and how to fix it.
If you're in the New Hampshire area and want to talk with someone about the ins and outs of drum maintenance, drop by the Drum Center of Portsmouth. We pride ourselves on sharing our expert knowledge with you. We're more than just employees; we are all professional musicians, ready to share our wisdom with you!
Have more questions? Reach out to DCP and find out more today!