When many drummers start out, there’s one thing they don’t anticipate: the amount of instrument care involved just to perform well. No other musician has to use as many different mechanical devices as drummers do. Even the most basic performance on a drum set can cause stress on the instruments. In time, this stress can cause the mechanical parts to fail. Often, this will happen at a time that will create the most chaos.
What does this all mean? Well, it all equates to an adage many percussion instructors will tell their students. “If you care for your drum set, then your set will take care of you.” In other words, you want to make sure to keep your drum set looking and sounding good. This will ensure your drum set will stay free of most mechanical problems that could negatively impact your performance.
The following are tips from our expert drummers and staff here at DCP. These are some of the different ways that drummers can take care of their set to keep it in the best condition possible.
Cover Up Your Kit
The appearance of every drummer’s drum set is a deeply personal matter. This is why there are as many different finishes for drum sets as there are drums. Still, there isn’t a drum finish that looks good if it is dusty or dingy.
This is why you should regularly dust and cover your set. Simply draping a bed sheet or painter’s lightweight drop cloth will be more than sufficient for the task.
This is of utmost importance if you leave your kit set up in a venue with poor air quality. Sure, cigarette smoke is mostly a thing of the past in restaurants and bars due to bans on indoor smoking. However, there is still the problem of grease in the air. This can lead to your set developing a thin coating of grime. The grime can destroy the finish on your set rather quickly. The easiest solution is to cover your drums when they aren’t in use.
Wipe Down Your Drum Set and Avoid Scratching the Finish
You should always wipe your kit down when you are done playing it for the night. Wipe your set down with a soft clean cloth and a bit of Windex. This should help to remove any grease or film that may build up on your drums or hardware. However, this shouldn’t take the place of giving your set a thorough cleaning from time to time.
A deep clean requires you to dismantle your entire set down to the lugs and rims. That way, you can clean the individual small parts. It also enables you to polish the drums.
If your drums have a wrapped finish, you will be cleaning a plastic surface. In contrast, lacquered finishes will have you simply polishing the lacquer. Rarely will you work on a natural wood surface. Regardless of the coating, care should be taken to ensure that you don’t scratch the surface.
Lube the Bearing Edges and Clean the Tension Rods
These are all jobs you will want to do when you have your entire set broken down. You can do them one-by-one as well.
When the heads are off their shells, you should inspect the bearing edges (the part of the rim that is in contact with the head) for wear. As long as they aren’t damaged, you can just put a light coating of beeswax on to keep them in good shape. If some damage is starting to appear, then you should contact your nearest drum smith. They can check how much damage has been done.
You also will want to clean the tension rods when the heads are off. All it takes is a thorough wiping down. This will remove any dust or particles that may have become stuck in the threads of the lugs. After cleaning, add a drop or two of 3-in-1 oil. This will keep the rods moving freely when you are tightening the lugs.
Replace Your Heads as Needed, Even the Bottom Ones!
Before putting your drum set back together—but after a detailed cleaning—inspect all of your drumheads. Drumheads aren’t designed to last forever. Once they wear out, they won’t sound great. If the batter head (the one you strike) develops pits or the coating has worn away, you will want to replace your old drumheads with new ones.
You won’t want to forget about the resonant head (the one you don’t strike) either. The best way to check this drumhead is when you reassemble the drum. If the drum won’t tune evenly or the resonance isn’t what it once was, you probably want to replace the resonant drumhead.
Don’t Forget the Cymbals
The last part of your set that you will want to regularly clean are your cymbals. Contrary to common opinion, the cymbals are one of the easiest parts of your set to clean. All it takes is to apply a cleaner like Nevr Dull or Bar Keeper’s Friend. Add a little water to wet the cymbal and gently rub a soft cloth over the cymbal you are cleaning.
Be careful if you like the logo on your cymbals. These cleaners will remove the painted logo. Once you have covered the cymbal with the cleaning material and water, you can gently wipe them off. They will sparkle like new, especially under the lights of a club.
Once you have bought the drum set of your dreams, you will want to keep it looking its best. This will ensure that it also sounds its best as well. While it is a bit labor-intensive to do, giving your set a thorough cleaning is well worth the effort. Regularly cleaning your entire drum set and spot cleaning it between performances will keep your set in the best condition it can be.