We’ve all got at least one of those friends who has more money than sense. You know, the kind of guy who has an insane set up worth thousands upon thousands of dollars, but thinks rudiments are the store-brand version of Mentos.
I’m unfortunately here to tell you that throwing money at things will only get you so far as a drummer. You might have a Pearl Masters as your back-up kit, but you know it takes more than that.
Obviously, you have to practice and strive to improve yourself as a player. You need to have goals and standards etc. This is, as I mentioned a second ago, obvious. You need to be able to play with confidence, conviction and clarity – otherwise known as the 3 Cs, which is a thing I just made up and yes, they all basically mean the same thing. And with that being OBVIOUS, now we can talk about the more fun stuff!
Drums require maintenance to sound their best. I have a few tricks that I’ve used in the past to help you make even the cheapest kit you can find sound pretty good and lucky you, I’m about to share them (let’s be honest, they’re not secrets).
Maybe you’ve just bought a junker, or maybe you’ve got a decent kit that’s never steered you wrong, but if you don’t give it some TLC, the quality will only deteriorate.
If you can buy new heads every once in a while, instead of just when the old ones snap, you’ll be in good shape, but that might not be financially viable for everyone (like me!).
A great tip for tuning the kit is loosening the rivets to an unusable degree, then tightening them only using your fingers. Give or take incremental differences, this is the best way to keep every tension rod to a similar tightness without simply guessing. After that, tighten each rod using a key (preferably opposite rods to prevent snapping) and simple turns, like half or quarter turns, so it’s easy to keep track of. Ensure the head around each rod is producing the same tone, using a stick, not just your fingers or the key or some dumb lazy option.
Hey, do that same thing for all the toms you have. If Neil Peart is reading this, sorry about the loss of your afternoon due to having to tune 25 rack toms.
The kick is a little different. Try to have whatever dampening item you have touching both heads. Aproach tuning it in the same way (finger-tight), but only aim to get rid of the wrinkles.
I love Moon Gel, that’s not something I keep quiet. I also don’t get paid by Moon Gel to say that, so maybe I should stop offering my endorsement for free…
Anyway, Moon Gel is great because it’s so incredibly transportable, more so than a collection of zero rings, but doesn’t leave a load of sticky residue all over the batter like gaffer tape.
Based on the house kits I’ve played, a lot of people don’t seem to understand that gaffer tape is used to absorb vibrations, not just to… get in the way, I guess? If you’re going down the route of taping up your kit, be sure to actually be taping something to the kit, instead of just a strip of useless tape.
Fold up a supplementary segment of tape, or kitchen paper, or foam, or whatever you have laying around and tape it down – you should notice a lack of ring.
In terms of positioning, it might be a bit of trial and error – I personally tend to put a strip on the snare batter, but right at the edge where the snare wires begin. For the toms, try and stick it as close to the edge as you can whilst still being effective and preferably in space that doesn’t get in your way whilst playing.
Whatever kit you have, just promise me you’ll take care of it. Buy some cases and actually use them. Before a gig or recording session, spend an hour (usually less) with the kit and just go over tuning and dampening, making sure everything is to your liking.