By Tim Kane
I once used a credit card as a makeshift screwdriver when my kick pedal decided to take 5 during a gig. I’m sure all of you have been there as well. When things go wrong with your drum hardware, we’re often left without easy alternatives and quick solutions.
As a general rule of thumb, I never play a gig or practice without a spare hi-hat stand and second kick drum pedal at the ready. You lose either component live and you’re cooked. Stuff does breakdown from time to time, so I have compiled these top 10 drum hardware problems as a way to help the working and practicing drummer become better prepared.
1 – DETHRONED
Most drummers sit while playing so the stool or throne they own is an essential component and natural extension of the drum kit itself. What can go bump in the night with drum seats is support failure. First, it is very important that you own a seat that is comfortable and provides maximum support for your body. Otherwise, get ready for back pain and possible future spinal injuries. Spend the extra money on a good quality throne.
Most often the chief problem with seats is they become wobbly. Another common symptom with gas lift thrones is they could eventually leak and lose height-positioning finesse. And anther common issue involves the leg support bar becoming separated from its center support pole.
If beyond warranty coverage, check first with our parts department or your local office furniture manufacturer or retailer to see if they can repair your gas lift system. You’d also be amazed with what your car repair guy can fix with all of his neat gadgets and know-how.
As for annoying wobbles, the most likely culprit is because you purchased a chair with a threaded shaft, requiring you to tighten the wing nut holding the seat into its height. Those holes can become stripped over time, but the larger problem is that the thread itself – not the wing nut – is damaged. One of the best recommendations I can offer is to invest in a universal back rest. Most wobbles begin to occur because drummers are shifting around on the chair too much changing posture positions. Drummers should remain in a relatively straight position while playing and a backrest helps that effort as does buying the right seat.
When a rivet holding your leg’s horizontal support bar to the center pole falls out or snaps, you do have a few options to exercise. Beside pulling a MacGyver and putting a nut and bolt of similar size in the open hole, you may want to avoid that happenstance entirely by investing in one of our double braced throne bases. The extra strength engineered into the supports prevents rivet erosion for occurring in most cases.
2 – BEAT IT
Beyond your seat, one of the top things that can wrong on your drum kit is with kick drum pedals. Before a gig or crucial practice, check the condition of your pedal’s springs, beater nut, beater and tension rods to avoid losing use your bass drum in the middle of a song. Re-tighten and check everything. But what happens when one of these critical ingredients of your pedal system goes down? The first sign of trouble is your bass beater doesn’t spring back like it once did. The most common problem is the nut attached to your spring is too loose or has just fallen off. I carry around spare nut and pedal spring assemblies on my key ring for that very reason. As for squeaks, a non-lubricated pedal chain or spring can sound like someone dragging their fingernails down a chalkboard over mics. Best option is to carry lubricant with you to gigs and practices.
3 – DON’T WING IT
The best way to deal with a wing nut that will not screw back on securely is to not further tighten it. Often times, drummers will purchase or place the wrong sized wing nut atop their cymbal tilter, thus eventually stripping its threads. Routinely lubing your tilters with oil or WD40 will help extend their lives, too. But if a wing nut breaks or flies off in the middle of a show, your best medicine is to have some wire at the ready. When unable to properly attach a wing nut, you can temporarily lock it to the tilter’s screw by winding wire around the threads extending beyond the nut. That will get you through until you can replace the nut or purchase a new tilter.
4 -WHAT’S THAT BUZZ?
There is nothing worse than too much buzz emanating from your snare strands. This is often evident in the interaction between your drum and bassist’s amp and monitors. It’s an annoyance that can be fixed for the most part. As is the resounding theme of this blog, a bit of pre-gig maintenance can solve a whole lot of worries later. For a full check, take your snares completely off your resonant head. Lay them on a flat surface such as your batter side floor drum head. If all the wires are evenly spaced with no slight bends, they are OK. If some (or even one) is slightly bent, they need replacing.
Another tuning method to consider for reduced buzz involves how the wires interact with the head. I usually tune the lugs closest to the wires either looser for thicker tone or tighter for more sensitivity.
Those are the easy fixes for snare related issues. But what happens when you have tightened your snare-tensioning knob beyond what is reasonable and still lack a proper buzz? I always bring a back-up snare drum to gigs, but not everyone owns one. In most cases, your strainer’s tape or string that attaches to the wires’ butt plate has issues. If you forgot to bring Gibraltar spares, I have cut a makeshift strap from a drum head in the past. Another option is to buy a few extra nylon strips. And if all else fails, use shoelaces or old guitar strings for strainer cords that break.
If the wires or strainer connections are not the issue, then there is a problem with your tension knob control itself. On the fly, apply a drumstick between the bottom of the snare throw off and your hoop to tighten things down. If all else fails, duct tape your snares to the bottom head. After the gig, you should assess the working value of your strainer system, which we carry plenty of models on, and see if your shell bearing edges are worn.
5 – RACKING IT UP
For drum kit rack system owners, we could write an entire blog on how to resolve challenges. In our minds, the worst possible thing that can happen to a heavily used rack system – beyond the components mentioned elsewhere here – is your bar connection points failing. Patch-it methods won’t last long. Owning a few extras or reinvesting in rack clamps will resolve many of your challenges.
Like anything, drum hardware does vibrate and excessive noise does not bode well for miced musicians. I have heard of drummers with rack systems actually stuffing their tubes with packing popcorn, insulation or foam to dampen them and hopefully reduce crosstalk issues. The reality is that is not normally needed. One simpler method to try is to replace your bars’ stock plastic end-caps with rubber stoppers as a dampening method.
– Tim Kane is an independent drummer, instructor and writer living in Massachusetts. http://www.kaneschoolofdrums.com