The Nuts and Bolts of Drum Hardware Problems – (Part 2)

By Tim Kane
http://www.kaneschoolofdrums.com

In conclusion of this two-part series on the most common top 10 drum hardware problems, I hope to guide you through potential solutions by discovering unique spot repair innovations.

6 – A shell game

One of the largest problems at a gig or practice that can be a real downer is when a piece of hardware actually tears away from your interior wooden shell and/or exterior lamination. Stress is the most common culprit such as when too much pressure is applied to a tom hoop while its mount is integrated with a shell. Another common issue involves continuously over tightening a tension rod, ultimately warping your shell’s beveled edge and causing lug screws to eventually tear through the shell. While it is easy enough to replace lug screws and tension rods, the more difficult challenge is repairing the cracked wooden shell itself. The best medicine to avoid this is to ensure you have the proper washers under all your lug screws.

As an amateur drum repair guy myself, I’ve found the easiest way to fix a cracked shell – minus just sending it back to the manufacturer or a local drum shop – is by removing all the hardware and injecting wood glue into both sides of the cracked wood and then clamping both sides together to dry. Rather than writing a 2,000-word diatribe on this complex topic here, a really well prepared article on cracked shell repair was recently featured in Drum Magazine that you should check out.

 

7 – Why so tense?

Mentioning tension issues, there are several other potential problem areas to consider. Using the wrong sized tension rods in their lug receptors (also called swivel nuts) causes stripping. Given you do have the right size screw or lug, unfortunately not much can be done once the stripping has occurred in the receptor chamber itself. An ounce of prevention here is certainly worth a pound of cure.

Before writing off that piece of gear, however, it would be wise to remove that tension rod from the lug’s swivel nut and see if the teeth are in fact stripped. Use a headlamp or hand held flashlight to probe for strippage inside the receptor. If detected, replace it immediately, as putting the same stripped rod back in its swivel nut will only advance the dilemma. If the swivel nut inside the lug is damaged, you will need to take your drumhead off and unscrew the lug from the shell’s interior to replace it. You can buy swivel nuts that fit most drum kits in that will spare you the expense of replacing the entire lug.

The good news is you can play a gig or practice without a tension rod or two, if need be. If your stripped swivel nut is an important top batter side element of your kit, I suggest you borrow another lug for the time being from a bottom resonant side drum until a replacement arrives.

The other problem that often occurs with lugs on older, vintage kits or even some new beginner level sets is the metal spring inserts produce excessive noise. Most drummers describe it as a “weird boinging sound.” The best way to fix this sound problem that can wreak havoc in a studio or while mic’ed up live is to literally take the lug off its shell and stuff the inner cavity with cotton or cloth so that it surrounds the spring insert, and reattach the lug to the shell. Trust me, the noise will be gone or greatly diminished.

7 – YOU’RE SCREWED

Stripping is also common among screws used to fasten your hardware stands’ components together. Prone to grime buildup, the particular screw most impacted is your cymbal stand wing screws.

First, it’s always a good idea to carry screw and nut spares. Two problems occur when a stand’s screw becomes stripped. Your stand will either be stuck in its fully extended position, or unable to be extended to the desired height. While playing and then transporting a frozen stand is no big deal, duct tape is certainly your temporary friend for stands that can’t be adjusted.

The problem with stripped screws is the receptor hole most likely is also stripped and needs to be re-bored by a professional machinist or drum shop tech. And often times that can cost as much as simply purchasing a brand new replacement boom stand or boom arm.

8 – WHAT’S UP YOUR SLEEVES?

We’ll keep this topic short. While most everyone knows – or at least should – not to place your cymbals directly on the metal mount without a nylon sleeve in place first, the reality is sleeves do get lost – even our black flanged base threaded varieties. I’ve used anything from gaffers tape to a plastic straw for the quick fix until I can order replacements. That’s much better than causing irreparable damage to your cymbal.

9 – BEING THE CLUTCH PLAYER

The hi-hat stand gives drummers immense pleasure and can cause a great deal of suffering as well. If you break even one component of your hi-hat stand during a performance, you basically lose the transmission drive powering your drum kit. I bring two hi-hat stands – or at minimum a second clutch – to every gig or practice just in case. The reality is not all drummers own two hi-hat stands. Before you can fix the problem, however, you need to know what it is.

Starting at the top, you should first check to see if the upper and lower clamps of your clutch are separated. If those are ok, your next step should be to see if the upper pull rod that essentially lifts your hi-hat cymbals up and down has separated from its bottom pull rod counterpart. You will need to take the stand’s upper shaft off to access the rods. If they are screwed together fine, your next process of elimination involves inspecting the hi-hat’s chain or strip that connects to your foot pedal. Check. Continuing down your stand, the hi-hat foot pedal is the final element to review. If your pedal is swaying from side-to-side, you have probably disconnected or broken the heel plate’s Y-shaped radius rod away from the frame.

While there are no easy answers when hi-hat parts break, duct tape can get you through, including taping your top hi-hat cymbal directly to the pull rod for the time being. Doesn’t look pretty, but neither does a drummer playing without a hit-hat.

10 – Ground control to Major Tom…

Finally, my top 10 drum hardware problems conclude with a salute to errant tom-tom support. The so-called tom-tom sway is really a thing of the past. Still, stuff breaks. I own an extra tom-holder for my kit just in case. Nothing looks worse than a tom-tom falling off your kit or suddenly taking a dive mid-song. I’ve found some product models’ tom mounts employ small wingnuts to secure the mount tilter. Replacing that nut with a rack system T handle definitely tightens things up and avoids potential stripping and weak connections.

If the tom clamp is beginning to lose its grip, a proven get-me-by is to cut two 1-inch squares from a plastic coke bottle and put them in the jaws of the clamp that grip the rotation ball. And if all else fails, use the top basket portion of a back-up snare drum stand attached to either a boom stand base or universal grabber clamp to hold your tom-tom up for the time being.

Tim Kane is a freelance drummer, instructor and writer living in Massachusetts. http://www.kaneschoolofdrums.com

 

 

The nuts and bolts of drum set hardware problems – Part 1

By Tim Kane
www.kanedrums.com

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