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The Gigging Drummers First Aid Kit!

Most drummers have a supply of spare drum parts available in case of a sudden equipment problem. Spare drums keys, wing nuts and even an extra drumhead or two are of the utmost importance when a problem is encountered. These are common sense items that you just shouldn’t be without during a gig.

I have come up with a Drummers First Aid kit to compliment the most obvious items. These are 10 must have items if you are drumming and gigging regularly. Some of the items are obvious and simple common sense things. Others are not. Most of all these items should be easy to find and inexpensive in your area. Of course, they are priceless when something goes wrong with your equipment during a gig or a rehearsal.

Poor duck tape. Also known as “Jesus Tape” because it could perform miracles; 200 mile-per-hour tape after its use on stock cars; and most commonly the brunt of musician jokes worldwide; Duck Tape, as much as it is teased and made fun of, is held in high regard during an unexpected equipment emergency.

Duck Tape comes in almost any color these days with the most common color being gray. However, most people don’t know that its original color was green. During World War II the US Government enlisted Johnson and Johnson to develop and manufacture a waterproof tape to keep moisture out of Army ammunition cases. Because it was green and waterproof…the US soldiers unofficially, yet affectionately named it “duck tape”. It’s popularity and uses quickly grew amongst the soldiers. In addition to waterproofing their gun cases, they used it to fix their guns, patch their clothing, and repair their Jeeps or anything else they could think of. Even back then its uses were only limited to their imagination. Eventually after the war ended…a HVAC company began marketing the versatile tape to be used with its air conditioning and heating ducts. Its name then became what we know today as “Duct Tape”.

A good duct tapes versatility combined with its durability make it the number one item in your Drummer First Aid Kit. However…Caveat emptor… not all duct tape is created the same and the imposters are becoming more and more popular.

Good duct tape has three layers. A layer of waterproof protective plastic, a layer of interwoven fiber for strength and durability and of course, and a layer of very strong adhesive. Taking away the interwoven fiber, skimping on the covering or adhesive simply leaves you with a roll of inferior tape that will let you down in a time of need.

Unfortunately for the drummer, cheap duct tape has become more common, if not more popular in reputable hardware stores. It wasn’t unusual several years ago to see inferior rolls of duct tape on dollar stores shelves or discount tool stores like Harbor Freight and Central Tractor. But now it’s becoming more common in reputable stores like ACE Hardware, Home Depot and Lowes. We can blame the store or we can blame the consumer, and maybe a little of both. What’s important is how to tell a good roll from a bad roll when they sit side by side on a store shelf.

The first thing you want to look at is its price. Compare it to a cheaper roll. Make sure they are both the same length and width. Remember – you usually get what you pay for.

The second thing is to examine the roll of tape itself. If the rolls are the same length, is one roll larger than the other? Common sense tells you that a thicker tape is probably much stronger, but not always. Be sure to look carefully across the face of the tape and look for the interwoven fibers that give the tape its strength. If the tape appears smooth it probably doesn’t have those fibers and isn’t very strong tape.

The third thing is the manufacturer. Companies like Scotch, 3M and most recently The Gorilla Glue Company arguably make then best duct tape. If the roll doesn’t have a popular company logo imprinted on the inside of the roll, or if the packaging and labeling look cheap, it probably is cheap and not what you’ll want to depend on in an equipment emergency.

Again, the bottom line is you get what you pay for. Sometimes cheap duct tape is all you need to tape speaker chords, sound system wires or power chords to the floor. Cheap duct tape is perfect for that. However, in the event you find yourself with a slow tear in a kickdrum head…or a striped bolt or nut on a cymbal stand. You’ll be glad you have the good stuff when it’s only 9:30 and you need it to last until last call.

A simple set of tools small enough to carry in a small box will eventually become useful. Make sure it includes a pair of needle-nose pliers. Two screw drivers (Phillips head and straight) and a small light duty hammer. You just never know when you’ll need them. But eventually you will.

Quite frankly the best tool I have in my Drummers First Aid kit is my ROBO GRIP ® self-adjustable pliers. In fact I always lay them out on my drum carpet next to my kickdrum pedal in case I need to quickly reach for them. These laminated one-piece solid steel alloy pliers are stronger, easier and faster than any other pliers I’ve ever used. They’re durable too. I’ve been using the same pair for over ten years. No worries though, they come with a lifetime warranty. If anything should ever break on them…simply take them back to any dealer and they should replace them no questions asked.

Be sure to purchase the smaller pair. Either the 7″ Straight Jaw or the 7″ Curved Jaw will be perfect and will come in handy especially if you lose a drum key, or need a strong plier in a tight area. Like the larger pliers, the steel tooth jaws bite into anything with minimal effort and most of all can be used with one hand. This is important when you’re behind your kit on stage and don’t have time to mess around with plier adjustments. Simply squeeze the jaws of these pliers onto any object and they’ll self-adjust while biting down with a shark like chomp.

As primitive as it may sound, there have been times in my drumming career where a strong nail saved me from some undeserved grief. Whether it was in front of a hi-hat stand that was sliding around an uneven stage, to anchor a kickdrum that wouldn’t stay put, or to make sure my stool didn’t fall off the back of an 10 foot high stage. A heavy 4-inch nail hammered an inch or so into a wooden stage can be a blessing. And most of all won’t compromise the structural integrity of the stage. Without question this technique is frowned upon if you are in a nice setting like a lounge or country club. But in most cases you’ll be able to lightly hammer a nail or two without attracting much attention.

Hose clamps come in a variety of sizes and cost less than a buck or two at any harware store. I suggest you carry one or two small and a few medium size clamps. These clamps can be tightened around a cymbal stand or tom mount in the event that you strip the threads on a fastener or mount. Simply tighten the hose clamp around the stand or boom arm, then wrap it with a piece of duct tape. The smaller hose clamps, combined with a little duct tape can even be used above and below a stripped hi-hat clutch. (Not that I’ve ever had to do that or anything ;)

I couldn’t count how many times I’ve played a gig outside where I had been eaten alive by mesquitos, nats and other narly winged creatures that bite. Fact of the matter is there’s nothing worse than having your blood sucked from your neck while trying to maintan a steady tempo. For that reason…I carry small can of OFF ® bug repellant and use it every time I play outside. You can buy OFF in the aerosol can, or you can get the pump spray, or the wipes. It also comes in a non-scented variety now, which is nice if you like to mingle with girlies during the set breaks.

It’s important to remember to avoid applying OFF Bug repellant to your forehead. If you sweat…and most drummers do, the spray will slowly and painfully make its way into your eyes. Of course wiping your eyes with your forearms while your trying to drum wont help because they’re probably covered with OFF too. If you must, spray a little in your hair..or spray a hat. But keep a towel handy and do everything you can to keep the sweat out of your eyes.

I carry two MAGLITE ® flashlights with me at all times. One regular size, and a small one that I can string around my neck. There are times when you simply cannot see on stage. Whether it during set-up, tear down or during the gig itself. You just never know when you’ll need to be able to see. MAGLITE flashlights are adjustable, durable and very bright. All things considered they are the best value for your money, and a set of them can usually be purchased for around 25 dollars. They come in several colors but don’t buy a black one if you plan on using it for gigs. The silver ones are the easiest to find in a dark or low light situation.

New-Skin Liquid ® is for small cuts and wounds and can be purchased at your local drug store. It’s great for blisters. New-Skin dries in a minute or two to form a tough protective cover that is antiseptic, flexible, waterproof and lets skin breathe. I’ll admit that it’s not the most pleasant feeling in the world when applied to an open cut. But the stinging only lasts for a few seconds and the protective cover it creates will last for a few days if left alone.

Guitar players. What can you say? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve bailed out a guitar player with a nine-volt battery. And even though they should maintain there own First Aid kit, you just never know when you will have to “take one for the team” and save a guitar players skin. I always keep a nine-volt battery in a secret hidden location. I also wait until the last possible moment, then make them barter and beg for it. It’s always a trade-up. Remember, if you hold the battery…you hold the power! (no pun intended).

No matter how loud you play – or how quiet you may think you can play. It’s very important that you protect your hearing. There are several different options available to you in the form of earplugs and a more expensive earplug isn’t necessarily better than another. The key is to use SOMETHING!

I use the foam earplugs. You can buy a small box of them at any local drug store or grocery store for less than a few dollars. Their protection is invaluable. You simply squeeze them, insert them into your ear and in a few seconds the foam plugs will expand and fit into your ear perfectly. Best of all you can reuse them several if not dozens of times. Protect your ears…you only get two.

Guest post By: Eddie Vallee

About zildjianmatt

An avid drummer, educator and author on all things drums!

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