As a drummer, one of the most rewarding experiences is traveling to play music on the road. Whether you have years of experience or you’re relatively new to the art of playing drums, these tips will be great things to remind yourself as you prepare to go on the road with your drums.
1. Invest In Cases For Your Drum Kit
This one seems like a no brainer, but it is worth talking about. Whether you’re traveling in your own vehicle, a van with a band, or even in a tour bus with staff in charge of managing equipment and gear, let’s face it… your valuable instruments are vulnerable to damage and mishaps on the road.
We recommend hard cases to protect your investment, especially when you own beautiful custom drums like a WFLIII Kit. You’ll also need a case for your cymbals and for hardware like your throne, kick pedal, and cymbal stands. And don’t forget your stick bag!
2. The More You Can Roll, The Better
So you have drum cases and that’s a great way to protect your gear. But now how about making your drums easier to load in and out? It can be very helpful to bring a dolly or cart to roll your kit in and out with. If you can find a small collapsible hand truck that fits all your gear, that’s even better.
The key is finding something that doesn’t take up much space itself but will easily allow you to stack your drums on it in their cases, along with accessories and hardware, and then roll it so you won’t have to make too many trips in and out of the venue.
3. Don’t Forget Your Rug
Pictured: Roland TDM25 Non-Slip Drum Rug
A good drummer always has a rug, just in case. You can never count on the venue to always have you covered in this area. Nothing is worse than setting up your cool classic drums to look and feel just right… but your kick drum and hi-hats slowly slide toward the front of the stage with every hit! Or maybe even the vibrations cause your floor tom to scoot as the set goes on. Plus, rugs help to control overtones and reflections so your drums have that warm vintage sound you work so hard to achieve.
4. Pack Extra Parts And Accessories
Okay, so maybe even worse than getting on stage to find there’s no rug for you is setting up your whole drum kit and then realizing you forgot the clutch for your hi-hat stand. Or how about forgetting the beater for your kick drum pedal? Ouch. It’s a good idea to pack multiples of these small but important items, just in case something gets left behind. Make a “go-bag” of your drum essentials like a drum key, kick beater, cymbal felts and seats, hi-hat clutch, and even some extra sticks.
5. Have A Travel “Go-Bag”
In addition to drum essentials and little items that are critical for your drum kit, you’ll need to remember all the personal items that are essentials for YOU on the road. This tip is for anyone traveling as a musician, not just drummers. As well as your luggage, make sure you bring a small bag or backpack that you can take on and off stage with you, or from the hotel room to the green room backstage. You can use this bag for items like your cell phone charger, your laptop if you use it on stage, your in-ear monitors, and maybe even some chewing gum, mints, or treats for that long soundcheck. 😀
6. Take Care Of Your Body
Playing drums can take a lot of physical stamina. While you should strive to be in good shape in general as a drummer, you should be especially conscious of your food choices when you’re out on gigs. Eating McDonald’s a few times a day can take a toll on anyone after a while!
And in addition to the snacks in your go-bag, make sure you always have a few bottles of water on hand to stay hydrated. You don’t want to get light headed and not feel well before your set. You want to be on your game when it comes time to do what you actually came to do–play music!
7. Learn To Setup And Teardown Fast
Whether you’re playing a show with multiple bands and need to get on and off the stage quickly, or you just want more time to relax before you get on the road again, you should learn to set up your gear fast. Make marks on your cymbal stands and hardware for your preferred heights and angles. Put tape on your drum rug to show where each drum or stand should be. Think of any way to streamline your process like put your cymbals on their stands while you wait for access to the stage. This will even help if you’re on a larger tour with a drum tech or others assisting you to set up.
8. Help The Sound Technicians Micing Up Your Kit
If you’re playing a venue where your drum kit will be amplified, don’t just leave it to the audio tech to get your drums mic’d up properly. Without being overbearing, partner with the sound person by letting them know if you have preferences on mic positions and stay close by when they’re setting up the microphones.
You may even want to help clip-on or position the mics yourself to prevent any accidental damage to your drums or the microphones as you’re playing. Do your part to make the audio tech’s life easier by not hitting your drums while they’re in point-blank range. Finally, listen during soundcheck as they call out for you to hit various drums. This will go a long way in taking your sound to the next level.
9. Be Okay With Using Other Drum Kits
It’s wonderful to have a world-class custom drum kit that’s all your own. You can take pride in the way your kit looks, sounds, and feels. But the reality is that sometimes you’ll have to play a house kit or share another drummer’s kit. Use it as a learning experience to expand your perspective of what works and what doesn’t, and step up to the challenge of sounding like yourself even on someone else’s kit.
Of course, you should always be able to use your own snare and cymbals, so make sure to place a high priority on a killer snare for your kits like one of WFLIII’s high-end aluminum, mahogany, or maple snare drums.
10. Choose The Right Drum Kit To Bring
Choosing the right drum kit (and playing technique) can be important for any venue you’re playing at. There are so many choices for drummers to consider such as shell sizes, modern drums vs. vintage drums, or modern drums with a classic vintage flare like Bill Ludwig III has so carefully crafted in WFLIII kits. Then there’s even the question of HOW MANY drums to bring. Take a look at this article for some more detailed recommendations on how to make these choices and even mix things up a little for different gigs.
While there’s many more you’ll surely learn along the way, we hope these tips will help make your experience of traveling to play drums on the road even more enjoyable.