Ask a guitarist or bass player to use someone else’s instrument for a show and they’d probably look at you like you’re crazy. But for drummers, sharing gear is common and often expected. The benefits are that it saves time during band changeovers and soundchecks, but the drawbacks are that you might find yourself trying to nail your best chops on a kit that’s nothing like you’re used to! And since people are sharing their precious musical equipment it’s important to follow a few points to make sure everything is looked after and everyone is happy.
Cymbals, Snare and Sticks
If another band is providing the drum kit for the night (or there’s a house kit) then generally all a drummer needs to bring is their cymbals, snare drum and sticks. These are the items that take the most punishment in a performance so it’s safest if everyone is responsible for their own. In addition to this gear, some drummers like to bring their kick pedal, since they’re used to the feel of their own, and drum stool if they’re concerned about feeling comfortable during their set.
I always make a point of finding the drummer providing the kit and saying thank you and buying them a drink. It’s their gear on the line and I want them to know I appreciate it and don’t take it lightly. I’ve always felt there is an unspoken rule that if you break it, you bought it. If I played someone’s kit at a gig and left their drumheads looking like a zoomed out picture of the craters on the moon then I would offer to replace them. With good technique though, this should never be a concern. If you don’t think you could afford to replace any broken gear, then talk to the promoter or headline band about bringing your own kit so you can go to town on it safely.
If it’s left to you to provide drums for the night hopefully everyone will show you the courtesies mentioned above. This is where having good gear is really worthwhile and can score you a few brownie points with other bands. Ideally at the minimum your kit should be a semi-professional series from a respected brand name. Good gear usually means good sound, so you’re doing all the bands a favour by bringing your best. Higher end kits also come with higher end hardware. This means sturdy tom holders, cymbal stands that won’t fall over and are easy to adjust and a snare stand that doesn’t slowly sink on every backbeat which again is a win for everyone.
If you’re worried about people changing all the settings on your kit and never getting it back the way it was, grab a sharpie or permanent marker at your rehearsal and mark a line at the height and angle everything is setup. It’s a great tip even if you’re not sharing your kit because it will make it much faster and easier for you to get comfortable at rehearsals and new venues.
Should you be fortunate enough to have a really, really nice set of drums that you don’t mind sharing, chances are you’ll get some impressed comments from the other drummers which will make your band more memorable and help you forge some new musical relationships.
Nothing about sharing a kit on a multi-band bill is rocket science. With a little courtesy and respect for everybody’s gear new band friendships can be made and the night will ultimately run more smoothly.