We've all been there:
that special gig you've been looking forward to for weeks. You've spent
hours getting ready, taking special care setting up you kit so that nothing
will go wrong. But, like a gremlin waiting in a dark corner, just as things
are starting to cook, a vital piece of equipment breaks. It might be a
minor thing like the spring on your footpedal becoming loose, or it might
be something major: your snare string breaks, your blow a head, or your
footpedal finally gives up the ghost. Some technical problems can be ignored,
and you'll play on, hitting the crash a bit easier so that the cymbal stand
threads won't catch on the bell and crack your cymbal because the little
plastic tubing that slips over the threads finally fell off. Other problems
are serious enough to demand immediate action before you can go on.
You brought your
drums, some spare sticks in your stick bag, and maybe even a spare head
or two. But that's it. Never mind how shiny your kit is, you have to bum
some tools off of the rest of the band (hopefully they've brought some!),
or off the club. In either case, you were caught unprepared, and if this
was a fill-in gig, the first gig with a new ensemble, or someone was in
the audience "checking you out" for a major gig, it could be
embarrassing and might even cost you future work.
problem, however, is easily overcome by taking the Boy Scouts' motto to
heart: Be Prepared. Not just in your body (your chops), or your mind, but
with your instrument. One of the best tools to help you in the event of
an emergency is a gigbox: a small toolkit. It needn't be an elaborate affair
(although you can get elaborate if you wish). A simple tackle box from
the local sportman's shop will get you started - one with plenty of little
compartments (the more the better) and plenty of room in the bottom. A
regular toolbox won't do: there aren't enough compartments for all the
things you'll need.
are those things? It depends on your kit, your tastes, and the extent of
the repairs you'll encounter. However, there are some basics no drummer
should be without (and keep in mind that your gigbox makes a handy central
storage area for your stuff when you're making routine repairs at home).
Here are some of the things I carry in my gigbox:
- Drumkeys (obviously).
- Any small tools that came with your
kit for assembling your hardware and/or mounting your drums (my Ludwig
Vistalites came with a small hex wrench for the toms: yours might have
come with similar tools).
- A couple of pens and pencils for taking
notes or writing down names and phone numbers (a small pad will also help).
- Some epoxy and toothpicks for any
gluing you'll need to do.
- Some personal items:
- Throat lozenges.
- Pain killer.
- Lip balm.
- Ear plugs (carry some spares: your
bandmates my want to bum a pair from you!).
- Visine (clubs can be very smoky, and
this may bother your eyes).
- Cotton balls.
- Band-aids for blisters.
- Tiger Balm or similar ointment for
- Basically anything you can think of
you might need in the course of a night.
the tool category:
- One of those guitarists' multi-tools
comes in real handy: the kind with screwdrivers, hex wrenches and the like
all bundled up like a jacknife: you can get these either at your local
music store, or you can find something similar at your local hardware store.
- Hex wrenches by themselves come in
handy: some kits require standard American sizes, others use metric (you
can usually find these in 'jacknife' sets - better than loose hex wrenches!).
- A pair of pliers or two:
- Adjustable .
- A pair of dykes also comes in handy.
- A small utility knife and a pair of
scissors will keep you from breaking your hands trying to tear something
(snare strings are tough!).
- A set of jewelers screwdrivers are
just the thing for those tiny screws that manufacturers put on your equipment
for no apparent reason other than to tick you off.
- A small hammer helps if you need to
do some gentle coaxing, particularly the kind that have small screwdrivers
in their handles.
- Some oil will take that annoying squeak
out of your footpedals.
- A Basic Soldering Kit:
- Soldering iron.
- Desoldering tool (the small bulb fits
- Small soldering vise.
- Wire cutter and stripper.
- A pair of latching pliers (for holding
wires while you solder them).
- This will not only help you out when
one of your cables needs a quick fix, but I guarantee that this group of
items will make you really popular with the rest of the band when they
blow one of their cables! And that can't hurt.
the hardward department some items are universal:
- Spare snare string or packing strap
(the rough kind: grips the mounting bracket better than the smooth straps).
- Lugs and lug washers (tooth washers
are also nice to have, particularly if you have lugs that constantly come
loose as you play).
- Assorted screws.
- Nuts and bolts.
- An extra footpedal beater can also
come in handy.
- If your throne cuts through the rubber
foot under the post like mine does, you'll need a spare foot.
For the cymbals:
- Spare felts.
- Wing-nuts (you may not break them,
but you just might lose one or two in your travels).
- Tubing to protect your cymbal bell
from the stand's threads.
- If you have a sizzler, those little
brass paper fasteners make nice replacements for lost rivets; these tend
to break, so you'll need a steady supply.
things that I carry in my gigbox for routine maintenance and emergency
- Rolls of different types of tape:
- These help with quick fixes that can't
wait until the break, and will also help you in muffling your drums when
you have to alter the sound of your kit to match different houses. Some
kleenex (in the small travel packs) also helps here.
- I carry some fine sandpaper and parrifin
to work over my bearing edges in the event of a head change: jewelers sand
paper to smooth the bearing, wax to lubricate it so the head can move freely
when tightened (see tuning
for more information on this process).
- In the event an audio cable jack is
not repairable in the field, I carry a couple spare jacks, both guitar
and xlr, male and female.
- If you have any electronics, some
spare batteries might be nice.
- And don't forget to throw in some
business cards! You never know when opportunity will knock.
this doesn't preclude the necessity of bringing along those things that
won't fit in such a small space: spare heads, a spare footpedal, towels,
water jug, muffling rings.
Of course, I'm sure
you can come up with other things for your gigbox. You're limited only
by your imagination. You'll find that, while your gigbox might be small,
it's very versatile. You'll wonder how you ever got along without it!