I had a drummer watch me play my entire set the other night. This was at a rehearsal, and I have known this drummer for over 30 years. Still, it can be a bit unnerving to have a colleague watch you work, staring at your every move. We were kids when we met, and he didn’t play drums at the time. Soon after, he started playing music, and that meant we would most likely never be in a band together. After all, how many bands have two guys on the drums at the same time? Watching him watch me, took me back to the night that he broke some of my drum gear.
I do recall that night where I lent him my kit. Their band opened for ours. When they finished their show, I noticed that he had broken my ride cymbal, and my drum pedal. $400 dollars damage, to be exact, and there was no way he could afford to pay me back. That’s when I learned the lesson that most drummers should know without it costing them money. “Do not lend out your snare, cymbals, or drum pedals.” Why? Because, those items are the ones that receive so much force and pounding from drummers. You reduce the risk of that drummer breaking something when you eliminate those items from the “lend out” mix. Rarely do I break that rule. Sure, someone can ruin the skins on your toms, but that risk is pretty low.
My current Milwaukee band played a show last month in a very tiny club. The place was so small that it was vital that both bands use one drum kit. I lent the “opener” my drums, but kept my rule, mostly. He used my drum pedal, and my sticks. (What drummer comes to a show without sticks? A bass player that was forced into playing drums for a few gigs, that's who.)
This guy was a light touch on the drums, and it was amusing to watch him play. When he hit the skins, he looked “like someone doing a dog paddle, while sitting upright.” He had obviously taught himself how to play. It almost worked. Sadly, the band had some talented members, but the drummer dragged the whole thing down a notch or two. So did this guy break anything? No. What he did do was totally rearrange my drum kit, and that’s also a huge pain in the butt.
In a previous post, I mentioned that I’m an open handed drummer. For me, that means my ride cymbals are placed in the opposite spots where most right handed drummers would have them. That also means that my second rack tom is usually taken down if another drummer uses my kit. That’s where they tend to put the ride cymbal. Not only did this “dog paddling drummer” put his ride over there, but he pulled apart the tom holders and repositioned the rest of the kit to his liking. What does that mean to me? It means that it’s going to take just as long to get the kit back to the way I like it, as compared to having that drummer bring up his own drums and strike them after they are finished. I forgot about that, and it took 15 minutes for me to get my kit back in place, about 10 minutes longer than it should take to do a set change.
So that’s lesson number two. Avoid lending out a drum kit, if the first person using it is going to completely dismantle the darn thing! This brings me to another point. If the opening band’s drummer plays a modified drum set, where half of the kit is set up for left hand drumming, and the other half is set for a right handed drummer, let that person use their own kit. My old band opened for a (crappy) cover band back in 2009, and the club owner insisted that all the drummers on the bill use the house kit. When I explained that it would take longer for me to rearrange that house kit to my liking, compared to letting me bring my kit up for our set, he said no. So there I was, after my set, watching the next drummer fiddle with all the stands and toms. He was not happy. I had no problems, because we were first on the bill, so the kit was a mess for the next guy, not me.
Finally, have you ever played someone else’s drums and that drummer told you that you couldn’t arrange them to your liking? I did. Way back in the 1980’s we were opening for a pretty big local act. Their drummer didn’t want to break his kit down, and there was only room for one set on the riser, with no room in front. He insisted that I use his kit, but I couldn’t change anything. That meant that I couldn’t even move the stupid Roto-Toms that he had in place of rack toms! The ride was on the right, opposite of how I play, and the snare was nearly impossible to adjust to my desired height. It was possibly my worst night of drumming in a long time. When it was over, he came up to me and gave me one of those “good show kid” compliments. I often wonder if he did that just to make sure that he was the better sounding drummer for the evening. After all, the band took over 30 minutes to get up and play after we finished. What was the point of making me play his drums, if there was all the time in the world to strike my kit? It was to make me look bad. (I’m kidding here.) By the way, that drummer who watched me play, we did end up in a band together. It was a “four drummer” band.