As every drummer knows, there are a million things that can go wrong with a set of drums. Heads split, sticks break, and felts get lost, and during a show, that can really blow the mood! That’s why it pays to have at least the basic tools and accessories to prevent and fix almost every catastrophe that takes place upon the drum riser.
The most important tool to keep is a drum key, since it is used for almost every adjustment on the kit, from tuning the heads to setting up bass pedals. A pair of basic slip joint pliers can help to free over-torqued wing nuts and mounting clamps. Philips and regular screwdrivers (small, medium, and large) are an absolute necessity for tightening any screws inside the shells that will eventually vibrate loose.
Duct tape (or gaffer’s tape) can be used for emergency on-the-spot repairs for broken bass drum batter heads (depending on the severity of the damage) and help control ringing resonant heads. Keep extra tension lugs (and their associated washers) to replace any with damaged threads along with a can of WD-40 to lubricate stubborn lugs and bass drum pedal chains.
Extra snare wire ties can really save you from losing your snare drum, as can a set of spare snare wires. Some extra cymbal felts, washers, and sleeves to replace any lost from your cymbal stands. And don’t forget to keep extra felts for the hi-hat clutch as well. Be sure to keep several extra bass drum clamp pads to replace any that fall off the hoop during transport (even drums kept in cases can lose a piece or two).
Spare sticks and beaters are essential for a quick recovery when one goes flying from a sweaty hand. For drummers who use mics and triggers, spare patch cords and cables are a must-have. Make sure to include any nuts, bolts, and threaded T-bolts that could come loose. For some hardware, a good set of allen wrenches will be necessary.
Some other show-saving suggestions include keeping an inexpensive extra snare drum as an ultra-quick Plan B for when the head(s) on your primary snare blow(s) out. An extra bass drum batter head can keep you from having to duct tape a worn out one back together. Finally, a good drum torque wrench or surface-tension-type tuner can help to quickly retune tom heads gone flat from temperature changes and such.
Keep the small stuff organized in a cheap tackle box, or separated into smaller tins or boxes and carried in an old briefcase. Perhaps along the way, you can pick up some more tools not covered here as the need arises. The key is to stay observant to what’s going on with your drums every time you tear them down or set them up. Most of these items could be obtained at almost any music store and don’t cost very much. Any kit containing these items is the ounce of prevention that will save any performing drummer from a hundred-pound headache!