"There are lots of little details in the gear we use, and if you forget one key thing, you’re toast."

10 Must-Have Items Drummers Should Bring to Every Gig

I’ve lamented this notion with some of my musician friends. It is the same for every instrument. There are lots of little details in the gear we use, and if you forget one key thing, you’re toast.

Over the years, I’ve found out the hard way by screwing up. So, please allow me give you a list of things to bring to the gig so you can benefit from my mistakes and have a stress-free show with no gear problems.

The assumption here is that you’re doing a club gig where the venue has a house drum kit. Generally, they provide the drum kit, (usually without a snare) and stands/hardware. And that’s usually all they have for you. Check with the venue so you know for sure. But that being said, a few items of gear are obvious, and so I’ll mention them here so they don’t clog up the list.

Table of Contents

 The must-have, non-list, you-must-be-an-idiot-if-you-don’t-bring items are your:

1) Cymbals (generally, hi-hats, two crashes, and a ride),

2) Snare drum,

3) Bass drum pedal

4) Sticks.

Now for the things you might not have thought of:

Hi-Hat Clutch

This is the big one. You can be seriously screwed if you don’t bring this. A lot of venues will not have a hi-hat clutch. Imagine having to play a gig without a functioning hi-hat. Not a good situation. I recall running around a venue desperately asking fellow drummers in other bands if I could please, please, please borrow a hi-hat clutch from them. Talk about stress. Please don’t forget your hi-hat clutch!

Cymbal Stand First-Aid Kit

What does this mean? A cymbal stand first-aid kit is simply an assortment of cymbal sleeves, cymbal cup washers, felts, and wing nuts. I have a zip lock plastic bag with a whole bunch of this kind of stuff that I bring to every gig. I use its contents frequently. You know why? Lots of venues will have the cymbal stands they promised, but they are often “naked” meaning there is no washer, or sleeve to support your cymbals. They often have no felt or wing nut either…..so your precious cymbals would be unprotected when mounted this way. You definitely don’t want to just put your cymbals up on stands without that sleeve/washer and felt. Not a good idea. Bringing this “cymbal stand first-aid kit” will get you out of multiple jams.


Drum Key

Yup it happens. I don’t need to tell you why you need this. It’s crucial. And yet, somehow, people forget their drum key. The way I deal with this possibility is to always have a drum key on my person at all times; gig or no gig. I know it sounds crazy, but it works.

Duct Tape

You never know what kind of problem this will solve. I’ve used it most frequently to tape my set list to a cymbal stand or somewhere else on the drum kit, or to tape my wallet to the snare head. Undoubtedly there are other problems this can solve. You’ll thank me later if you start bringing this to every gig.

Ear Plugs

No explanation needed. Especially if you’re playing loud hard rock.

Set List with BPM Markings

I like to be organized. This will help you keep the show running smoothly. Everyone in the band should have a set list (the SAME list in the SAME order), so when the count-off comes, everyone is playing the same song. This sounds basic, but it’s important enough to mention, especially if you’re new to playing gigs. As the drummer, and since it’s usually my responsibility to get the tempos right when I count off the song, the metronome numbers (BPMs = beats per minute) are important to have on the set list next to each song title.


It won’t help you to have the BPMs written down on your set list if you don’t have a metronome! As an aside, lately, I’ve tried to get a little less anal about tempos. Yes, they’re important, but recently I’ve been trying to get my count-offs by thinking about the song rather than by using the metronome. When you get that right, the set can move along faster. That being said, it’s good to have the metronome as a back-up.

Moon Gel

I usually don’t like using these, but sometimes there is a weird buzz or rattle that the gels will fix. It’s good to have them just in case. If the sound person asks you to fix a buzz or ring and you quickly pull out your moon gels, you look more pro in their eyes. More importantly, it’ll solve the problem.

Stick Holder

I like having a stick holder so I can mount a back-up pair of sticks within easy reach. They look kind of dorky, but they work. My favorite ones are made by Vater or Vic Firth. You can mount them on a cymbal stand or other appropriate piece of hardware. I usually put it on the cymbal stand on the left side in front of the hi-hat. Having this has actually saved my ass.

Stick Wax

You can justifiably debate me about this being necessary because some of you just don’t like using any kind of grip enhancer on your sticks. Fair enough. In my case, however, I’ve come to really like Zildjian’s Stick Wax. It makes holding the sticks loosely much easier. I rarely drop a stick now. The wax also stops the stick from sliding forward or backward in your hand. Ever wind up with your grip too far back on the stick (near the butt end) or too far in the other direction? Zildjian Stick Wax will stop that from happening. Plus, it smells good (Really! It actually has a tropical fresh kind of scent) and the ritual of putting wax on my sticks helps me get my game face on pre-show. You know how tennis players look at the head of their racquet and tweak the string positions with their fingers in between points? Applying stick wax is kind of like that for me.

That’s my list! Let me know your thoughts and have a great gig!


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