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A Simple Guide To Caring For Your Drum Kit

by | Gear Reviews, Master Your Craft

Drum sets probably endure more stress and exertion than most other instruments in the music world. This is especially evident if the owner of the drumkit plays loudly or performs a more aggressive style of music. Because they’re generally larger and more complex, proper drum kit care does require a certain level of discipline and careful attention. Without proper maintenance, even the slightest break or fault can lead to expensive repair costs. Today’s article is a brief checklist for drum kit care and can be used by drummers of any experience level. With enough repetition, these seemingly arduous tasks will seem like a breeze, and you will help keep your kit in excellent condition.

To properly treat every component of your kit, you will have to dismantle each piece independently. Ensure that you know how to do so without causing any damage, and ask a professional for help if you are unsure. 

Shells

Your drum shells provide the primary structure and aesthetic of your kit. The quality of your shell wood will determine a fair amount of your tone, and you need to ensure that your shells are free from cracks or any unwanted splits in the body. Shells generally come with a lacquer finish, picking up excess dust and moisture during or between uses. Most drummers or drum techs make sure to wipe the inside, outside, and bearing edges of their shells with a soft, smooth cloth.

It is best not to use any chemical products to clean the surface as this will cause further damage to the shells and soak into the wood. However, certain waxes made by drum manufacturers are explicitly made for shell skins and will make your drums look brand new. 

Heads

Drum heads take the hardest knocks out of your drum components. The heads also provide the majority of your drum’s tonal quality, and it’s easy to hear a drum kit with poorly maintained skins. Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do to protect your drum heads from the constant battering they receive. However, you can ensure that they last as long as possible and maintain tone throughout use with a few simple habits. 

Always tune your heads with a proper drum key, and use the traditional tuning method. The traditional tuning method is achieved by starting at one turning point and then tuning the lug on the opposite side. Tuning from opposite sides helps the heads retain balanced structural integrity and prevents them from warping prematurely. It’s also important to never leave your drum kit sitting in a hot and unventilated space, as this will cause significant wear and tear on the heads and other parts. 

Hardware

A small list of hardware components makes up the rigging and tuning systems in each drum head. These components all work using tension and can break if they’re not appropriately fitted or neglected. 

  • Hoops– You can clean the hoops of the drums heads with a smooth, simple cloth to prevent them from rusting. A piece of wire wool can help remove any stubborn grime, and further polishing can be done with some cotton fabric.
  • Lugs contain a few small, crucial parts like the spring, nut, and dampening foam. Each piece needs to be cleaned separately and checked for quality. Lug components can be cleaned with a simple white spirit and then left to dry. The lug cases also need to be cleaned out from time to time to ensure no excessive residue builds up inside. 
  • Tension Rods – It’s essential to check these rods for any cross-threading constantly. They can be cleaned with a brief soak in some white spirits and a rub down with a smooth cloth. 

Cymbals

Even though cymbals may seem like the most challenging element of a drum kit, they still require consistent care and upkeep to optimize their performance and prolong their lifespan. Much like drum heads, cymbals experience a reasonable amount of punishment and are also handled a lot more than other drum parts. Good drum techs understand that cymbals need to be kept free from any excess moisture and rust. The easiest way to achieve this is to wipe down all cymbals after use and then store them in a dry protective case. Protective cases can also often save cymbals from unwanted dents or dings they can pick up during transit. 

Cymbals benefit greatly from the occasional polish, and they don’t require a tremendous amount of effort for you to do so. Most music instrument shops provide some form of cymbal polish/wax. These products are designed specifically for the brass that cymbals are made from and can be applied using a microfiber cloth. Polishing your cymbals will help maintain their resonance and prevent them from dulling or cracking prematurely. 

Final Thoughts

Drummers generally have to put in little effort when setting up and caring for their equipment. However, the level of effort and care you put into your kit will usually translate into your playing, and often great drummers are also amazing drum techs. Be sure to look after your tools, and they will look after you in return. Thanks for reading through our brief guide to caring for your drum kit.

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