1. Stick Bag
First, start out with a nice stick bag. Your stick bag holds some of the most important pieces of gear you need as a drummer, so it’s well worth it to get a good one or to replace your old one if it’s getting beat up. Stick bags come in all sorts of forms and colors. You might not be into a zebra-striped bag like I use — and that’s perfectly okay — there are many less-crazy options out there. Some that you might want to check out include the MONO M80 Stick Bag, Sabian 360 Stick Bag, and the Sabian Stick Flip Bag.
Now that you have a stick bag, load it up with plenty of your favorite drumsticks. You may rarely break a stick, but why take a chance? It’s always a good idea to have more then you think you’ll need.
Have at least one pair of brushes, such as the Vic Firth Standard Jazz Brush, in your bag, . Brushes are, of course, great for jazz music, but you can also groove to pop, R&B, country, and many other styles of music with brushes.
4. Dowel sticks
Dowel sticks, sometimes known as “rods” or “blasticks,” are essential for your stick bag. They’re great for mellow grooving in many musical styles. A couple of options include Pro-Mark Hot Rods and Pro-Mark Thunder Rods.
5. Other Brushes
For variety, include tools that cross over between regular wire brushes and dowel sticks. Examples include the Vater Little Monster Brush, Vater Monster Brush, Meinl Precision Cajon Brush, and many others. These are polymer-strand brushes that sound great on a drum kit as well as on percussion instruments such as the cajon.
When you have to play a big sweeping cymbal swell, you need a good pair of mallets, such as the Vic Firth T1 American Custom Timpani Mallets. Mallets are also great for playing grooves on toms.
Now let’s get into the extras you need around for quick adjustments and repairs of your kit — and yourself!
First let’s start with an item that may seem very obvious, but it’s something drummers often forget ( I’ve done it myself ): a drum key. You should own several and keep them stashed wherever you might need one, including always keeping one in your stick bag. Drum keys are kind of like left socks; you use them once, then all of a sudden they go missing. A couple of very cool drum keys are the Evans Magnetic Head Key and the Revolution FF2 Firefly Drum Tuning Key.
8. Hex Wrenches/Keys
Your stick bag should include hex wrenches/hex keys. Kick drum pedals and some drum set parts use hex screws, and the wrenches used to turn those screws are easily misplaced. My suggestion is to go to your local hardware store and buy a “multi-tool” that has a bunch of different-sized hex wrenches in one unit. You might also check out the Ernie Ball Musician’s Toolkit, which is ostensibly aimed at guitar players, but contains useful tools for drummers and other musicians as well.
9. Snare Wires
Next on the list is an extra set of snare wires. Snare wires last a very long time but when the unexpected happens, if you’re not prepared with an extra set then your whole gig or session can go very wrong. There are a lot of nice wire sets out there. Good options include the PDP 20-strand Snare Wires and the PureSound Percussion’s Equalizer Series Snare Wire.
10. Small Drum Parts
Spare cymbal felts, cymbal wing nuts, nylon string to attach snare wires, and washers always come in handy, especially when you go to a rehearsal or gig and use the house drum set. Inevitably there are little things missing. The Zildjian Drummer’s Survival Kit and the DW Drummer’s Survival Kit are two nice options that come with a lot of those extra pieces along with nylon string for your snare wires.
Gone are the days where you needed a big roll of duct tape or gaff tape in your bag for dampening your drums. Products such as Moongel and Drumtacs from Studio Lab Percussion do the job very well and can be re-used many times. I consider both to be must haves for my stick bag.
Drummers are expected to be the time keepers in most musical situations. A metronome in your bag, such as the BOSS DB-30 Electronic Metronome or the Tama RW200 Rhythm Watch Metronome, is not only great for practicing, but is also essential for maintaining time and setting tempo at gigs. As a sideman, a metronome brings big brownie points from the artist you are working for when you count off every one of their songs at the exact, correct tempo every time.
A small flashlight is a must for when you drop a wing nut or cymbal felt on a dark stage. You do not want to be crawling in the dark, on your hands and knees, when the band is waiting for the next song to be counted off.
Another light to have handy in your bag is a music-stand light, such as the Mighty Bright Duet2. These lights are compact and lightweight, so don’t get stuck not being able to see your charts; have one in your bag!
After many hours of playing sometimes our hands get beat up. Painful blisters and calluses can make it very hard to do our jobs. Simple products such as flexible fabric adhesive bandages or Grip Tape from Ahead can stop the bleeding and help get you through the show.
15. Ear Plugs
If you’re not careful, being a musician can wreak havoc on your hearing. As a drummer, you must have ear plugs in your stick bag. There are many options these days for ear plugs, from custom-molded plugs to basic, low-cost foam plugs. I encourage you to have a couple of different kinds in your bag so you always have the type you need and also a back up. Nice options for ear plugs include the Hearos Rock n’ Roll Earplugs, Westone TRU Universal TRU16 Earplugs, and Etymotic Research Music Pro Electronic Earplugs.
These are 15 items that I always keep in my stick bag. They’ve carried me through countless gigs, rehearsals, and sessions. The point is to have everything you need and more in your bag. Be as prepared as you can for whatever comes at you in a musical situation so you can relax and just play, knowing you’re covered.
Keep making music!