For this post I would like to address the topic of preparedness. Part of preparedness includes being ready at a moments notice and that in turn means having your stick bag ready at a moments notice. A perfect example of this happened to me four days before making this post. My churches worship team normally has rehearsals on Thursday nights and on this particular rehearsal night the drummer did not show up, so the worship director call me in to take his place. This call came to me a half hour after rehearsal should have already started. Fortunately for the worship director I was available and prepared to attend the rehearsal. I grabbed my stick bag and my folder of music and was out the door.
One of the main reasons I was able to achieve this is that I always keep my stick bag stocked and ready with essential items that will allow me to play at a moments notice and in any given drumming situation when I am asked to play on a drum set other than my own. This usually involves a church owned drum set that in most cases is in poor condition, disrepair, or set up for a 12-year-old to play. So, I will take you through the items that I have in my stick bag that I feel are essential for every worship drummer to have on hand.
If you reference the pictures I have added I will start from the top of the item list and work my way through, top to bottom and left to right. Let’s start with the stick bag itself. This is the “Stick Silo” made by Revolution drum accessories. I’ve seen this for sale for as low as $35. I like it because I can choose to have it sit on the floor next to me or strap it to a drum like a traditional stick back. As you can see the interior can be partitioned and it has two exterior pockets. The lid detaches by means of a zipper and is a convenient place to put a wallet, watch, cell phone, and other things you don’t want to have on you, but don’t want to miss place. Typically, I sent this bag on my left side so I can retrieve sticks quickly.
The first two items in the photograph are bundle sticks that are of different sizes and stiffness. I keep these in my bag because they are good for controlling my volume in small rehearsal spaces or rooms that do not have sound absorbing materials or a drum shield. The next item is the standard drumstick that I use which is the Vic Firth SD 10 Swinger. Following that is a pair of mallets. These particular mallets are made by Zildjian and are the Dennis Chambers model. I prefer these to the orchestral style mallets because of the drumstick end that allows me to do drum set work as well as soft cymbal swells and soft tom-tom fills. Next level down, on the left, are a pair of Gibraltar cymbal stackers. This is a nice little bundle of items that will most likely be missing from cymbal stands when you arrive to play on a foreign drum set. Absent wing nuts, felts, washers, sleeves, and possibly stripped treads should be expected. These are also helpful when you want to utilize a splash cymbal and do not have an extra stand. The next item is Moon Gel. In my opinion, this is an item that should be in every stick bag of every drummer regardless of the musical application. DRUM! magazine stated that Moon Gel is among the top 10 most important innovations in drumming technology.
A couple of tricks to making these fantastic little blue pads go farther and last longer is to cut them in half (I have found that in nearly every application one whole pad is too much dampening) and when the pads begin to lose their stickiness just washed them in a little bit of soapy water. Right below the little blue pads of wonder is an extra 9V battery. I can’t tell you how many times I have pulled out my metronome only to find that I had left the power on the last time I used it and now the battery is dead. This is also a good I thing to have when the metronome dies during a performance. I typically change out both batteries every four weeks. Another good technique for save battery life is to remove the battery from the metronome after each use.
Next is a spare hi-hat clutch. This is another item that you can expect to be either dysfunctional or missing from the house drum set. I currently carry a Tama model, but would recommend a universal hi hat clutch made by Gibraltar. Often times you will find that manufacturer specific hi-hat clutches (other than Gibraltar) will not work with high hats that are not from the same manufacturer. To the right of this is a Zildjian D-tool. It has four Allen wrench sizes, a Phillips screwdriver, a flathead screwdriver, and a standard drum key. On the next row down is my metronome. I’m not sure if Yamaha continues to make the Click Station, but so far it is my favorite out of the half dozen or so models that I currently own (see my previous post on timekeeping). If you own an iPad, I would also recommend a metronome app called “Tempo Advanced™” by Frozen Ape Pte. Ltd. This app costs a few dollars, so see if your worship director can spare the change to help you buy it. The app allows you to make song lists and it is able to subdivide tempos into different sounds. this is important because it helps you mentally tract the tempo better.
An important reminder when using an iPad is to make sure that it is constantly near a full charge. Leaving the screen on for long periods of time will quickly drain the battery. I would not recommend using a smart-phone for this application. The buttons and slides are far too small to work with on-the-fly during a performance. Next is a pair of Sure E2 ear-phones. I like this set because it comes with a variety of in-ear attachments for comfort and isolation. I believe they retail for right around $100.
I keep a pack of gum in my stick bag and in my trap case at all times. You never know when you might have to get up close to someone when discussing the music or praying with the rest of the musicians. Often times I only drink 2 cups of coffee in the morning before I leave the house to play Sunday services. That usually spells bad news for my breath and my stomach. On the next row down are a variety of markers and pens. I often like to have varying colors so that my notes are not all monotone. This helps me to pay attention to things I really need to make sure and play. Green and brown are often colors that I use to make notes. I find that my eyes see them in stark contrast to the black printed words and guitar chords (see my previous post on note taking).
Next are two kinds of tape. Electrical tape for various on-the-fly fixes (this may apply to anything from hardware to broken sticks or broken shoelaces) and athletic tape for preventing blisters. Either of these they also come in handy if you need to tape an egg shaker to a drumstick or to your ankle (this works great for low-volume acoustic sets). I prefer not to use duct tape because it is far stickier than these other two tapes and tends to leave adhesive residue on hardware or drumheads that may not belong to me. There may be a few other things I may throw in my stick bag in addition to these from time to time, but overall, these are the things I always have in my stick bag.
Years of experience as a worship drummer have taught me that the best policy is to be prepared for anything. Once when I was a young, growing, worship drummer, my team was asked to play a mid-day service at a women’s shelter in central Phoenix. We packed the churches drum set and hardware and boogied on down to the women’s shelter. When we got there I discovered there was no bass drum mallet with the bass drum pedal. I ended up having to fashion a bass drum mallet from a whittled down plastic coat hanger and a half a roll of toilet paper covered in duct tape. That was one day I was happy to have duct tape and a pocket knife in my stick bag.
I hope that it helps you toward your goal to achieve excellence for the Kingdom of God (Philippians 4:8).