I Forgot My Cymbals!!!!!

About nine years ago, I experienced a near disaster that changed the way I organized for a gig. One night, as I began to set up, I discovered my cymbal case was nowhere to be found. I ran out to the car and looked inside. No luck. Looked around the parking lot. No luck. I suddenly had the sick feeling someone had stolen them, and frantically called my wife who told me the news; the cymbal case was sitting in the basement.

Although I was somewhat relieved, it didn’t solve the problem. How would I play without cymbals? The club was nearly an hour from home, so there was no time to go back.

Fortunately, we were auditioning a sax player that night whose nephew, a drummer, lived two towns away. The sax man (also named Bob) immediately drove me to the nephew’s house, we grabbed his cymbals, a Tosco flat ride, Camber hi-hats, and two equally budget-priced crashes whose brand names escape me, and hightailed it back to the bar just in time for the first set. I got through the night with those rag-tag trash can lids, and made up my mind then and there never to forget anything again. By the way, thanks again, Bob.

So, how does one go about getting organized? Let’s start by making a weekly checklist. Very easy to do on any computer. Here’s how mine might look:

Bass drum, two tom toms, two snare drums in case
Cymbal case
Trap case and trap bag
Hand percussion
Vocal monitor with cable
Stick bag
Spare drum heads (you’re living dangerously without them…like having a spare tire)
Spare bass drum pedal (or the correct parts to fix the one you regularly use)
Rug (necessary on bare floors. Don’t believe me? Try going without one)
Spare parts in army surplus metal box (wing nuts, cymbal felts, sleeves, rubber tips, various nuts and bolts, etc.)
Three or four drum keys (you always lose ’em, right?)
Mic’s, cables, Claws
Clip on fan with extension cord (another necessity for me, especially in summer)
Gig bag (more on that later)

Of course, your list will probably be a little different, depending on how much gear you carry. All you need to do is make an all-inclusive inventory list of everything you need to bring. Print up multiple copies and use one for every gig to stay organized until you commit the entire list to memory. In case that doesn’t happen, continue to use the list as long as you need to. The idea is to be prepared for anything that might occur. Remember Murphy’s Law.

Now, let’s get back to the gig bag. Every working musician needs a bag to carry his or her sh%#. You can buy an inexpensive but serviceable gym bag at Wal-Mart for about $10-15, and it is indispensable. But what should a drummer bring to the gig? Again, I ‘ve learned from trial and error.

Let’s start with drum-related paraphernalia.. Here’s what I have in my gig bag at all times: A couple more extra drum keys, a few extra pairs of sticks (in case you forget your stick bag!), a spare set of snares, an extra hi-hat clutch, spare mic’ adaptor, extra bass drum beater and impact patch, all-purpose clamp, duct tape (a good, temporary fix for almost anything that breaks), a three prong electrical adaptor, small flash light, pocket knife, adjustable wrench, tweezers, regular and needle nose pliers, and small and medium-sized flat head screwdrivers.

On the personal side, I always carry a bar of soap and hand towel (you might be surprised at how many bars have neither soap nor paper towels), a fast-action asthma inhaler (or any medication you might need), a bottle of aspirin, Ibuprofen pain reliever, Tums (or whatever gastric distress relief you prefer), ear plugs, nail file, nail clippers, tooth brush and toothpaste, markers and pens, several sheets of paper, at least two extra T-shirts, Band-Aids and medical tape for wrapping split fingers in a pinch. And a stashed ten dollar bill, just in case.

I also used to have a small, “airplane size” bottle of Jack Daniel’s bourbon in my gig bag for some reason, although I stopped drinking that stuff years ago. Eventually, it broke and was discarded. I certainly don’t recommend carrying around alcoholic beverages or using them while you’re playing, and that’s a subject for another column we will soon explore.

Some of my ex-bandmates eventually came to rely on me for medical supplies in times of need. I felt like some kind of health care provider.

There’s no need to bring your entire medicine chest, but it’s a good idea to keep the basics at hand.

I was never a Boy Scout, in fact, I quit Cub Scouts after two years, but I learned a valuable lesson that night my cymbals lay home forgotten. It’s imperative to be prepared…and organized!