How to Take Care of Your Drums

Without a doubt, drum sets are visually catching instruments and it is natural for a drummer to see his or her set as the apple of their eye. You will want to see to it your drums are well maintained so that both they appear and perform like new for years to come. In fact, if you take care of your drums they can retain their quality for decades.

Here are the 6 aspects and components of your drum set that you should pay constant attention to:

1. Storage

Storing and transporting your drums safely is the biggest single factor in preserving the quality of your drum set. It is all too common for drummers to neglect protecting their drums until an unexpected slip on a flight of stairs leads to a kick drum with a permanent gouge in it. There’s nothing worse than the feeling of seeing your pride and joy take a wound like that.

Spend the money to get a set of protective cases or bags for your drums, particularly if you’ve invested in a new drum set, but for a well-maintained 2nd hand kit as well. If you’re going to be moving them often, hard shell or fibreboard cases are the way to go but will cost you a little more (fully worth it nonetheless.) Affordable protective bags will do just fine keeping scuffs and nicks off a drum set that only makes its way out of the house every once in a while.

The first time you drop a case and open it to find your drum without damage you’ll be so glad you invested in cases.

2. Bearing Edges

The first part of your drum shell you will want to become well acquainted with is the bearing edge. The bearing edge of a drum is the area at the top and bottom of the shell where the shell has been lathed to recess from the edge, creating the lip where the rim rests on the shell. An uncompromised bearing edge is ESSENTIAL to having the drum sound properly. Before placing heads on your drum you should inspect that bearing edge on both sides of the drum for any irregularities or, more commonly, any debris that may be sitting in the lip. Run your thumb around the edges of each bearing edge and feel for anything that is amiss.

If you have purchased a drum set, new or used, and the heads are already on the shells, REMOVE THEM and inspect the bearing edges – even if the drums are new. You want to be intimately familiar with your bearing edges and you should begin that process from the very moment the kit comes into your possession.

EVERY time you replace the heads on your drums, inspect the bearing edge. Clean it before refitting the rim and new batter and / or resonant heads. If you have reason to believe the edge is compromised, take it to a drum smith (ask your local music retailer for a referral if necessary).

3. Drum Heads

Just like strings eventually must be replaced on a guitar, a drummer must replace both the batter (top) and resonant (bottom) heads on each of their drums when they become worn and no longer capable of producing good sound.

Naturally, batter heads will have the need much more frequently than the resonant heads, as they are the ones that absorb the stroke of the drumstick. Over time, however, resonant heads will need to be replaced as well.

There are both visual and audible cues to a head needing to be replaced. The visual cues are obvious; if your head has an uneven surface, “soft spots” or is dented in any spot from an over-aggressive strike, it needs to be replaced. If the sound is not what it used to be – the tone is shallow and weak or it doesn’t resonate with the same duration and projection it did before – it needs to be replaced.

A kit with new heads looks sharp and restores it to its “new” appearance, but conversely a set of heads that are well-worn suggest a drummer who loves his or her kit and puts it through its paces. Know when it is time to invest in a new pair of heads, and inspect your bearing edges when you take the old ones off.

4. Drum Shells

Most drums are “wrapped” in a coloured epoxy material or lacquered with a hard shell finish. Either way, you will want to give them a cleaning every once in a while. This is particularly true when you’ve had them out in a club or jam space where they are exposed to smoke or splashes of any liquid. Don’t make the mistake of cleaning your drums with Windextm  or any other conventional cleaning product. Some of them contain reagents that can discolour, fade or compromise the integrity of the finish on your shell. Instead, clean your drums with a very-diluted mix of warm water and basic dish soap from the kitchen. Dry them thoroughly and return them to their protective cases.

5. Rims and Hardware

The stainless steel components of each drum should be cared for regularly as well. Much of maintaining the rims and hardware of your drums is related to how you store your drums. Always make sure your rims and other steel components are completely dry before storing your drums, and NEVER STORE YOUR DRUMS IN AN AREA (ex – garage, attic) WHERE MOISTURE AND HUMIDITY MAY BE PRESENT.

This goes for any area or “jam room” where your kit may remain set up for extended periods of time. If your space is like that, go to the trouble of taking down your kit and setting it up new each time. In fact, you should do that for your whole drum set no matter what your practice and playing arrangements are. Your shells and hardware will be safe and secure all the time if you keep them in protective cases or bags and in a dry and temperature-consistent space.

Failure to protect your drum hardware from these elements can result in oxidation and pitting of the rims, which will seriously detract from your drum set’s attractiveness.

6. Cymbals

Clean your cymbals regularly WITH PROPER CYMBAL CLEANING CREAM ONLY. Having bright, shining cymbals is a way of showing you care for your drum set and prolonging its newness. Further, clean cymbals will not have any residue in the grooves that radiate out from the bell to the edge of the cymbals. The sound and projection of the cymbal is generated in these grooves and you want them to be entirely free of any gunk. Cymbals are magnets for grime and nicotine residue from clubs and dirty jam spaces.

Clean your cymbals regularly and thoroughly with cymbal cleaning cream from your local music retailer.

Phil Barrow

Phil Barrow

Phil is a guitarist and Director of Resound School of Music, a music school specializing in at-home music lessons. Phil's passion is helping others to discover their lifelong love of music, and he writes about a variety of topics aimed at helping you to become a better musician.

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