From DRUM! Magazine’s January 2018 Issue | By Rhett Hendrix

Every working drummer can attest that their stick bag is packed full with more than just sticks. From multiple drum keys to flashlights, it’s essential to have the right tools to be able to handle any unforeseen issues that may arise with your gear at a gig. Here’s a list of ten items that you should have in your stick back for every gig,

Yamaha DK-15 Chrome Drum Key. Photo courtesy of

1. At Least Two Drum Keys

When it comes to drum keys, you can never have too many. They are remarkably easy to lose and have a knack for disappearing on stage when dropped. Having a back-up on your key ring as well as one in your stick bag is a great way to make sure you always have at least one when you need it.

2. Hex Key Tool Set

Kick pedals, hi-hat stands, lugs, and even some snares wires can have screws that require a hex key to adjust or tighten them. Thankfully a cheap hex key set from a dollar store is sufficient to get the job done.

A roll of black gaffer tape. Photo © Marie-Lan Nguyen /Wikimedia Commons

3. Gaff Tape

Gaff tape is great for last minute muffling on toms or even cymbals, if needed, and doesn’t leave residue on drumheads like duct tape will. What’s more, having a quality roll of tape on hand at any gig will inevitably make you someone’s hero. The potential uses are endless.


4. Extra Snare Straps

I suggest 5/8″ Grosgrain ribbon, which works perfectly as a snare strap and can be purchased in spools in any home goods store. It will prevent your snare from sounding like a timbale should your snare strap break in the middle of a gig.

Gibraltar SC-4421
Universal Hi-Hat Clutch

5. Extra Hi-Hat Clutch

Clutches are small and low cost, and having an extra one in your bag is well worth the few bucks, as it can wind up saving your gig. Clutches can easily fall off hi-hat stands when loading or unloading hardware, and sometimes they just break.

6. Screwdriver

Just like the hex key set, many drum parts may require a screwdriver to tighten or adjust. A single loose lug can completely ruin the sound and performance of a drum, and most loose lugs can easily be fixed with a simple tightening. Look for a screwdriver with an interchangeable head that has both Philips and flat-head sides.

Zildjian Drummer’s Survival Kit

7. Cymbal Topper Parts

Felts, wing nuts, and rubber sleeves are very easy to lose when moving gear. Sure, the show can go on without them, but you risk permanently damaging your cymbals even if it’s for just one show. Zildjian sells a survival kit that has all of these parts and a few others included. It is well worth the purchase, and your cymbals will thank you!

DW dwsm165C – Tension Rod 1.65″ tom/snare (six-pack)

8. Extra Tension Rods

Tension rods can sometimes fall out under heavy playing, especially on the snare drum. Missing just one can ruin your drum’s tone. It’s best to have at least one replacement for each size on your kit. Just measure the tension rods and you can easily order some backups.

9. Drum Key Screws

These little screws are notorious for falling out. They are mostly used on kick pedals, particularly on the drive shaft/linkage of double kick pedals, and sometimes can be found on kick spurs. If you lose one, it can be a showstopper. Typically, they come in packs of four, which should be more than enough to have on hand.

10. Flashlight

A flashlight isn’t typically considered a musician’s tool, but you will surely wind up using it more than just about any other you carry. Drummers live at the back of the stage, which can be surprisingly dark. Having a flashlight on hand is a great way to prevent losing a lot of the items that were mentioned previously in this article. It can also help you see set lists, take notes, and keep you from tripping on everything piled toward the back of the stage.

Rhett Hendrix is the owner of Hendrix Drums, a custom drum company in Dothan, Alabama, which specializes in solid stave snare drums and kits.