Playing live, setting up

Duck Tape

Platinum Member
Very broad topic and prob covered before but I've just started playing shows and I've realized that it's a challenge getting your kit there, setting up and tearing down while trying to do it all efficiently, without taking up too much space, considering your environment etc etc etc

Just looking for any basic tips really, strategies you've figured out over the years that somehow make life easier. Anything at all.

As a conservative sorta person I've already decided to keep it as a 4 piece (or less) and im trying to find a crash ride that doesn't sound like garbage. I've got a few more ideas but I was hoping to hear yours!

I might as well mention that I'm in a reggae band with a rock/funk edge and I def don't need alot of drums or cymbals to play something cool.
 

Netz Ausg

Silver Member
Do skindred have any influence on your band?

When setting up it's best to get there first if possible. Then you can get your mat down and stake your claim on your stage space. I then unpack in a sensible order - kick first, toms, snare, stands then cymbals. As i go all of my cases/bags go off stage to make room for the other band members , and make them aware that if they don't have room whilst I set up, then once my kit is in they can move theirs amps in around it (I also offer to help with that).
 

Naigewron

Platinum Member
Yeah, a drum rug really helps when you want to claim your space on stage, and it also allows you to very easily judge how much space you will need. Throw it down as soon as you can, and then start placing your stuff.

A rug will also allow you to place markers for your setup, such as where your pedals go, and where the bass drum spurs go. This will not only minimise the time you spend adjusting your setup once everything is set up, it will also really help you get a consistent setup every time. I just use black tape to mark my (black) rug, so it's not going to look bad or anything.

As for speedy setup, I find that straight cymbal stands help me a lot. I don't disassemble them at all, so I can just pull them out of the bag, extend them to the desired height and place them where I want them.
 

Xero Talent

Silver Member
I have a large 10x10 rug that I have all the foot placements of each drum/cymbal stand marked out with ID'd tape outlines. This way, my drums/cymbals/throne/pedals are always in the right spot. Drums are green tape, cymbal stands silver tape, all lettered (ie: HH, BD, SD, THRONE, 16", 22", etc).

I make sure I always set my memory locks on each cymbals stand/tom mount/etc as well, so they're ready to go.

(This is not my mat, but the concept is the same.)
 

Zickos

Gold Member
I play in a 17pc big band and I always arrive 1 hour before the gig to claim my space and set up before the others arrive. Otherwise I have to fight for space and access (I'm always in back). I kid that I am like the Marines, first in, last out.
 

AndyMC

Senior Member
Its all about little things to make you as efficient as possible. Marking your rug is a great way to setup, but you can also take a sharpie and mark your bass spurs so you know where to open them to, I also number my floor tom legs so all 6 drop in without checking. I never tear down my cymbal stands i just fold the tripods to the same distance out every time. Of course memory locks everywhere. I can set my 6 piece with 5 cymbals in about 5-6 mins if I'm in a hurry and about 10 with leisure.

Also watch your equipment if it is crowded, some people are douchebags and friends of mine have had stuff stolen. Usually when stuff is either in cases or unpacked but not setup. If you regularly play multiple band shows get a bicycle cable lock to keep all your things connected to each other.
 

keep it simple

Platinum Member
If stage room is tight, make sure you're set up as far back as you can, so the guitarist can't set up their rear line directly behind your right ear!!!!!!

Joking aside, I use a rack, so positioning doesn't apply as it will to you. That said, with a 4 piece kit & not too many cymbals, that's a pretty quick setup. I always think a small tool kit, roll of gaffer tape, spare bass drum pedal, & spare snare drum, are essential gigging reserves.
 
I think it's all the little things which all add up and take time. For me, my cymbal case was once fastened too tight at one side (it's one of the old ones with straps), so I can only unfasten at one side-I marked down a X with a marker so I know which side to open.

Like everyone else has said, having a drum mat with positions of your drums/stands marked on is really useful, likewise marking on your cymbal stands how high to have them (if they don't have memory locks). My hi hats and ride cymbal are both at the same height which is ideal for making sure they are just right, and I only have one extra crash which takes care of itself.

I also make it clear to my bandmates, not to set up any amps on or overlapping the mat, as they will end up being hit by my cymbals.

My practice pad sits out of the way under the floor tom , always ideal for warming up before we go on and during the interval.

Lastly, I keep my snare drum case out on the floor next to the stool, so I can put my glasses, sunglasses, wallet, phone, tuning key, gaffer tape etc next to it before I go on.

My setup time is 7 minutes, but in really tight spaces with another 4 musicians setting up it normally takes 10 minutes.
 

NUTHA JASON

Senior Administrator
always set up in the same order and then tear down in reverse order.

my set up schedule in order:
  1. rug
  2. bass drum and pedal
  3. throne
  4. hardware
  5. toms
  6. snare
  7. cymbals
  8. mics and cables
  9. cases away
  10. final adjustments
  11. sound check
after the gig it goes:
  1. cases open
  2. mics and cables
  3. cymbals
  4. snare
  5. toms
  6. hardware
  7. throne
  8. bass pedal and bass drum
  9. rug
i do it this way so that the most precious and fragile bits are last out first in. and its logical. do it always the same way and you don't even think about it anymore it just happens on autopilot - in fact i use set up time to warm up my vocals.
j
 
A

Anthony Amodeo

Guest
all great recommendations so far

I also use the sharpie method and have for many years ...saves a ton of time....even on floor tom legs

one thing I will add that I dont think was mentioned ... stowing your kit before you play

Ive seen so many guys over the years take up so much room and wasting space with no regard for other drummers also on the bill.

so if you are playing smaller venues and even in bigger venues always stow your equipment neatly

I would usually leave cymbals off until loading onto the stage so the stands can be kept close together
and when I used to play a 16" floor tom I would flip the snare over onto the floor tom with the batter heads touching and the snare stand legs in the air and keep everything real tight

even if no other drummer on the bill is at all respectful of space, always try to be the one who is

you will notice over time that drummers will see what you do and follow suit copying you

also pull your gear off stage before breaking down

a huge pet peeve of mine is a drummer pulling off his cymbals and pulling his gear apart and sometimes even casing them up ON STAGE......get off the stage so the next player can get set up

most of the gigs I play now have a stage crew that will strike the gear and do everything for you if you let them ....I definitely prefer to break down and case up my own gear so I always do....but it is a pleasure to have them carry it off the stage after playing ...quite spoiling actually :)

another thing I have done over the years is use less gear

these days for most of my gigs I roll with kick snare rack floor, hat, ride, crash..2 straight stands and a hat satnd
like this

and set up and break down is an absolute pleasure compared to what I see drummers dealing with all the time.

then I watch their set and they use half of what they lug around
 

gunar

Member
I play in a 17pc big band and I always arrive 1 hour before the gig to claim my space and set up before the others arrive. Otherwise I have to fight for space and access (I'm always in back). I kid that I am like the Marines, first in, last out.
Just 1 hour? I play in a 3pc band and I'm usually there 5 to 6 hours before set time. Different worlds!
 

NUTHA JASON

Senior Administrator
Different worlds!
lol indeed. i've become so good at set up that i pretty much arrive about 30 minutes before the first set and still have time for the bar and the loo. its a rare day that sees me taking more than 15 minutes to set up. in fact i like being last because the cables and guitar cases have been stowed away when i arrive.
j
 

Dr_Watso

Platinum Member
I usually "stage" my stuff off the side of the show stage, this lets me get my cymbals all mounted on the stands, the drums how I want them... Then we just run up and place everything when it's time to "set up". In reverse, we just take everything off-stage if there's another band going up. They don't need to wait on me to tear things down for transport.
 

groove1

Silver Member
Like others, I throw down a carpet that has been cut on the outside to show the minimum
area required by my drums. (It's more oval shaped now...sometimes this matters spacewise)
I used Sharpie Paint rather than tape to mark where the stands go etc. At the gig, I throw
down the carpet (claiming my space) put my throne where it goes on the marks, set my
stand bag to the right of me and my drum bags to my left. The bass drum and foot pedal
are set up first, then all stands, then drums, then cymbals etc. 20mins to setup from when
I put the rug down. (ok size matters - I use a bass drum, rack tom, floor tom, snare, hihat,
and 4 other cymbals on stands for many gigs.

This works! I have a gig that ends at 6 this Sat and another that begins 1 mile away at 7.
Tight but doable.

Good luck with the project!
 
Unless you're on tour or something, play in bars that have a back line. Just having to bring cymbals/snare/throne is such a luxury. The kits are usually pretty crappy, but sound fine through the P.A. once the band gets going.

If you have to bring your kit..consider your set list. Depending on our set list, I might be fine with just kick / snare / floor tom / crash / ride.

If you're looking for a versatile do it all cymbal, look into thinner 50's / 60's zildjian rides on craigslist. I paid $150 for my 50's 20" ride and would put it up against any constantinople. If you want something new.. the Zildjian 21" A Sweet Rides are very good. Those k crash rides are sick too.. probably the most responsive cymbal I've played on. Whatever you get, make sure you play it first.. if you ever want to use it as your only cymbal at a gig, it must be perfect!
 

Daisy

Senior Member
Although others have mentioned "claiming their space" with their mat - my bandmates always regarded getting my mat down as the starting point for setting everything else up. (Perhaps I was lucky with my bandmates ?)

Before my first ever gig (which wasn't that long ago), I practised setting up and tearing down taking up as little room as possible. After half a dozen or so goes at it I worked out the most efficient order to put things up, and where to put them until they were set up.

If we were the only band, after setting up the bass drum (and pedal) I put the bass drum bag where my throne goes, then set up the toms in size order (largest first), then the snare, so I could put all their bags inside each other in the bass drum bag. Finally put up the stands and cymbals and the cymbal bag went on top of everything else in the bass drum bag. Then I could take all the bags out in one go and finally put up the throne.

I also marked out my mat, and anything that didn't have a memory lock (couple of my cymbal stands and floor tom legs) I marked with marker pen. Speaking of which, there were times I wished I'd had one of those lights you can wear on a head band, when the stage area was dark and I couldn't see the pen marks easily.
 

Kg_lee

Senior Member
always set up in the same order and then tear down in reverse order.

my set up schedule in order:
  1. rug
  2. bass drum and pedal
  3. throne
  4. hardware
  5. toms
  6. snare
  7. cymbals
  8. mics and cables
  9. cases away
  10. final adjustments
  11. sound check
after the gig it goes:
  1. cases open
  2. mics and cables
  3. cymbals
  4. snare
  5. toms
  6. hardware
  7. throne
  8. bass pedal and bass drum
  9. rug
i do it this way so that the most precious and fragile bits are last out first in. and its logical. do it always the same way and you don't even think about it anymore it just happens on autopilot - in fact i use set up time to warm up my vocals.
j
This is my exact method!! It's works and FAST!
 

Dj magic d

Senior Member
Just to add a few ideas:
I use a musicians multi cart. Its been a great investment and worth every penny. Usually two loads in and out of the venue....one for hardware, and the other for drums/cymbal. Unfortunately for some venues, these are impractical(ie you have to load in through the kitchen complete with grease covered floor).Those night, I scale back a bit on the number of pieces. You should always do recon on the venue. Visit beforehand, check out the load in/out scenerio, what the house system is(if any), get to know the FOH engineer if possible, confirm times, hang posters, talk with other drummers who play there etc, etc. Basically anything you can do to familiarize yourself with the place will save you a LOT of time the night of the gig. Also, a familiar face with the management, sound engineers, head bartenders, and wait staff will go a long way in showing you are part of a professional band. Rather than bunch of hacks who stumble in 20 mins before scheduled start time and are completely unorganized.

To me, the bar/grille gigs where you are playing all night( 3 sets) present the biggest challenges simply because the building may never have been designed for live bands. These tend to require more planning and adaptation than legitamite "music venues" that are set up for live acts. With that scenerio the focus shifts to cooperatively working with all the other musicians on the bill. Your interpersonal skills seem be the most important tool. The equiptment details and logistics should fall in place with time and experience
 

Spreggy

Silver Member
Two of my favorite time savers:
There's a case that holds 3 toms, snare, stick bag and random parts made by Tufflite. Love it.
My favorite set-up/teardown situation is when I am able to pull up very close to the stage, like outdoor gigs and some banquet rooms. I put the cymbals in a case, and everything else goes into my wife's minivan fully set up. Pull up, set it down, add cymbals, play.

I like hardware cases that store the stands without changing their length, just fold up the legs (without locking them, they won't fly open ha ha). I used an old golf bag for a while that worked out well.
 
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