Tips for quick and efficient setup and breakdown at gigs

311Spider

Member
I wanted to post about the things I do to make setting up and breaking down my kit as easy as possible. I also want others to chime in with tips of their own that can make this laborious task quicker and easier.

To start, I like to play out with a 5 piece set with 4-6 cymbals, a cowbell and occasionally a jam block. Here's what I do to make things easier:

1. I use a pdp rack to eliminate the need for several stands.
2. I keep the rack partially assembled: the feet are already attached to the legs and all the cymbal arms and tom holders are already - this ends up being a total of 3 pieces of equipment to carry.
3. I transport my bass drum without the case, and do the same with my floor tom occasionally. Of course you run the risk of scratching or nicking the shells, but if you're careful it saves you time and effort having to deal with the large cases and finding a place to hold the cases during gigs.
4. At the end of the set before the last set I will start striping down my set to the bare bones: I'll put away the floor tom, put away one or more cymbals, and the same with the jam block. So at the end of the last set there's that much less stuff to deal with.
5. I always keep my cymbal bag behind me when I play so at the end of the night it is right there for me to start filling. The same thing with my snare and tom cases, they are right next to me, and I set them up like a little table where I can put my phone, set lists, water, etc.
 

opentune

Platinum Member
quicker and easier?

1. 4 piece kit
2. no rack
3. 2 cymbals stands
4. 2 cymbals + hats
5. no drum cases except snare
6. everything chosen to be lightweight

I get your point about starting packing up before last set (or do you mean song?) but I don't think an audience wants to see that.
Also, it begs the question, if you can do the last set with pared down drums and cymbals, why not try a gig with less gear?
 
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Matt Bo Eder

Guest
I use a standard four-piece kit with anywhere from one to three cymbals with hi hats. I don't have the option of leaving things uncased, or partially broken down because I'm in an open truck, so I'd rather have my stuff protected from the elements when traveling.

First off, I own two complete sets of hardware, and one set is cased up and ready to go. So when I have to pack for a gig, I'm basically just packing drums in hard cases (Humes & Berg Enduros) and cymbals/sticks. But my traveling set of hardware is lightweight Yamaha 600 and 700 stands, but with a heavy duty Pearl throne. Once at the venue, it's just a matter of quickly setting up stands - they're all straight cymbal stands - I don't need booms on my kit - so all I'm really doing is setting heights and positioning the stands around the kit.

Over the last 40 years of doing this, I tend to place pieces in the correct area as they're getting set-up out of the trap case - this is the biggest time-saver. For this reason alone I tell people it's not necessary to help me. In the early days, people would help, but they would be all over the place and I discovered you waste a lot of minutes just collecting the gear to get into the right place. Once the hardware is up with the cymbals on them, then the drums come out and go into place. I can be set-up and ready to play in ten minutes (if I have to rush).

Tear down happens even quicker. The key is doing things in the right order. It's the reverse on the strike: cymbals/drums first, then hardware.

If you've never had traveling hardware, I highly recommend it! It totally takes the drudgery out of prepping for a gig, and even setting back up when you get home. I have complete sets ready to go too, but I find what I'm playing now, is what I want to use out of the house. So having the second set of hardware was brilliant.
 
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Matt Bo Eder

Guest
I get your point about starting packing up before last set (or do you mean song?) but I don't think an audience wants to see that.
Also, it begs the question, if you can do the last set with pared down drums and cymbals, why not try a gig with less gear?
Agreed. Is the point about going out to play about getting out of the gig early?
 

BFrench501

Senior Member
I tried using a rack instead of cymbal stands and the truth is the rack is really heavy, even broke down into 3 sections. At the end of the night all you are doing is putting stress on an already tired body.

For the set you are playing, count how many times you really use the rack toms. For me I found I used it more for the 'classic rock ending' than actually in the songs, so for a typical covers gig I could get away with just using a 14" floor tom. Never enjoyed the gigs as much but enjoyed getting out a lot quicker with just 3 drums and a few cymbals.

Lightweight good hardware is a must. Yamaha are leaders in this field imo. Single braced but sturdy, and easy to carry.
 

BFrench501

Senior Member
I use a standard four-piece kit with anywhere from one to three cymbals with hi hats. I don't have the option of leaving things uncased, or partially broken down because I'm in an open truck, so I'd rather have my stuff protected from the elements when traveling.

First off, I own two complete sets of hardware, and one set is cased up and ready to go. So when I have to pack for a gig, I'm basically just packing drums in hard cases (Humes & Berg Enduros) and cymbals/sticks. But my traveling set of hardware is lightweight Yamaha 600 and 700 stands, but with a heavy duty Pearl throne. Once at the venue, it's just a matter of quickly setting up stands - they're all straight cymbal stands - I don't need booms on my kit - so all I'm really doing is setting heights and positioning the stands around the kit.

Over the last 40 years of doing this, I tend to place pieces in the correct area as they're getting set-up out of the trap case - this is the biggest time-saver. For this reason alone I tell people it's not necessary to help me. In the early days, people would help, but they would be all over the place and I discovered you waste a lot of minutes just collecting the gear to get into the right place. Once the hardware is up with the cymbals on them, then the drums come out and go into place. I can be set-up and ready to play in ten minutes (if I have to rush).

Tear down happens even quicker. The key is doing things in the right order. It's the reverse on the strike: cymbals/drums first, then hardware.

If you've never had traveling hardware, I highly recommend it! It totally takes the drudgery out of prepping for a gig, and even setting back up when you get home. I have complete sets ready to go too, but I find what I'm playing now, is what I want to use out of the house. So having the second set of hardware was brilliant.
Can you speak to my wife and tell her why it is practical to double up because she thinks its just an excuse to buy more drum gear. This is as legit as it gets :)
 

WallyY

Platinum Member
I
Over the last 40 years of doing this, I tend to place pieces in the correct area as they're getting set-up out of the trap case - this is the biggest time-saver. For this reason alone I tell people it's not necessary to help me. In the early days, people would help, but they would be all over the place and I discovered you waste a lot of minutes just collecting the gear to get into the right place.

...First off, I own two complete sets of hardware, and one set is cased up and ready to go. So when I have to pack for a gig, I'm basically just packing drums in hard cases (Humes & Berg Enduros) and cymbals/sticks.
Wholeheartedly agree!
I can set up very quickly when nobody helps. If nobody is dawdling and putzing on the stage it goes even quicker.

A second set of light hardware is almost an essential bit of kit too.
This is why touring is easier than playing local gigs. You only have to haul stuff to and from the vehicle once.
 
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Matt Bo Eder

Guest
Can you speak to my wife and tell her why it is practical to double up because she thinks its just an excuse to buy more drum gear. This is as legit as it gets :)
Well, if you're not allowed to get more stuff, I'd definitely lose that rack and get light stuff. Maybe musically look at what you really need. This is where the argument against a small 4-piece kit doesn't really hold any water. A good player can make music on anything. Andy here used to carry a big Spaun kit back in the day and has now since gone to smaller kits on occasion too. I personally never go beyond a five-piece kit - it's just unnecessary, and I never know what I'll be playing on a given gig.

Or, you can have your wife help you out on a gig a few times. I'm sure she'll agree that there has to be a better way ;)
 

eclipseownzu

Gold Member
First off, I own two complete sets of hardware, and one set is cased up and ready to go. So when I have to pack for a gig, I'm basically just packing drums in hard cases (Humes & Berg Enduros) and cymbals/sticks. But my traveling set of hardware is lightweight Yamaha 600 and 700 stands, but with a heavy duty Pearl throne. Once at the venue, it's just a matter of quickly setting up stands - they're all straight cymbal stands - I don't need booms on my kit - so all I'm really doing is setting heights and positioning the stands around the kit.

If you've never had traveling hardware, I highly recommend it! It totally takes the drudgery out of prepping for a gig, and even setting back up when you get home. I have complete sets ready to go too, but I find what I'm playing now, is what I want to use out of the house. So having the second set of hardware was brilliant.
I have an entire practice kit that includes stands, cymbals and hardware. The only thing that gets unpacked after a gig is my throne. I have had this setup for years and I have found recently that my gig hardware looks worse than my practice hardware. Its tough to find the time to clean the gig hardware, tune the heads on the gig kit, and do a tune up of the pedals. Other than that its a great way to go.

We play 35 - 45 min sets in shitty little bars with 15 min set up and tear down time. The way to get quick and efficient at setup and breakdown is to practice it. After decades in original bands I can do it with my eyes closed. The other bit of advice is to get comfortable playing if things aren't exactly in the right place. If a stand is a few inches off its no big deal, you just have to learn to not let it bother you and play on.
 

alparrott

Platinum Member
As a previous post of mine made mention, I have played huge kits and small kits out on gigs. Without commenting on the reasons for playing either type of kit, I would say the best trick for setting up on stage and getting off stage quickly is to have a small number of actual things on the floor. The more things a stand can carry, the easier it will be to carry off the stage at set's end.

If I ever do opt to go back into a big fusiony prog-rock project, I'm sure my large multi-tom, multi-cymbal set will come out of gig retirement. But it uses only two more stands than my 4-piece Ludwig set, the way I have it set up.

I used to collapse stands into a rolling locker. Not only did this make setup and teardown take longer, that locker was umpty-ump kajillion pounds. I ditched it. Now I leave the stands at their go-to height and just hide the booms. I stuff them in the floor wells behind the front seats and carry them one or two at a time. I can ask people to carry them for me without much fear of them screwing something up.

The only things in bags most times are my snare, my pedals, and my cymbals. All else rides commando-style.

Good, light hardware is a must. Here's another paean to Yamaha single-braced 700 hardware. I've had my current set for almost 20 years (!) without any issues.
 

tcspears

Gold Member
My only tip would be to pair your setup down to what you need. I've always played a 4 piece kit with 1 or 2 rides and Hi Hats. I've never found a gig where that wasn't enough, but it might be different for you. It takes me 10-15 minutes to setup and about 10 minutes to breakdown.

Take a look at what you have and figure out how much is really necessary, and how much is just fluff. Also, I agree with a few of the others that say breaking down your kit for the last set seems tacky from an audience perspective, and probably indicates that you don't need those other pieces.

I understand simplifying the setup/breakdown process, but with having the cases next to you an everything it seems like you're in a rush; are you clearing off to let another band on the stage, or do you just want to get out of there quickly?
 

GrimmReefer

Senior Member
Personally my gigging set is the kit I actually want to play and get excited to play. There is nothing better than the kit you actually built and created on a stage with lights all miced up and performing to a live audience.

Practice is actually where i take the short cuts. Usually a 4 piece with a ride and hi hat.

At a gig however I do keep simplicity in mind. The easier it is to mic up and sound check the better. Currently I run a 4 piece, 3 crash's, two splash's, a ride, hi hate, sampler, 4 channel mixer for in ears and a little fan to stay cool. Takes me about 20 min to get completely set up and about the same to completely break down. All the hardware is two boom stands, a straight stand and a dual clamp stand holding two boom arms for a ride and splash.

Then my sampler is a separate stand that houses my sampler and mixer and has a power strip installed so set up is easy. I also do this so that i can just go to practice carrying one case.

Also, the way I separate cases is key. If I use a back line at a casino or the likes I simply grab my sampler case (with stand attached to case), my snare, my pedal and a small duffle I use for small cymbal clamps, my stick bag and mic.
 

lsits

Gold Member
Having two kits really helps. I only have to bring my cymbals, throne and one boom stand from my "home" kit. I also keep the height of my stands set so that there's a lot less fiddling with them at the venue.

Have a system for set-up. Here's mine: First goes the carpet. You can mark the location of the legs with a Sharpie or some duct tape. Then the bass drum and pedal. Then the rack toms and the floor tom followed by the snare. After that comes the stands, followed by the cymbals and the throne. Think bottom up. For tear-down I reverse the process: Top down.
 

Zickos

Gold Member
I am currently using a four piece kit, two to three cymbals, Ludwig 1400 series cymbal stands, snare stand, bass drum pedal, hi hat stand, a big honker Gibraltar hydraulic throne in it's own suitcase (for comfort), music stand, a case for the charts (big band), music stand and a carpet (you never know where you are going to set up). I arrive at the gig an hour before and begin with the carpet. Then I set up the throne. Then the snare stand and the drums. Bass drum pedal goes on next. Cymbal stands and hi hat stand (which are in two pieces to fit in the trap case) go next. All of my cymbal stands have Camber t-tops for quick set up. I use my trap case to stack my music on (aprox. a thousand charts) and then set up the music stand. If we need lights, I always carry one. Tare down is just the reverse. Usually takes me 45 min. to set up or tear down. If we are sharing the stage with another band (witch is rare) then I preset as much of this as possible for quick set up and take it off the stage set up to give the other band as much time as possible. Professional courtesy.
 

Skrivarna

Senior Member
Echoing here:

- Small kit, usually a four piece with three cymbals (+ HH).
- Lightweight travelling HW, always packed and ready to go.
- Same with cymbals, ready and waiting in a bag.

But I'd never go anywhere without cases protecting my drums. At least gigbags.
 

drummer-russ

Gold Member
I feel completely unqualified to answer here since I take at least an hour to unload and set up.

I am in a classic rock cover band and we play about 40 songs a night. So I have a 6 piece that helps provide a range of sounds needed for the range of songs.

Some things I do that has helped to make it faster for me, and in the order I do them:

1. Carpet marked with tape for easy and accurate placement
2. Bass drum and double pedals. (I really only have a few songs I need them for but still feel they are needed)
3. Bass drum mounted toms (2)
4. Snare stand
5. HH
6. Cymbal stand that also mounts my 8" tom
7. Floor Tom
8. Throne stand
9. Tom and snare mic cables
10. Remaining cymbal stands
11. Drum mixer and personal in ear monitor and cables
12. Snare and throne seat (this gives me more room to move before adding them
13. Mics
14. Cymbals with quick release
15. Music stand
16. Mini Par lights for drums and music stand mini light
17. cowbell, stick bag, and, last but not least, drink holder
18. OH mics (if using)

I set up all stands off stage to give others space. They are all marked with sharpie or have memory locks.
I do the cables before stands so I don't have quite a pile of spaghetti when breaking down.

I noticed almost nobody mentioned mics or mixers. That takes a fair bit of the time for me. I don't use them for every gig but for most. I use the mics more for tone enhancement than volume but since I am a light player playing rock they do provide some volume.

I basically use one of three micing methods listed from easiest and fastest to hardest and most time consuming:

1. Real small venue, bass drum only and no mixer needed.
2. Medium sized venue (for me anyway) bass drum and one or two OH, usually only one at shoulder level beside me to enhance tom more than cymbals
3. Large venue or outside - bass drum, close mic toms, and one or two OHs
 

Mouse

Member
A hand trolly for quciker in and out, also saves the back.

All cymbal stands memory locked with collars, pieces of clear plastic tube, or if changing cymbals around a sharpie pen mark.

Cymbal stands are left unbroken down so base and next section fit into case as one unit, then just a matter of fitting top half memory locked arms to them.
Floor tom legs and tom mount positions memory locked.
Throne, hi hat, and snare stand memory locked.

I use a drop lock clutch on my hi hat although a single pedal player.

All cases fit inside each other, keeps the stage tidy.

Set up methodical order, my mat goes down and no one dare go on it.
All big stuff first on stage and directed to their place. Nothing worse than having to cross over each other to get gear placed away from your playing spot.

Cables to go behind kit for power, lighting P.A go there before kit set up.

Bass drum, tom mount, toms, snare, then cymbals stands.Cymbals last.
Pack down is reverse.
 

RickP

Gold Member
www.youtube.com/watch?v=BpmGso06imc

I use a Whitney Nesting Penguin - all the drums nest inside one another then all in one bag. All hardware goes in a Protection Racket rolling hardware bag. Cymbals go in a Protection Racket backpack style bag. In the door in one trip.

The drums sound killer, are light weight and set up is extremely quick as you can see in the video.
 

PorkPieGuy

Platinum Member
www.youtube.com/watch?v=BpmGso06imc

I use a Whitney Nesting Penguin - all the drums nest inside one another then all in one bag. All hardware goes in a Protection Racket rolling hardware bag. Cymbals go in a Protection Racket backpack style bag. In the door in one trip.

The drums sound killer, are light weight and set up is extremely quick as you can see in the video.

I am so, so jealous!!!! I love these things, but I've never heard one live. I would absolutely love having a kit like this.
 
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