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How to Pack and Move a Drum Set

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Any drummer who has spent time in a band is familiar with packing and transporting a drum set--that's what gigs usually entail. But if you are packing your set for a move, you need to take extra care of your drums to save space and keep them safe during longer transport times. You can't get by with a "soft" breakdown of your set during a move.

Despite the fact that drums are designed to be beaten, they can be quite fragile and expensive. Packing your drum set is about saving space, but it also is about protecting all your set's components.

Let's start by listing a typical drum set's most common components:
  • Bass drum
  • Snare drum
  • Floor tom
  • Core toms (usually two)
  • Crash/Ride cymbals
  • Hi Hat
  • Pedals
  • Stands
  • Stool
Your drum set may have many more parts, but a standard drum set often consists of these components.

How thoroughly should you break down your set?

There are breakdown three levels you should consider when moving your drum set. 

Level 1: Minimal breakdown- This is for nearby, frequent gigs. You are only transporting your drums for an hour or less and you have to have the drums ready to play shortly after you get to the gig's location. This is a lackadaisical breakdown level that assumes some damage risk to your drums and will also cause them to take up unnecessary room in your transport vehicle. The only time this breakdown level is acceptable is if you are short on time-- or if you don't really care, because you're just that punk rock.

Level 2: Gig or short move breakdown- This is what you'll do for a typical gig. It provides some safety level for your drums, but also lets you reassemble them in reasonable time. Take apart what you can to save space, but keep some things together and place everything in appropriately sized cases.

Level 3: Storage breakdown- This most thorough breakdown is for shipping, long moves, or storing your drum set. Break everything down as much as possible and relieve tension or stress in the drum heads. You may use additional packing materials to ensure your drum components safety during your move.

The Core: bass drum and attached toms

Level 1: You're probably going to unhook the base pedal and place the whole core in the transport vehicle with the toms attached to the bass drum. At the very least, you should adjust the toms so that they are retracted and tightly secured on the base so they aren't swinging around. Take the legs off of the bass drum since they take up space and tend to fall out when you are moving the drum.

Level 2: 
Go ahead and remove the toms from the base drum. The pedal and legs for the bass should also be removed. If you have a bag or case for the toms and the bass, use it to give the drums' heads some light protection during the transportation process. Be sure to keep the legs and pedal for the bass together so you know what drum they belong to during re-assembly.

Level 3:
First, do everything you would do for level two. Remove the heads (the "skins") of the bass drum and the toms. These can be screwed off of most drums. If your set is going to be unused for some time, it is best to do this. There is a constant tension level on the drum heads when they are stretched out in drum frames, so removing the heads will extend their lifespan. Stuff blankets or a similar packing material inside the drums. The smaller parts like legs and pedals may need to be bubble-wrapped. 

The snare drum

Level 1: Even if you're being lazy, you should have gotten into the habit of always turning the snare off when it is not in use. The springs in the snare drum are tense when the snare is on, and constantly leaving it on can shorten the drum's life span. After turning the snare off, take the drum out of its stand and place it where nothing can slide and puncture it during transport.

Level 2:
Do the same as level one, except put the snare in a custom sized case to protect it for the trip to the gig. Fully retract and fold up the snare stand to save room. Be sure the hard metal stand can't move and damage other pieces during transport.

Level 3:
Unlike most drums that have easily removed and replaced heads, snare drums should be replaced once the skin is shot--since removing the head is not always possible. The springs in the snare tend to go before the head, anyway. Use a drum key to loosen the snare's head and leave it on the drum during storage. Make sure the snare is off and protect the head from any contact using any packing material you see fit. Wrap the folded snare stand in bubble-wrap.

The Hi Hat and other cymbals

Level 1: Take the cymbals off of the hi hat stand since they can slide on and off easily. Fold up the cymbal stands the best you can and lay them down parallel to each other. You could leave some cymbals on the stands if you have the room and don't mind them clanging everywhere during transport. This saves you time but could damage the cymbals.

Level 2: 
Take all cymbals off of all cymbal stands and put them in padded cases. Fully retract and fold up all cymbal stands, making sure to keep track of which cymbal goes with which stand. Secure everything for the moving process using cases or other containers.

Level 3: 
Same as level two, but with any additional packing material that you deem necessary to keep your cymbals and their stands cushioned and secure during a long move.

The floor tom

Level 1: Put it upside down with the legs up in your van.

Level 2: 
Remove the legs and keep them together. Try not to confuse them with the base drum's legs. Put the tom securely in your transport vehicle, making sure that nothing can strike its head.

Level 3: 
Do level two but also remove the head from the tom and fill the tom with a blanket or other packing material. Secure it in the transport vehicle, hopefully in a case, to avoid scratches.

The stands, stools, pedals and other small items

Level 1: Throw everything together in a small container. You can sort through them when you get to the gig.
Level 2
: Label each small part so you know where it belongs in the bigger kit. Keep like items together in separate containers.
Level 3: Label and wrap up small metal pieces that could damage other items during the move. Label and wrap up any drum heads you have removed, as well.

If you went level two or three with your drum packing thoroughness, you surely avoided any mishaps. Soon enough you'll be ready to rock in a new location!

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on August 20, 2014 - Moving Expert
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