House Kit SOS Guide : Practical solutions to making any kit sound decent!

So we’ve all had it where you show up to a gig and there’s a ‘house kit’ in the loosest of terms! Well aside from how I choose to play the kit during the gig, there are a few go-to things I do to get a good starting point for the sound and playability:

1. Kick Drum

First thing on any kit is get my arm in that kick drum (if it has a hole) and reach around so whatever material is inside is touching the front and back head…


If there is more than 1/3 of the kick filled with material, I try to take some out.

If there is nothing or a tiny rag inside, then I put some in (I always have a hoodie or jacket I can shove in!)

If there’s no hole in the head then a hoodie or jacket rolled up and touching the resonant head and the floor.

2. Snare Drum

There are 2 things that will be your best friend here, a drum key and Gaffa tape!

I will generally quickly check the resonant head is fairly tight, then for the batter head do a quick run round the lugs with the lug closest to me fairly loose, and gradually going up in tension to the lug furthest away (so in pairs clockwise and counter-clockwise simultaneously).

Chances are I’ll be in a rush doing this so won’t have any time for precision. This is where the Gaffa comes into play! Any overtones, just stick some Gaffa on there. If you’ve got serious issues then grab a bit of tissue from the toilets, make into a square, and Gaffa that on there too! There’s a fine balance before you end up deadening the drum to death, but it’ll come with practice!

3. Toms

Tom’s are notoriously bad when it comes to using house kits… you know those heads have never been changed right?! No, look at that pitting… they need some love! Ok, so depending on the severity of how battered they are, I have a couple of things I do:

Tune the head to a tone that isn’t a dead thud, and you can have some responsiveness whilst playing.

Use the tuning of the bottom head for your tone.

Get hold of that Gaffa again for any overtones.

4. Cymbals

These will be what they are (if you’re not using your own). Just spend the gig finding the sweetest spot you can… they all have it, you’ve just got to find it… and stick to it!

5. Hardware

Yup, these stands are probably not going to be great, but just get them into a position that’s playable, and use Gaffa to create make-shift memory-locks if need be.

Then there’s the dreaded hi-hat stand!

Yup, no clutch, and the clutch you so cleverly bought in your bag is too thin for the rod! Even the best laid plans can sometimes go awry!

I haven’t yet worked out how to make a hi-hat clutch from Gaffa – maybe I’m not using enough!

What you can do is put the hats on the rod, then create a big clump of Gaffa just above the top hat, and that way at least when you press the hats pedal down, you can have a crisper, tighter sounding hat, and when it comes up, a bit of sizzle. This can also be helped with where you play on the hats, and with what part of the stick, i’e tip/shoulder etc.

Dynamics is the most you can hope for in this situation.

I hope this House Kit SOS Guide has given you some useful information and tips, please feel free to share with any fellow drummers!

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