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Drum maintenance & care

by Ken Lovelett
April 2, 2000


American Percussion drums are made of clay with calfskin heads.  They're strong and durable, but they do need more care and attention than a standard wood and metal drum with a plastic head. 

Two basic rules:

1) Heat:  Keep the drum away from continuous heat sources - fireplaces, space heaters, windows, direct sunlight, radiators, hot air vents, closed car sitting in the sun, etc.

2) Storage:  Store the drum in a space that is not too dry, and out of reach of anyone who doesn't understand how to treat valuable musical instruments.  (Kids, pets ...)

With mistreatment, the drumhead can detach from the drum or, in the worst cases, crack the drum itself.  A detached head can be repaired.  In some cases a cracked drum can be fixed too, but none of us want this situation to arise.

Basic use and maintenance:

Tuning the drum:  If the head is too tight, spray a little water on the head.  This will tune it to a lower pitch.   To tighten or tune to a higher pitch, use a hair dryer - but very carefully!!  A couple of seconds exposure will probably do it.  Don't try to tighten the head too much, and don't overexpose the drum to the heat!

A small sponge comes with each drum.   Two uses for it:  While the drum is being stored, moisten the sponge and put it inside the drum (through the sound portal);  Before playing, rub the moist sponge on the drumhead to loosen it or lower the pitch.

Traveling:  The padded gig bag is NOT a road case!   Don't stack it with (or under) other instruments in hard cases, or leave it on a chair or other surface someone might naturally expect to sit down on.  (The gig bag looks like a pillow, not a fragile musical instrument!)  Good traveling procedure; Soak the sponge with water and put it in the drum; Put the drum in the gig bag, and that into a hard shell case.

Final thought:  Hopefully it'll never happen to you, but if the drum cracks or breaks, handle it with extreme care as you would broken glass.  Cracked ceramic material has very sharp edges and can cause injuries.  I'm just telling you.