What To Do When Marching Drums Get Wet

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At some point during the school year, it's likely that your high school or college drumline will get caught in the rain during a football game, parade or rehearsal. Your marching band drums are made of wood and metal — two materials that water wreaks havoc on. When your drums get wet, you must take the time to service your drumline in order to get them ready to go before the next rehearsal or performance. 

Be Prepared

First, let's review how to prepare for wet conditions assuming you know beforehand that bad weather is on the way.The Boy Scout motto of "Be Prepared" is the way to go. Be sure you know the details of the environment where you will be performing or rehearsing. Ask yourself the following questions:

    • Is there a chance of rain, snow or moisture of any kind?
    • If it does rain, can the drumline take cover relatively fast?
    • If you must play in the rain, what steps can you take to protect the instruments?
    • How soon can you get out of the rain after the event and how do we get them dry fast?
    • What resources will we have to help dry the gear immediately?

Performing in the Rain 

1. Bring drum covers. They will help keep a good amount of the water off your gear while it is raining. Measures should still be taken after the rain has begun to ensure the drum is protected. If playing in the rain is unavoidable, at least bring the covers and put them where they can be easily and quickly accessed during the performance. Don't leave the covers on an equipment truck! Make sure the prop crew or a band booster group member standing by to quickly gather the covers and put them on the drums.

2. Bring towels. They will help you intermittently wipe down the drums while you are in the stands. Instructional staff should keep towels handy to wipe drums at every opportunity.

3. Have people ready to help. This means staff, parents, friends or anyone else who is nearby. They need to be at the ready to get covers, find a place to take cover, hold the towels and do whatever else is needed.

4. Bring a pop-up tent just in case. These tents are great to use for indoor percussion competitions where you need to warm up and rehearse in the parking lot before the performance. Be sure to bring sand bags to hold the tent down. When it rains, it often gets windy, so those sand bags are essential!

After the Performance 

1. Prep your players for the steps they'll need to take. After the performance, don't let your drumline members leave — they need to help dry the drums. The first and most important step is to get the drums dry right away. Tell the students your plan to clean and dry the drums and what they need to do.

2. Dry the drums. Take all the heads off and use a dry towel to wipe down all the drums, inside and out. If there's a hair dryer handy, use it to speed up the process. If the school has large, oversize floor fans, put them next to the drums and turn them on full blast. Let the air circulate inside and around the drums at least overnight.

3. Don't put wet or damp drums in a case. This could be your biggest mistake! By putting wet or even slightly damp drums in their cases you run the risk of ruining your gear. Your hardware could rust and your shells could be soaked. The latter is a big deal because wet shells could begin to pull apart, leading to warping. Mold and mildew could also set in. If you have to "hurry up and get on the bus," at least wipe down the drums to get off as much water as possible, then do a more thorough job as soon as you get back to the band room, the hotel or your next rest stop.

4. Put it all back together. Once you know everything is dry, be sure to:

    • Inspect all the drums and wipe down the heads again really well.
    • Put the heads and hardware back on the drums.
    • Replace the grease on the tension rods.
    • Put the gravity guards back on to the bottom side of your snare drums.
    • Put all the drums back in their cases.

As an instructor, make sure your students know how to take good care of their gear. Like anything else in life, the better you take care of what you have, the longer it will last.

Photos by MMB Photography

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