New Drumming Pet Peeve: Backline Sharing


When it comes to drumming, I’ve had a busy couple of months.  At one time I was juggling four steady drumming gigs, and was looking at the possibility of adding another one.  Now with the baby coming, I’m taking a bit of a sabbatical from drumming – at least as far as gigging projects are concerned – to get ready for the new parent adventure.  Given that I’m going to have a little bit of musical downtime, I wanted to share some reflections from the road.

First and foremost, I’ve uncovered my new drumming pet peeve: backline sharing. Like most things on the road to Hell, this is based on the good intention (usually made by people who are not drummers).  For those that don’t know, backline sharing is when drummers, bass players (and any other instruments with bulky gear) are asked (or in my case, volun-told) to share their gear for a multi-band bill.  Whether you’re on the one doing the sharing, or taking part in someone’s shared gear – this is a lose-lose situation.  Like I said, this decision is usually made by someone who doesn’t play any of these instruments, thinking only of how they can cut corners and minimize the transition time between bands.

The bottom line is that as a drummer, I have spent a considerable amount of time and money to get the sounds that I feel best compliment my playing style, as well as the type of music that I’m playing that evening.  This was culminated from many hours spent in the drum shop finding that perfect cymbal or snare drum head, then going home and determining the exact placement of each part of your kit.  When you’re asking your drummer to backline share on someone else’s kit, you’re unknowingly saying a big “Efff you” to their musicianship and the time they spent to getting their instrument to sound the best for your music. 

I understand there are certain exceptions (like school drum sets) where you’re not playing on your own kit, but I often equate that to driving a car: I can drive someone else’s car and get around for the most part, but when it comes to understanding how the car corners, brakes and maneuver in tight spaces – you want your own vehicle. The same goes for drumming. If you’re asking me to give my best (often to help us earn money), let me cook with my own ingredients.

It’s bad enough to be asked to share someone else’s instrument, but when you’re asked to do the sharing: you’ve taken it to a completely worse level.  All that I said about putting in the time and effort to get the perfect sound out of your kit, is not a cheap process – and now you’re asking me to entrust my kit to someone who I’ve never met before and likely won’t see ever again?  Seriously? In one of my first bands, one of my band-mates was goofing around on my kit and busted up my brand new Pearl Eliminator pedal, with no offer to help rectifying the situation (luckily the pedal was under warranty and Pearl was great about fixing it), but from that point on I decided to go against the lessons my parents taught me – (when it comes to my drums,) NO SHARING!  Now while I’m watching the opening act, rather than mentally preparing for the music I’m going to play, I’m now fixated on the stranger playing my drums and cringing at the possible damage that’s being inflicted on a prized possession.

So memo to band-leaders: you’re thinking that you’re doing us a favor with us lugging less gear, but lugging gear is part of drumming – I’m more than happy to deal with it.