[Keeping your percussion in top condition by Waywood Music]

Percussion Maintenance & Repair


The aim of this page is to help you keep your percussion in tip-top working condition and to prolong its working life.

Drums with 'Traditional' Type (e.g., rope) Tensioning



[Ginga pandiero]Ensure that the threads on tension rods or other nuts and bolts of any drums are lubricated. Use a proprietary brand such as LP Lug Lube™ as this is designed to cope with high pressure and repeated use. Petroleum jelly, such as Vaseline™ is another readily available option.

Make sure that all tension bolts, nuts and washers are present and work properly. Be careful to check for cross-threading which will make adjustment a nightmare, and will only get worse with time, especially where higher tensions are required such as with congas or timbales.

Ensure that all items of hardware attached to the shell e.g., nut boxes, are secure.

Check the drum heads for signs of damage e.g., warped or bent rims, and splits in the head. Once the drum heads have been removed check the bearing edges for cracks in the shell or bearing edge deformities.

Gently rub a bit of candle wax around the bearing edges to help smooth movement of the skin over the edge. Always ensure that all lumps of wax are removed before fitting the head.

Where natural skin heads are used, always check for holes, scratches or problems with 'scar' marks. Nearly ALL skins will have some scarring, but they should be checked for strength.

Some players like to apply a 'head oil' to their congas to prolong life. However, care must be taken if you choose to use these as the head may 'soften' slightly and sound slightly dull for a while. A 'head treatment' may be applied to the area of the skin which passes over the rim of the drum. This area undergoes most stress and strain and is prone to earlier cracking if not looked after properly.

ALWAYS de-tune natural skin heads after use, otherwise they will stretch and need replacing sooner than necessary. They are NOT cheap!


Drums with 'Traditional' Type (e.g., rope) Tensioning

[Kambala 14-inch Professional djembe]These are more difficult to check for deficiencies in the bearing edge, unless you are familiar with and have the necessary tools to perform the tensioning techniques (e.g., 'mali weave' for traditional djembes). Learning this is useful for increasing the life of the skin, since you can de-tune the drum slightly after use. Check the ropes or thongs for 'chaffing', splitting and other damage, including loose knots.

With bodhráns, in addition to the above it is always a good idea to rub clear dubbin (waterproofing agent for shoes) into the playing surface of the skin. DO NOT coat the inside surface as this will make tensioning of 'non-tuneable' models almost impossible.

Check the exterior finish for deep scratches, evidence of cracks or other damage. Apply a coat of polish to the shells and fittings to maintain a good finish.



'Toys' come in a variety of sizes, and materials (including metals, woods or plastics). They can also be made from straw, seed pods, gourds and string.

Check all of these for chips, cracks or faults especially on wooden items such as wood blocks, hand drum frames or vibra-slaps™. A good quality wood glue will take care of these.

[Pete Englehart custom triple cup chime]For metal objects a light rubbing with a cloth moistened with WD-40™ or equivalent light grade lubricant. For cowbells, it is especially important to rub the INSIDE of the bell where there is often less protective coating and this can easily go rusty without being noticed (unless you frequently look up the inside of your bells!!).

Chrome articles will benefit from being polished. Check frequently for corrosion or flaking. Check tambourine jingles (particularly those which are made of thinner or softer materials) for 'key-holing', where the side that presses against the metal pin holding the jingles in place, wears (see below).


[Diagram of Key-holing in Tambourine Jingle]

Diagram of Key-Holing in Tambourine Jingle
(click image to enlarge)


There is little you can do to stop this, but it helps to be aware so that you know approximately when you need to remove/replace the offending jingles, or eventually replace the tambourine.

Check shakers and other hollow items for wear, cracking or splitting. The CAREFUL use of glue or tape can help to control these and keep the instrument in working order. BE AWARE that if you use such methods of repair you may produce INCREASED muffling in the repaired item.

For natural wood objects (and drum shells) which have NOT previously been varnished, apply a wood preservative such as linseed oil. AVOID getting it on the drum skins.

ALWAYS try to store your percussion in dry conditions, preferably in cases at room temperature. AVOID storing in very hot, cold or damp environments.

ALWAYS take time to case your percussion for transport to and from venues. If you pack more than one item in a case, ensure protection against damage through rubbing or striking other pieces of percussion during transit. More damage can occur during transit than during a gig.

The potential list is endless. We hope you have been given a 'taster' and supplied with a basic strategy to keep your instruments working and in good condition. If you have any specific questions, please Contact Us.



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