Organize Your Gear

Part 3: Travel Manifest, Snare Collection, and Drumhead Inventory

by Russ Miller

In this final installment of my three-part series on organizing your gear, we’ll cover creating an equipment manifest, building and controlling your snare drum collection, and organizing your drumhead inventory. 

When you travel abroad to perform and intend to ship equipment out of the country, you need to create an equipment manifest. This is a list of everything that’s being shipped, including the total number of cases, their individual weights and values, and a description of their contents. The manifest helps the equipment get easily into the other country, and it ensures that everything comes back home.

Shown here is a copy of the first page of one of my gear manifests. This particular document is for my European cartage rig that resides in Germany. I access this pallet of gear when I’m working in central Europe and England.

Equipment Manifesto

There are several categories that you need to have filled in on your manifest: case number, contents, dimensions, weight, serial numbers (if applicable), and total value. The process of creating the manifest is easier if you make sure to stencil your cases accurately. (See my article in the June 2016 issue for more info on how to label road cases.)

Be sure to list everything in the hardware trunk in detail. Don’t just write “tom stand.” Be more specific, like “double tom stand with two tom arms.” If you run into a tough shipping officer, he or she can hold up your gear at entry and force an inspection before release. I’ve had this happen many times. Being as specific as possible can help avoid hold-ups.

You should also only list replacement values. You might love your old K ride cymbal, but listing its value at $20,000 will cause red flags to go up at customs. And the production company has to insure your shipments, so they will be wasting money on bloated values.

Your Snare Stock

I love to stockpile snares because I feel like my drums are my ammunition for the gig. To organize my snare inventory, I created a spreadsheet that has twenty rows, with each row representing a different sound. You can insert several drums for each row, but one should suffice. Arranging your drums with this type of system allows you to assemble a very thorough palette of tones, so you’re never caught off guard by not having a specific sound at your disposal.

Snare RackThe spreadsheet is divided into five cat-egories: usage, brand, size, material, and notes. Fill in the sheet with information on drums you currently own, and use the empty rows to provide a direction for acquiring additional snares. The sheet will also help you identify when you own several drums of the same size and sound. When I acquire a drum that’s better suited for a specific usage than something I currently own, I sell the old one. I built custom snare cabinets for my studio, which helps keep my collection organized.

Drumhead Inventory

Keeping a detailed inventory of whatever spare drumheads you have is crucial for drum maintenance. You don’t want to find yourself trying to make a last-minute drumhead change only to find out you don’t have any replacements in stock. My drum tech, Justin Schiada, devised a simple drumhead inventory system a few years back, and I still use it today. It helps me keep track of what I currently have in stock and what I need to order.

Drumhead Inventory Sheet

There are eight categories on the document. I printed out the sheet and had it laminated. We can use a dry-erase marker to keep the numbers current, and we’re not allowed to take any heads from the inventory without updating the sheet.

The inventory sheet includes the size, type, finish, minimum number that we should have, number currently in stock, and so on. You can make your own version in any spreadsheet program. You only have to make the document once, but you need to be diligent to keep it updated.

Russ Miller has recorded and/or performed with Ray Charles, Cher, Nelly Furtado, and the Psychedelic Furs and has played on soundtracks for The Boondock Saints, Rugrats Go Wild, and Resident Evil: Apocalypse, among others. For more info, visit