Organize Your Gear

Part 2: Riders

by Russ Miller

I find joy in organizing my gear. A University of Miami classmate, the great pianist/composer Jeff Babko, once reminded me that I would come into rehearsals with the Art Blakey Ensemble with road cases that had my name stenciled on them. It made me laugh, but it’s true! I always loved tracking my inventory, and it’s probably why I’ve been so involved in equipment design over the years.

Concepts Rider
In this second article about organizing gear, we’ll discuss creating and understanding your drumkit rider. A rider is a sheet that includes your equipment requirements and layout for a given performance. This document can be the difference between a great and a not-so-great performance. Of course, if you always have your own equipment with you, you don’t need to have a detailed and updated rider. However, even on the biggest tours I’ve done there were shows that required me to use rental gear. Some artists don’t have the budget to fly or ship equipment to every show, which is why having a rider available is very important. And the clearer the rider is, the more likely you are to get what you want for the show.

Let’s take a look at what specific information needs to be on a rider. Your rider doesn’t have to be as detailed as mine, but the basic structure should be the same.

The Layout
Use a word-processing program like Word or Pages to put together a basic diagram of your kit. This helps the production crew visualize the setup, and it gives the backline crew the basic positioning for each drum and cymbal so that the kit can be set up reasonably close to how you want it before you arrive at the venue. I even include the positioning of the throne from the bass drum as well as its height, just in case my drum tech or I can’t get to the gear before we hit the stage.

The Equipment List
Notice that the sizes and model numbers of each instrument are included in the diagram and in an equipment list. This helps the production company people when they’re doing a checklist for which gear is going in and out of the venue.

It’s also important to include possible substitutions for each piece of gear on your equipment list. All of the substitutions on my list are labeled in red. Including substitutions allows the crew to make decisions on which gear to provide without needing to call or email you.

Info and Recommendations
The third part of the rider can include microphone requests (be flexible with models and brands, since most engineers have their own preferences) as well as monitoring information and a list of your endorsements, if you have any. It’s important to include endorsements when you have national and international contracts. You wouldn’t want to show up playing the wrong company’s drums on a television appearance, for instance. I make it clear that, because of contractual obligations, I can’t substitute brands of equipment without approval.

What You’re Carrying to the Gig
You will notice that I have some asterisks on the rider. These indicate which pieces I will have with me, or specific substitutions that will not work. For example, I will not approve a 9×12 tom because it causes everything to be positioned too high. Again, the goal is to cut down on unnecessary communication between you and the production crew and to make the job easier for everyone involved.

As you’re creating your rider, remember to be reasonable. Don’t require obscure pieces or sizes, and be flexible when things have to be substituted. You may also want to create different riders for different situations. I have a clinic rider, a basic backline rider, and a full rider with my most current setup.

See you next month!

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