Arguably the most essential accessory to every single drummer, having a reliable drum key can often be a life-saving situation during rehearsal or even during practices. Almost every single adjustment on the drums requires a drum key; tuning the drums, adjusting your stands, stools, or sometimes even mounting the pedals requires the drum key. Over the years, manufacturers have developed lots of different drum keys to cater to different situations and provide even more convenience to the drummer for the task at hand. Today we explore five different kinds of drum keys for different levels of performance to suit your needs.
The standard key that comes with every drumset, the regular drum key, can go from three dollars to twenty dollars. As the price goes up, you can expect better quality keys with a more snug fit, more grip, and leverage. This drum key is a must-have for all drummers as often you find that these drum keys are so small and portable that you can carry it around on your keychain. You can use the most basic of drum keys to mount your pedals, tune your drums, adjust your throne, and anything that you can think of.
We recommend Tama TDK10 drum key, for its size and grip. However, any drum key within this range works exactly fine as well!
The standard key is all nice and portable. However, these small little key sometimes lacks the leverage you need. Imagine this; you are about to go on stage after this super buffed and big-sized drummer. You go on stage to do your usual setup and realize that he has set the cymbals way too high for your reach. You try to adjust the stands lower, but you realize that the memory lock on the stand requires a drum key, and it’s turned way too tight and won’t budge no matter what. It is the time when you wish that you had a key that’s has a lot of leverage so that you can unscrew tight screws with ease – cus science.
We recommend the Gibraltar Dual Purpose Drum Key SC-KZK for it’s extra long shaft and a ninety degree angle for your to have a good grip and gain access to nuts even in tight spaces!
These drum keys act like the standard drum keys that you have. However, they have one added feature; you can use them to tune quickly and accurately (relatively). One example of this is the Evans Torque Key, which has a function to allow you to set the key to go off once it reaches a certain tension – this allows the tension on all sides of the drums to be equal and gives a great starting point to tune. The cons of this are that the key is relatively bulky compared to the standard key and cannot fit into your keychains. They are also significantly more expensive than the standard drum key.
One of the most efficient keys ever invented (at least for us), the bit is the ultimate upgrade for drummers of all levels. The bit key essentially is a drill bit in the shape of a drum key; this means that you can attach the bit to a drill and remove tension rods at ease. However, it would also mean that you cannot use this key without a drill, so please consider that. Our favorite drum key of all time, this bit key can reduce the time needed to remove tension rods by at least half. One word of caution is that removing tension rods with the bit key is relatively safe, but do be careful if you are using it to tighten the rods, as misaligned grooves can cause the screw marks to wear off and destroy your lugs/rods.
Probably one of the tools every drummer has seen yearly during NAMM highlights is this ultimate amazing tool that allows the drummer to remove all tension rods on the drums within seconds, effectively allowing a head change in under a minute. A tool that we always wanted to get our hands on but can’t seem to pull the trigger is the Tru Tuner. This fantastic product allows you to turn all your tension rods at once, yes you read that right – ALL RODS AT THE SAME TIME!
You can use this tool on toms from 8 to 16″. No use explaining; watch the video below to see how this excellent product works. The only downside for this product is its price; it’s a little pricey for an accessory with just one particular purpose. However, suppose you are continually trying different drum heads or foresee yourself changing drum heads often. In that case, this is an excellent tool to invest in!
There are lots of drum keys available on the market. We recommend starting with the most basic drum key and expanding your collection from there based on your needs. The biggest problem with drum keys – as you will soon realize – is that it seems to have a pair of legs on its own. For that reason, we always recommend our students to buy a few cheap drum keys so that you will always have a drum key handy.