How to Pack and Ship a Drum Set

How To Pack and Ship a Drum Set

Properly packing all the components of a drum set before shipping may seem like a daunting task. When it comes to transporting such a delicate and expensive instrument, there are so many things that can go wrong that you simply can’t afford to take a chance. However, with a little bit of patience and resourcefulness, you can pack your drum set so that it doesn’t get damaged during shipping and reaches its destination safely.

Here’s how to pack and ship a drum set:

  1. Prepare what you need.
  2. Remove the hardware.
  3. Remove your bass drum’s hoops and heads.
  4. Wrap the drums.
  5. Put the drums in the box.
  6. Wrap and pack the hardware.
  7. Fill in the gaps.
  8. Pack the bass drum heads.
  9. Wrap and pack the cymbals.
  10. Cut down the box.
  11. Choose the best shipping option. 

Keep reading to learn more about the process of properly packing your drum set for shipping. I’ll take you through it step by step, so you can be sure that your drum set will not get damaged at any point of the shipment. 

1. Prepare What You Need

You’ll need to prepare all the tools and materials you’ll need for the job before you start, so you don’t have to run around, looking frantically for a piece of material and equipment as you work. This will allow you to save time while working more efficiently. 

Here’s what you need to properly pack your drum set:

  • Packing paper: You will need lots of packing paper for padding. The more, the better, as you don’t want to take any chances. You can use newspapers as well, which are a significantly cheaper option. However, they might not be as protective or effective as packing paper.
  • Cardboard scraps: Get as many as you can. You will need them for wrapping your drums and creating some additional padding in the box.
  • Bubble wrap: No packing job can be done properly without bubble wrap. The stuff is even more essential when packing drums, as they can be rather delicate, and the hardware floating around the box can easily damage them.
  • A bass drum box: Any box big enough will do, but it can be very difficult to find one. If you can’t find such a big box, you can always order a dedicated bass drum box online and save yourself the headache. 
  • Boxes for the bass drum head and cymbals: As long as the boxes are sturdy enough, they will do. Don’t use something like a pizza box because those will likely get damaged, allowing your cymbals or bass drum head to get scratched, broken or do the same to another component.
  • Packing tape: You’ll need generous amounts of it, and you should opt for something durable and sturdy.
  • Utility knife: There will definitely be a need to cut something, so a utility knife will come in handy. Even a common boxcutter would do in this case, even though it’s not as versatile.
  • A drum key: There is no better tool for disassembling your drum set. However, you could also use a drill bit key, even though it’s not a dedicated tool. 

Now that you’ve got everything you need close by, you’re ready to start packing. Let’s see what you need to do. 

2. Remove the Hardware

The hardware can easily get in the way when packing, and it can damage other components even more easily. You don’t want a drum head to get pierced during shipping, or a small metal piece moving around the box, so you need to spend a minute or two to remove these parts.

You’ll want to wrap them individually, but for now, you can put them aside, making sure that you haven’t lost anything. It is best to focus on the bigger parts, as they need to be packed first. 

3. Remove Your Bass Drum’s Hoops and Heads

The bass drum head can be very easily damaged during shipping, so it’s vital to pack it separately to prevent this. While you’re at it, you should also remove the hoops because they also need some additional protection. 

You can put the heads in a box right away. It is not absolutely necessary to add padding to the box, but it might be good to put some bubble wrap in it, just to be sure. You can get a special box for drum heads, but as long as you’ve got access to anything big and sturdy enough, you can use it. Make sure the box is not too big either because you want everything packed very tightly.

You also want the bass drum to be hollow, so you can pack the toms and snare inside it. This is an additional reason to remove the heads, as it will allow you to end up with a smaller, compact package, which may lower the shipping price. 

After you’ve done that, you can focus on the hoops. Take some bubble wrap and wrap the hoops with it, covering them completely. Secure with packing tape and slide the hoops back on the bass drum case. This will ensure that the hoops won’t scratch the bass drum during shipping (or vice versa). Plus, you’ll get to pop some of those bubbles, which is always satisfying. 

4. Wrap the Drums

For maximum protection, you’ll need to wrap each of the drums in bubble wrap, and then in cardboard. The bubble wrap should go twice around the diameter of each drum. You can do more if you think it’s necessary, but most of the time, it won’t be, since you’ll be adding many layers of protection. 

After you’ve wrapped everything in bubble wrap and secured it with packing tape, you’ll need to add some cardboard over the bubble wrap for extra protection. It is best to use larger pieces of cardboard since they’ll allow you to wrap everything more quickly and easily. Make sure you’re using lots of packing tape, so nothing gets loose.

Once you’ve wrapped all components, double-check to see if everything is nice and tight, and then you can move on to the next step. 

5. Put the Drums in the Box 

Now that everything is wrapped tightly in bubble wrap and cardboard, you can start putting the drums in the bass drum box. As mentioned, you’ll have to put smaller drums inside bigger drums, and you’ll have to add cardboard and bubble wrap between them to prevent anything from moving and scratching the other components. 

There are a couple of steps you should follow to prepare the box for packing:

  1. Assemble the box, using lots of packing tape.
  2. Line the bottom of the box with bubble wrap.
  3. Add a thin layer of cardboard over the bubble wrap.
  4. Reinforce the interior walls of the box with cardboard.

Now that the box is ready, you can start packing the drums. 

  1. Place the bass drum in the box. 
  2. Line its inside with cardboard. 
  3. Cradle floor tom inside the bass drum.
  4. Add packing paper or bubble wrap in between if it’s necessary.
  5. Make sure that nothing is moving.
  6. Remove one head from the floor tom and insert the rack tom.
  7. Repeat the process until all the drums are nested safely inside one another. 

This process will ensure that nothing in the package can move around and get damaged. Feel free to be liberal with the use of packing paper and bubble wrap. It’s hard to overdo it, and it’s better to be safe than sorry, anyway. 

6. Wrap and Pack the Hardware

Now you can go back to your hardware and wrap it tightly with bubble wrap. You should first take the tension rods and other small metal bits and wrap them in lots of bubble wrap, so they can’t move around or pierce the wrap, damaging the drums. You can put them on the head of the last drum you packed.

Before you proceed with the rest of the hardware, use a generous amount of packing paper (or newspapers if that is what you’re using), and fill in all the voids. This will create an additional layer of protection and make sure that, for example, tom legs can’t damage the drums. 

After that, you can proceed with adding the tom legs, and if there’s space, the cymbal stands. Unfortunately, you might have to resort to packing and shipping cymbal stands separately if there is no space in the box or if it ends up being too heavy. 

Whatever the case, you can wrap the legs and stands in bubble wrap, but it might not be necessary. Since there will be a lot of packing paper for padding, you can put them on the padding and add some more on top for extra protection. 

7. Fill in the Gaps

At this stage, there probably won’t be any gaps, but it would be smart to check and make sure everything is tight and unable to move before you proceed to the next step. If you notice any gaps in the padding or if you see that a component is loose, add enough paper or bubble wrap to prevent it from moving around. 

8. Pack the Bass Drum Heads

Now that there’s enough padding in the box, you can proceed by adding the bass drum heads to the box. The heads should, of course, be in their own box, which you can just lay gently on top of everything else. You don’t have to add any additional padding at this stage because there is already enough. 

The most important thing to remember is to use a sturdy box that won’t get ripped and allow the bass drum heads to get out of it. If you have no access to a suitable box, you can improvise one from scrap cardboard. In that case, it would be wise to first wrap the heads in some bubble wrap and then tape the cardboard to that, just to make sure that everything is protected well. 

9. Wrap and Pack the Cymbals

Cymbals should also ideally be in boxes. Again, opt for something sturdy and wrap them in some bubble wrap before packing. Cymbals are hard and sharp, so you don’t want them getting out of the box and damaging another component.

If you can’t find a suitable box, you can use the trick from the previous step. Wrap them in bubble wrap and then improvise a box by taping scrap cardboard over everything. While it’s not the best option, it is still much better than nothing. 

10. Cut Down the Box

This step is completely optional; if you’ve squeezed a lot of stuff in the box, there probably won’t be any space left in it, so there will be nothing left to cut. But if there is some extra space between the roof of the box and your drums, you’ll need to make your box a bit shorter. This is necessary to prevent the drums from moving if the box gets tumbled or thrown around. 

You could throw in some additional padding, but you would end up drowning the receiver in paper and bubble wrap since you’ve probably already used quite a lot of it in the previous steps. So, the most reasonable option is to just make the box shorter. 

This can be done in a few steps.

  1. Take your utility knife and cut it into the box just above the bass drum heads.
  2. Do not cut all the way through. Instead, create a light cut to allow the cardboard to bend.
  3. Cut the corners all the way through so you can close the box. 

Now that the box is shorter, you can close it and seal it with packing tape. Before you tape everything, give the box a shake to see if anything is moving. If you hear something moving, you might have to add some additional padding to prevent it from doing so. 

If you see that nothing is moving and that everything in the box is tight, tape it up, and don’t skimp out on the tape. Use it liberally and tape all the sides, especially the edges. You don’t want the box to open in the middle of shipping. After that, you can stick your label to the box and ship it out. 

11. Choose the Best Shipping Option

Once the drums are packed tightly and safely, it’s time to ship them. Depending on where you live, you’ll be able to choose between quite a few carriers; however, the selection process should not be taken lightly. Not all shipping companies offer the same quality of service, so you’ll want to make sure that the carrier you end up opting for will treat your drums with all the care they require. 

Cost is another factor to keep in mind when choosing a shipping option, as transporting such a large and delicate instrument can be pretty costly; however, when it comes to low cost vs. high-quality service, I always recommend choosing the latter. After all, you just spent all this time making sure that your drums don’t get damaged, it doesn’t make sense to skimp on the most important part of the process.

Some common options you can choose from include:

  • UPS
  • USPS
  • FedEx


UPS is widely viewed as the best option for sending large packages, and many drum sellers prefer to use their services. They tend to have the cheapest shipping rates for big shipments, and they’re also pretty reliable, which is a great combination. You can also get a business account on their website, which will give you some great discounts, and if you’re in the business of selling drums, this might be the best possible option.

Even though their shipping tends to be cheap, you shouldn’t rely on their stores for packing. They charge quite a lot of money, and they will probably not do a great job packing drums since there are quite a few details to remember when doing that. It’s best to pack them yourself and then have a UPS driver pick them up. Yes, you’ll pay a small fee, but it’s still cheaper than having them pack your drums.


USPS is a bit more expensive than UPS since there are no discounts, but it is a pretty reliable option, especially if you’re sending a smaller package. It’s also quite convenient since you can print out a label from their website and wait for a mailman to come and pick up your package, which is free of charge.

You will also get a telephone number from a customer service representative, so you know who to call if something goes wrong. Overall, it is not a bad option, but it is usually not as affordable as UPS. 


FedEx is the most expensive option here, so it is the least advisable. They do offer a cheaper packing service than UPS, but it is still best to do it yourself unless you are perfectly confident they’ll do a good job. Overall, unless the customer specifically asks for it, there is no need to choose FedEx. 

You should also not forget to get insurance for what you’re shipping. It will make everything a bit costlier, but it will make the experience safer, too. 

Final Thoughts

There you have it – all you need to know now is if you wish to ship out a drum set. The most important thing to keep in mind when packing a drum set is to add enough padding. Doing so will prevent the drums from moving and bumping into each other, causing damage. 

It’s also essential to choose the right shipping company. UPS is favored, but USPS is also not a bad option. 

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