In this guide, we’ll show you how to set up a drum set in a comfortable playing position. Read tips on the best way to adjust your drum kit with this simple step-by-step setup guide.
All experienced drummers know the way you lay out your drums can directly effect how you play.
But when it comes to learning how to set up your drums, it can be as challenging as playing. This is especially true for beginning drummers!
The day you receive your first instrument is one of the most exciting times that many musicians experience.
The drums are the most personal instrument of the musical pantheon. A keyboard player can sit on any piano and play it. Similarly, a guitarist can choose any six-string and play a chord. But a drum kit must literally be built around the person who plays it.
And if that construction is not a “perfect fit”, the result may be impaired playability, reduced comfort, and even physical injury. So let’s take a moment to assess the relationship of a drummer’s body to a drum kit, and examine a few points you may not have considered when creating your current setup. Also, you can check out our guide for the best drums for jazz music.
1. Locate the 3 main parts of a drum kit
A beginner’s drum kit has three main components: The drums, hardware, and cymbals.
- The Drums: Most drums typically include bass (or bass drum), snare, and timpani.
- The Hardware: The bass drum pedal, throne, cymbal and hi-hat stands are considered common drum hardware. If you loosen the wing nuts on a cymbal or drum mount, be sure to tighten them again. The last thing you want is a cymbal or box that moves down every time you hit it. Do not over-tighten the screws and wing nuts so that you cannot or need pliers to unscrew them again.
- The Cymbals: Crash, ride, and hi-hat are all considered different types of cymbals.
2. Setting up the bass drum
Position your bass drum so that it is centered. The adjustable legs on your bass drum are used to anchor your kick drum to the floor so it doesn’t move while playing.
Make sure to adjust the legs to be equal on both sides, as uneven legs will wobble the drum kit during playback. The tips of the kick drum legs should dig into the floor to prevent the drum from slipping.
You’ll need to anchor the bass drum in a central location, leaving enough room on each side to build the kit and enough space behind so you can move freely without banging your elbows against walls or guitar amps.
Note that the upper part of the leg should be parallel to the drum, with a straight line running from the hip flexor to the resonant head so that the hip energy is focused directly on the kick drum pedal.
Use the spurs on the legs of the bass drum to prevent the drum from slipping if it is on the mat, and adjust the height of the legs so that the front of the bass drum is lifted off the floor one hair to offset the lift, it will go up to the hoop the dough when you slide the pedal clamp under it and allow the kick drum to resonate freely.
3. Place your snare drum
As you organize your battery, you will need to adjust the height of your case. The height of the crate should be set a few inches above the leg and adjusted so that you can easily hit the drum with either hand without touching the edge of the drum.
Set up your drum so that the box chuck, the lever that hooks the box, is on the left side of your drum. Most drummers set their traps flat, although traditional players sometimes set their drums so that they tilt slightly down and away.
4. Adjusting the bass drum pedal
The bass drum pedal should be connected to the rim of the bass drum. When you go to press on the pedal, the beater should hit the head of the bass drum right in the middle and bounce back.
Keep in mind to relax. If you constantly are pressing hard, your legs will tire out. Just make sure the tension of the pedal is good so that there is a bounce. If it is too loose or too tight, you can always adjust.
5. Setting up the toms
There are typically two types of toms: the floor toms and the mounted toms. Floor toms should be located as to the same height as the drum. The mounted tom should be positioned at a slight angle to you.
Be sure to layout the toms so that it is easier for you to play. Drum rigs with more than one mounted tom, be sure to position your toms so that they are a few inches apart and sitting at equal angles.
If hitting the floor tom is uncomfortable, try tilting it slightly towards you. Typically tilting your toms will be more comfortable than laying them flat, though this may vary depending on the height of the drum throne.
There are a few different types of toms, but the most common are mounted and freestanding racks.
The separate toms will sit on a snare drum stand and be placed next to the kick drum, but higher and angled towards you to a more pronounced degree. The mounted toms will be placed on a tom stand and will rest on the kick drum.
The tom holder will now have spokes for the toms to rest on or holes for a separate tom mount to insert. Whatever you have, it is very easy to configure:
Slide the tom into the tom holder, then the holder into the holder that rests on the kick drum. Tighten everything and see if it’s comfortable. Naturally, the timpani should be taller than the snare, to begin with, but tilt them to make sure you can’t catch the tires.
All that’s in the tom holder and holder is to hold something else in place, so play around with the wingnuts and sliders to see what each does; This is the best way to learn. Finally, make sure your Tom case doesn’t touch the edge of the case, so place the drums accordingly.
Your floor tom can also be of two types; mounted or with legs. A mounted floor tom will have a tom mount that sits on a clamp that also attaches to a cymbal stand.
A legged floor tom has three legs, which are inserted into three-legged brackets at the bottom of the case. The feet of the legs should point down from here, so most of the shell is above the legs. To adjust the height, simply loosen the legs and lift the floor through them and make sure they are all level.
The floor tom should be the same height as your trap. Then, to tilt the tom off the floor, drop one leg until it is toward you or away from you, whichever you prefer. You can of course lay it flat, which for the sake of tone is usually better.
6. Placing the drum throne
The drum throne is where you sit while you play. This is your center of power, so make sure you feel focused and balanced at all times. A good place to start is with your thighs almost parallel to the ground, with your knees just below the top of your legs.
You’ll find slight adjustments, either up or down, that will bring you to the sweet spot for your particular comfort zone while allowing you to stay well balanced as you move through the kit.
7. Setting Up the HI-HAT
When sitting on your drums, the hi-hat should be positioned just to the left of you. Attach the hi-hat cymbal to your support bar with a clutch that secures the top cymbal to the bar to allow you to open and close the hi-hat. Make sure your hi-hat pedal is located in a comfortable position within reach.
Your hi-hat cymbals should feel higher than the trap. If the hi-hat is at the same height as the trap or lower, it could make it harder to hit.
The hi-hat pedal should sit comfortably under the other foot (the foot is not on the kick). Try tilting the pedal so it is slightly out and away from you.
Position the upper hi-hat so that the convex part of the hi-hat (called the bell) points toward the hi-hat wing nut, and then replace the felt and nut in that order. The hi-hat should be placed between the two felts and held in place with the two nuts.
Now slide the hi-hat clutch over the radius (the long thin stick that comes out of the top of the hi-hat stand), and before adjusting the clutch make sure the height is right for you.
Adjust the height of the hi-hat to be approximately 8 inches taller than the snare. This is a good starting position to make sure you have enough room to maneuver. Once you have a good height, retighten the wing nut on the bracket.
Now press your foot a little on the pedal to release the radio. Tighten the clutch wing nut and release the foot. This is how to open hi-hat is configured. Adjust so that the hi-hat remains open about 1-2 centimeters or the tip of a finger.
8. Arranging the Crash and Ride Cymbals
Generally, one or two crash cymbals are used along with one ride cymbal. The ride cymbal should be installed to your right, typically just above the ground.
If you are using a crash cymbal, be sure to set it on your left somewhere between the box and the mounted tom.
When you are using a second shock cymbal, you be sure to place it between the mounted tom and floor tom. Be sure both crash cymbals are located a few inches above the mounted toms, but not too high. They should be kept within reach.
Remember that each brand of the drum is different; some use different tom mounting systems, while others have different drum depths.
While some manufacturers make batteries and hardware that are more ergonomic and flexible than others, it should be possible to configure your battery in such a way that it is comfortable for you to touch.
Finding your optimal settings will inevitably require some degree of trial and error, but I hope this guide gives you a valuable advantage.
I hope that the suggestions presented in this article lead you to think about the critical relationship that exists between your body and your instrument, and the work that you both do together and that ultimately turns out to be “drumming”. Knowledge of battery ergonomics should help you maintain that harmonious relationship for many years.