One of the most important things a drummer can do to help them to play faster, more efficiently and (perhaps most importantly) without injury, is to set up their drum kit correctly – the angle of the cymbals, stool height, distance between drums etc.
Too many drummers set their drum kit up according to how it looks rather than how it feels. This aesthetic way of thinking might be great for showmanship but might be causing you issues or even worse, injuries.
At the very least you might not be getting the true potential out of your instrument if the set up isn’t working for you.
Let me explain how most drummers set up their kits by setting up an imaginary drum kit right now, step by step…
First Things First – The Stool
Just sit on your drum stool with nothing else in front of you. Ensure that the top half of your legs slope down a little from your thighs to your knees. This is how most drummers set their throne height but it’s up to you. The lower the stool, the harder it is to work your legs generally though.
Place your feet on the floor out in front of you. You want your knees to be just above your ankles ideally. Notice how your feet angle out from from your body naturally. Your feet are not pointing straight forward but slightly out to the side. Place your Hi-Hat and Bass Drum pedals where your feet lay on the floor and at the same natural angle pointing out.
Yep. Pick up a pair of sticks and imagine playing on a drum kit. Take careful note as to where your sticks naturally and comfortably fall. This is going to be useful later on when placing your drums and cymbals into position. You want the placement of the drums to be where your sticks naturally reach. Not too close and not too far away.
The Snare Drum is the heart of the drum kit and so it is critical that you get it’s position right. Place the Snare Drum between your legs and the pedals. Where did your sticks naturally fall when you did some air drumming earlier? Place the Snare Drum so that the end of your stick naturally falls onto it’s center.
You want to be able to access the rim of the Snare so ensure that it is at least an inch higher than your knees. You shouldn’t be playing lower than your knees!
Most drummers tilt the Snare Drum just slightly towards themselves so that not too much of the rim is struck. You can experiment with what feels comfortable for you.
And the Rest of Your Lovely Drums…
The Bass Drum obviously attaches to the Bass Drum Pedal (DUH!). Notice how the Bass Drum is now angled pointing outwards, in line with the slightly angled pedal. Don’t be concerned by the fact that your Bass Drum is not facing directly forward. It’s more important to have it set up comfortably than looking “perfect”.
The Rack Tom-Tom’s are placed on the bass drum in front of you. Make sure that the High Tom is placed directly in front of the Snare Drum so that you can move between the Snare and High Tom in a straight line. If you have a Medium Tom then angle it pointing slightly towards you and at the same height as the High Tom. This will mean that the Medium Tom is not angled at exactly the same angle as the High Tom but that the two drums are now pointing directly towards you instead.
Place your Floor Tom or Low Tom next to the Snare Drum, on the other side of the Bass Drum Pedal. You want both the Snare and Floor Tom to be the same height as each other and the Floor Tom to be positioned so that your stick naturally falls onto it’s center. Again, that air drumming you did earlier on is really going to help you to position your drums comfortably.
The same rule apples for your cymbals. I would say that you shouldn’t have them angled too flat and certainly not too angled. Just off straight allows great access to the edge of Crash cymbals without damaging them and the same goes for the Ride Cymbal as well. If you don’t have a Medium Tom then you can set up your Ride Cymbal nice and low as most rock drummers tend to.
Make sure not to have your cymbals positioned too high or too far away from yourself as this can cause strain on your body as well as affecting your speed and technique. If you’re on the drums purely to entertain the audience, look impressive and master showmanship then your cymbals will be miles away. This looks cool after all. If not, then position them where you can strike them comfortably.
The Hi-Hat needs to be high enough so that it’s not too close to the Snare Drum. Your left hand should have room to move underneath your right hand. This is totally down to yourself.
Now put down your sticks and play the drums with your hands. Can you touch all of your drums/cymbals comfortably? If not, then move them closer/out. Are your cymbals angled sensibly so that you won’t break sticks and damage cymbal edges? Is your Snare Drum at least an inch above your knees, exactly in between the two pedals, directly in front of the High Tom and at the same height as the Floor Tom? Good, I’m pleased to hear it 🙂
Remember, it might take you a while to get used to your new drum set up if you’ve done a bit of moving around but you will get used to it eventually. Be patient and give your new efficient set up a chance. You’ll never look back once you’ve changed, believe me!
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