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View Full Version : General Guidelines to Setting Up a Drum Kit.



Falken Zero
07-29-2009, 12:21 AM
Hey guys, I'm kinda bored so I thought I might be able to help a couple people (somehow) by writing up a guide. There's a lot of threads lately that bash on other people's setups, and sometimes people don't seem to listen to their advice, so I thought I can sum up mostly everything and make a general guide based on other people's own time proven knowledge as well as my own opinions. Well here it is:

There are no "specific" rules on how to set up a drum kit other than making sure you can hit every drum or cymbal without having to walk 3 feet to reach them, and that the bass drum pedal is actually clamped on to the bass drum hoop (a little joke there :D), however the following will provide general guidelines for setting up a drum kit properly and comfortably. Setups will vary from player to player and may not strictly follow these guidelines, but setups should at least be based on these basic principles to ensure an efficiently setup kit.

1. Start one piece at a time, starting with the basics: Bass, Snare, and Hi-hat. Place these in positions in which your body feels natural and comfortable, otherwise relaxed.

2. When you add toms, auxiliary snares, and so on to the kit, place these in positions in which your body can spend the least amount of effort and energy to move around based on the positions of your bass, snare, and hi-hat. Rack toms should be a low as possible without hitting anything or affecting overall sound (i.e resonant side too close to the bass drum that would result in a muffled or choked sound). Floor toms should be close to the snare and bass without being to cramped to fit your leg between the drums comfortably.

3. General rule of thumb is that the placement of the hi-hat and first floor tom to the right (or left if left handed) should be around 150-180 degrees relative to your seated position (your throne in the center, floor tom in the east position, and hi-hat between the west and northwest positions), but no more. A separation larger than 180 degrees facing the front may force your body to twist excessively in order to move around the kit, ultimately causing back, joint, and muscle problems later on.

4. As explained in other threads here, pedals should be set up in a circular array, that is, relatively curved around your throne. This makes it natural for your legs to move from pedals as your legs while seated move in a similar circular fashion.

5. It is preferred to have the drum heads in a position that when you strike them with the stick in a relaxed fashion, that the stick almost lies parallel to the surface of the drum head (this concept is explained in Jojo Mayer's DVD). This allows maximum rebound and better sound, as well as preventing excessive denting of the drum heads due to sticks hitting the drum heads at awkward angles. For those who still don't understand, this is the reason why many people say to "flatten out" rack toms and have your snare and floor toms relatively flat as well, because you get the most power and best sound (and at the same time preserving the drum head's integrity) when your drumstick's tip hits perpendicular to the drum head, as they are allowed to naturally rebound back (like a kid bouncing straight up and down on a trampoline). And honestly... no one wants to see your resonant heads facing the audience right?

6. Whether using stands or racks, cymbals should be placed in positions where they are easy to hit (without having to stretch or hop out of your seat) but also don't get in the way of other drums (to prevent you from accidentally hitting them during a drum fill or lick). Again this makes cymbal heights vary from player to player, as taller people can place their cymbals higher and still be able to reach them comfortably, but shorter people may have to place cymbals lower and find ways to have them set up comfortably without getting in the way of toms, other cymbals, etc.

7. What bugs me the most is when people place their ride where they really really have to reach for it. It's usually used just as much as the hi-hat so it deserves to be placed in an easily accessible position. 4 piece/offset setups generally have it easier as the ride is placed above the bass drum, however if you have larger setups, the ride should generally be placed either flat and low above the edge of the first floor tom, or higher up and slightly angled (unless you're open handed, that's a different story). Again it is personal preference, but make sure that you are able to play the ride in a relaxed manner and be able to reach the bell (or crash it if you do) without having to get off your throne. If you don't have a boom arm/stand for the ride, I'd suggest you get one. It makes placement of the ride (as well as other cymbals) easier.

8. Try not to have your crashes/splashes/chinas overly angled, but also try not to have them too flat. Having them slightly angled towards you, and having the wingnuts relatively loose will allow the cymbal more room and give to absorb even the hardest of hits and help prevent cracking. Also, having your crashes high and flat (emo-scene style as most people would call it) may actually make you hit only the edge of the cymbal inwards rather than downwards. This is the similar to the same effect as dropping a cymbal on its edge :eek:

9. Everyone who uses stands should know that one leg should always be under the mass the stand is carrying. Therefore, if you have a heavy ride cymbal, or toms clamped on with a multiclamp to a stand, ensure that one leg is directly under that mass to carry and hold the load properly. Usually, the load bearing leg also faces you.

10. If you have problems with your bass drum moving (I suppose many PDF members don't), check to ensure that the spurs are facing towards the front of the bass drum so that the rubber/spikes can prevent the bass drum from moving forward.

11. For multiclamp users, ensure that both wingnuts on each side of the clamp are level with each other to ensure that the jaws/clamps are relatively parallel to each other to ensure maximum gripping force.

12. Finally, if some of you are offended by this, or by people "bashing" at your ridiculous tom angles, or 90 degree pedal setups, lighten up. Its a matter of both form and function and that the setup should adapt to the body, and not the other way around (again this is a concept in Jojo Mayer's DVD). A setup that is for example overly angled or too far apart causes more side effects than benefits to both the body and the drums themselves. Such setups causes the body to over exert itself and thus causes early exhaustion or even worse, injury to the back, spine, joints, and so on. Also, such setups can also cause your drum sticks to hit your drums and cymbals at unreasonable angles, thus causing dented or broken drum heads, cracked cymbals, or broken sticks. With a properly and efficiently setup drum kit, you can play and move around the kit faster and more precisely without having to overexert or force movement out of your body. Check out the setups of many greats such as John Bonham, Buddy Rich, Thomas Lang, Dennis Chambers, Jojo Mayer, and so on, and you'll see how they can play fast and relaxed around the kit because it is setup in an efficient manner.

Thanks, and I hope this thread is sticky worthy ;)

ant
07-29-2009, 12:27 AM
im sure some of the XXhardcoreXX drummers wont appreciate the slightly angled crash comment

nice post though, this should be stickyed for the newbies!

Falken Zero
07-29-2009, 12:29 AM
im sure some of the XXhardcoreXX drummers wont appreciate the slightly angled crash comment

nice post though, this should be stickyed for the newbies!

Always here to help out! I hope I wasn't too too harsh ;)

Aggressivec
07-29-2009, 12:36 AM
Awesome thread Falkan! I agree with everything you have posted here. Scene kids need to read this...

Falken Zero
07-29-2009, 12:37 AM
Awesome thread Falkan! I agree with everything you have posted here. Scene kids need to read this...

Thanks and rep to both of you! I'll get some pics up tomorrow hopefully, I've only had 5 hours of sleep and squeezed out the last of my energy making this thread for you guys :)

masonx7
07-29-2009, 12:43 AM
Useful thread man

Aggressivec
07-29-2009, 12:53 AM
Thanks and rep to both of you! I'll get some pics up tomorrow hopefully, I've only had 5 hours of sleep and squeezed out the last of my energy making this thread for you guys :)

Why, I think I'll rep you back :D! You deserve it anyway. This is a marvelous thread. Let me ask you though, I have my china in a great spot, but I cannot mute it without falling out of my seat. Granted, I do not mute it much, but do you think I should move it closer to me even though where it is right now I am comfortable hitting it, just not muting it?

*EDIT* Too much rep today for me. I'll do it tomorrow!

Falken Zero
07-29-2009, 01:00 AM
Why, I think I'll rep you back :D! You deserve it anyway. This is a marvelous thread. Let me ask you though, I have my china in a great spot, but I cannot mute it without falling out of my seat. Granted, I do not mute it much, but do you think I should move it closer to me even though where it is right now I am comfortable hitting it, just not muting it?

*EDIT* Too much rep today for me. I'll do it tomorrow!

If you feel like you have to, it's always worth a try experimenting. Getting used to setting up and finding your most efficient setup is really based on trial and error and experience. If you don't really choke your china, then it's probably fine where it is. However if you feel a need to or eventually want to, you can always move it closer. :D

Personally my cymbals are all chokable with minimal effort aside from lifting my butt off the throne just a little bit. My china is placed above my floor tom so it's actually chokable within arms length (and I like being able to do that) :).

tbonedrumcam
07-29-2009, 01:11 AM
This is truly an A+ thread, dude! Great stuff. I believe that these are mostly good guidelines to use when starting out with setting up the kit. However, I don't believe that all of it is correct for every drummer (as you have probably stressed). Make sure to edit the thread & state that results do & will vary, depending on the drummer. Different approaches work for different for different drummers; different strokes for different strokes, ya' know. ;)

Yes, this should be stickied.

Falken Zero
07-29-2009, 01:18 AM
This is truly an A+ thread, dude! Great stuff. I believe that these are mostly good guidelines to use when starting out with setting up the kit. However, I don't believe that all of it is correct for every drummer (as you have probably stressed). Make sure to edit the thread & state that results do & will vary, depending on the drummer. Different approaches work for different for different drummers; different strokes for different strokes, ya' know. ;)

Yes, this should be stickied.

I believe I mentioned that there's no specific rules and that every drum setup varies to the drummer, but if I didn't, then I did just now :)

Thanks!

Roshan
07-29-2009, 09:07 AM
great post, should have been made long time ago!!

Have some Rep!

Ultraman Zoffy
07-29-2009, 10:20 AM
Kudos for taking the time and effort to make an excellent post.
Rep.

Robari
07-29-2009, 10:49 AM
hmmmmmmmmmmmmm.......................... Oh did he say something, I was looking at the picture of the girl in his signature!

Kdrumsx
07-29-2009, 11:35 AM
Very nice thread. I learned something about the tom angles :].

Rep

Falken Zero
07-29-2009, 03:59 PM
Thanks again all for the nice comments! I really hope this thread gets stickied. Does a mod like Al just run into here, read it, and decide it's sticky worthy, or do I have to "propose" this article to him through a PM and ask if it's possible? 00**

MySideOfTheBed77
07-29-2009, 06:24 PM
excellent post, but clearly setting up your drums "right" is only part of not getting bashed by PDFers.

Spoon
07-29-2009, 06:51 PM
Pretty good explanations without going into too much detail--which is good because there isn't one perfect way to set up a drum set. Everyone has their own way that works for them.

One thing I might add, is snare height. It seems like a ton of guys mount their snare too low. Ergonomically speaking, that same idea you said with the toms--keeping the stick as parallel as possible--should be applied to the snare.

JonyBoyHache
07-29-2009, 10:29 PM
Awesome thread! Have some REP:D

Falken Zero
07-30-2009, 12:39 AM
Pretty good explanations without going into too much detail--which is good because there isn't one perfect way to set up a drum set. Everyone has their own way that works for them.

One thing I might add, is snare height. It seems like a ton of guys mount their snare too low. Ergonomically speaking, that same idea you said with the toms--keeping the stick as parallel as possible--should be applied to the snare.

Haha thanks for the nice comments again. I should have gone into detail about snare and hi-hat height, however like you say, everyone has their own comfort zone when if comes to setting up these components. However I can elaborate just a bit about snare and hi-hat height.

Like I said before, you should set up the drums so that you drum stick (the stick itself) hits almost parallel to the drum head; not too parallel that you would constantly be doing rimshots, but parallel enough so that the stick's tip hits perpendicular to drum head (otherwise, the force of the stick strikes straight "into" the head rather than hitting it at angles and creating slicing or glancing hits).

A good height can be determined by first relaxing and lifting your hands and forearms up to make a 90 degree angle with your elbow (as if you were typing or playing the piano). The videos of the late Jim Chapin demonstrating the Moeller Method on YouTube shows this perfectly. The top of the snare should lie anywhere comfortable between the space created by the top of your lap and the underside of your forearms/hands (considering that your forearms and thighs are relatively parallel). Obviously, don't have the top of the snare higher than this position of your arms, and avoid having it lower than your lap. For me personally, the top of my snare is about 5 inches above my lap. This shortens the distance between my snare and rack tom, but also puts the snare head in a natural position for me to strike the tip of the drumstick perpendicular to the head. Again it would differ between players depending on their overall setup.

Your hi-hat height is generally high enough to give your left hand enough room for a stroke, but low enough so that you don't have to lift your dominant arm higher than your chest to play. For me, my hi-hat and rack tom heights are very close to each other, the rack tom maybe being a bit higher by an inch or a half. If you use a double bass setup, try to get a hold of those hi-hat/bass drum clamps so that you don't have to twist your body in order to play the hi-hat or hi-hat patterns.

3pearlkits
08-20-2009, 12:39 AM
Thanks again all for the nice comments! I really hope this thread gets stickied. Does a mod like Al just run into here, read it, and decide it's sticky worthy, or do I have to "propose" this article to him through a PM and ask if it's possible? 00**

I PM'ed Al to get a thread made a sticky, so perhaps thats the way to do it :)
Al told me that there are only a certain amount of stickies for each section, so that determines your answer really.

Congratulations on an excellent thread Falken.

I have a question for you lol...

So I have my snare set up pretty much as you suggest height wise, angled slightly, higher at the farthest edge.
I actually have trouble rimshotting my snare, I have to drop my hand to my lap to rimshot, and feel like I'm hitting uphill. (Have a look in my sig at the DX kit and you can see how I'm setup) Any suggestions?

vicfirthrules10
08-26-2009, 03:40 PM
i noticed something you didn't hit but very good on the thread.

i'm talking about how high it is recommended by some to have the throne set. i've heard and believe that is best to have the throne set to where your legs form about a 90 degree angle at the knee. i've found that having less than that angle that you can lose power and if you have too big of an angle, then you lose some control. i think i wrote that right. lol. but anyway yeah, it's still preference.

abugazi
09-01-2009, 12:49 PM
So I have my snare set up pretty much as you suggest height wise, angled slightly, higher at the farthest edge.
I actually have trouble rimshotting my snare, I have to drop my hand to my lap to rimshot, and feel like I'm hitting uphill. (Have a look in my sig at the DX kit and you can see how I'm setup) Any suggestions?

I would try to flatten the angle a bit more until you find a comfortable angle to get the desired sound you want to hear! :) Or you could raise the height in small increments. Either way will probably help you get the desired sound.

3pearlkits
10-05-2009, 02:44 AM
I would try to flatten the angle a bit more until you find a comfortable angle to get the desired sound you want to hear! :) Or you could raise the height in small increments. Either way will probably help you get the desired sound.

Hey abugazi,
Thanks for your thoughts on this.
I don't rimshot a lot, so it's not like it's an eternal nightmare lol.
In the past I have flattened out my snare a bit and I find it a very fine line in between just right and constantly rimshotting.
I need to have a good hard look at how I'm setting up one day soon...

Pearl MCX man
03-22-2011, 07:45 AM
Thans Falkan. The post is great and for those who don't care to read it or follow it then I say learn the hard way and destroy a few drum gear to get the message. I have my kit set up the way you mention and have no problem getting around the kit and never I mean , never damaged a cymbal or any other drum gear. Thanks again this should be a Sticky with your name on it.

MisterMixelpix
04-10-2011, 08:54 AM
Couple things that make me disagree with a FEW parts:

1) For double bassers, a lot of the time a high throne is preferable considering the kind of movement you do. Outside of a few guys like Paul Mazurciewicz and Gus Rios, most guys on double bass setups have their thighs at quite at an angle. Look at Gene Hoglan or Daray from Dimmu Borgir

2) Playing with my forearm parallel to the floor is tiring as all get out, which results in a low snare.

3) A low hi hat is going to result in some hellacious knuckle-stick interactions unless it's far enough out to the side that your wrists are physically in line vertically. Try a cross-handed blast beat with a low hat. Ouch.

4) The flat tom thing works only if we accept that all strikes are made with forearm parallel to the floor and stick extending straight out. The key is a straight strike with the stick. Your toms could be vertically mounted and if they're up high it would be easy to make sure the strike is at the proper angle.

funkpunk
03-11-2013, 09:23 PM
I highly recommend using a two or no leg hi-hat stand for double-bassers.

24Nathan
12-10-2013, 08:15 PM
Huge bump, but this board needs a little more activity anyways. I like to have my snare facing me in a way that I don't have to reach around the drum to turn off the strainer. If I need to get to it fast, it is right in front of me. I also do this when I can with all hardware stands in any percussion set up (not just drum set), to ensure that if I need to adjust for whatever reason, it is very easy for me to get to.

dsokodrum
12-30-2013, 09:22 PM
I just stumbled upon your post.
Nice job! It made me think back to Neil Peart's a work in progress video. I actually raised my snare after watching. Noticeable improvement. I wish someone could have helped when I started out. This can definitely save hardware, headaches and sore appendages!
Well done.

therocker
01-23-2015, 09:09 AM
I used same set up for years, with very little changes-one day I changed my throne height , went from low to mid heights - I rebuilt my set up around throne! Vast improvements!

Great thread, where were you 25years ago! Lol