Interactive Overview in Course Format
Begin with your throne (seat) centered at the back edge of your drum rug. Your seat height should be such that the angle behind each knee is 90 degrees or greater. A slightly higher seat will allow your weight to naturally fall forward, stabilizing your strokes.
The Snare Drum
Place your snare drum directly in front of your throne. The playing surface should be flat. The height of the playing surface should be at or just below your navel. You should be able to strike the surface (head) and rim (hoop) of the snare drum without hitting your legs.
Place your feet an equal distance from your seat, creating a stable, symmetrical tripod with your seat and feet. This tripod forms the foundation of your posture. Any asymmetry here will cause a negative ripple effect throughout your posture and performance.
The Pedals, Hi-hat Cymbal and Bass Drum
Mark the locations of your feet on either side of the snare drum and place the pedals on or as close to those marks as possible. If your setup requires that you change the position of one pedal, try to mirror that change on the other side so that you maintain the symmetry and stability of the tripod formed by your seat and feet. The direction of force of the pedals should be along the natural line of your legs. Notice how rotation of either pedal will cause rotation in the hip, tilting the pelvis and destabilizing the foundation of your posture.
Place your heels evenly on the pedals and lift at the toes, maintaining contact with the pedals between strokes. Experiment with lifting your heels for power and speed but be aware of the effect this has on your posture. Faster, more powerful playing will require a slight lean forward with more weight on the pedals, as if riding a bicycle. Be sure that lifting your heels does not cause you to arch your lower back. Core strength is required to maintain neutral posture while playing with the heels up.
Your hi-hat cymbal should be 6″-12″ above the playing surface of the snare drum. You should be able to strike the flat playing surface or edge of the hi-hat cymbal without hitting the snare drum. Be aware that moving the hi-hat stand will alter the symmetry of the tripod forming the foundation of your posture.
Match the angle of your hi-hat pedal to the angle of your bass drum pedal by pushing and holding your bass drum pedal all the way down with your right foot, unclamping the hi-hat clutch (wing nut), pushing your hi-hat foot down to match the angle of your bass drum foot and re-clamping the hi-hat clutch to the post. When both pedals are fully depressed, the angles of your ankles should match.
The bass drum beater should be adjusted to strike the playing surface at or 1″ to 2″ above the center of the drum.
The Ride Cymbal
Set up your ride cymbal on the right side of your bass drum in a position your right arm can easily reach. Your strokes should fall in line with your forearm. Adjust the stand so the ride cymbal is at shoulder height. Tilt the ride cymbal towards you so you can easily avoid striking the edge of the cymbal. Your default strokes should fall at the center of the playing surface evenly between the center (bell) and edge (shoulder) of the ride cymbal with your elbow at a 90 degree angle.
The Low Tom
Set up your floor tom (low tom) as close as possible to the outside edge of your right leg while allowing freedom of movement. The head (playing surface) should be out from under the ride cymbal, at the same height as your snare drum. Start with a flat playing surface, mirroring your snare drum. You may prefer to angle the floor tom towards you slightly.
The High Tom
Position the high tom (tom-tom, rack tom) forward of the snare drum and slightly to the right to leave space for the crash cymbal. The height and angle should be such that you can freely strike the head and rim without hitting your snare drum. Make sure you can move freely between the snare drum, high tom and low tom without hitting the ride cymbal.
If you have a third tom, it will fit between the high tom and ride cymbal. Move your high tom more directly in front of your snare drum and shift your ride cymbal out to the right to accommodate.
The Crash Cymbal
Set up the crash cymbal between the high tom and hi-hat cymbal. The height should be equal to or above the ride cymbal. You should be able to freely strike the edge (shoulder) of the crash cymbal at a 45 degree angle with the shaft of the drum stick. This is your default strike to obtain a “crash” sound. You may also play your crash as a second ride cymbal, striking the flat surface with the tip of your drumstick. The crash cymbal may slightly overlap the hi-hat and high tom. Ensure this overlap does not interfere with playing.
The Complete Setup
Adjust to taste while maintaining awareness of the symmetrical foundation of your posture. You should be able to reach each drum and cymbal while maintaining good posture. You should be able to move fluidly between each playing surface accessing both flat surfaces (heads) and edges (rims, shoulders, hoops).
Questions, comments or feedback? Join the discussion here.