Instrument Insight

How To Set Up A Drum Set? (Do It Like The Pros)

How To Set Up A Drum Set

Setting up your first drum set is not an easy task to do. Especially while we’re all riled up about getting a drum set in the first place, we can’t really put a stop on the excitement and concentrate on setting it up because we’re just human beings. But we have to do it anyway because it’s the first step of getting accustomed to them.

This article is about how to set up a drum set. Here we will not only discuss vaguely how you will set your drum set, no sir, but we will also individually learn about each part of a beginner’s drum kit and discuss in a very broad manner how you can set them perfectly.

But there’s a big question that remains unsettled, unlike the guitar, is there any specific way of setting up your drums? The answer is, not really. Yes, there’s a specific pattern that everyone follows, but there’s no specific way of doing it.

You have to set up your drum kit according to your height, weight, and, most importantly, your preference. So, without any further ado, let’s get started on the introductory phase so we can deal with the real question, how to set up a drum kit?

The 5-piece Drums Set

The most common question to ask is which set of drums we would take as the ideal while guiding everyone? The answer is the 5-piece drum set. It’s the most ideal one that even 8-year-olds start with. Even professional drummers use the 5-piece drum set for live shows even after years of professional drumming experience.

Why? Because a 5-piece drum set has all the necessary sound you need for any song. So, keeping that as an ideal, we will learn about the parts of a 5-piece drum set and then finally learn about how we can individually set them according to our height, weight, and preferences.

Stool- Where We Sit For The Action

The Drums Stool

Yes, the stool is the first important part of any drum set. It should occur to you like it’s really funny to even talk about the stool because it’s not a musical part. But trust me, it is as important as any musical part of a drum set. Having a perfectly adjusted stool helps you to perfect and also improve your drumming skills while you’re at practice.

Now, why is it important to know and adjust the height of your stool? Comfort? No, comfort here is not the main issue. Rather the main issue is ensuring that the sitting technique is perfect according to your height. So that you can reach your drums better, pedal properly, and thus improve your overall technique as a drummer.

If the stool is not adjusted properly, drummers tend to mess up their skills and technique. Even the professional ones take an ample amount of time to adjust the height of their drumming stool. Especially, you would see that rather than tuning the guitar, drummers take more time on stage to adjust and set up their drum set according to their preference.

It’s because turning two-three knobs you can adjust your guitar, but you need to adjust every piece of your drum kit accordingly, including the most important one, the stool.

Snare Drum- Your First Drums of Your Drum Set

Snare Drum

The most important drums of your drum set are the snare drum. The snare drum is known to be the most versatile drum in any drum kit. It’s an integral part of any drum set.

Usually, the 5-piece drum set is the ideal drum set because it has all the necessary parts. If you search for a higher number of parts, you will see that all those sets contain the five pieces of a 5-piece drum set and then add extra parts. Among all those drum sets, if you try to analyze the parts individually, you’ll see that every time, the snare drum is talked about at first and is considered the most important part of any set.

A snare drum is basically placed between your feet, and its placement is very important because unlike other parts, you don’t get to choose a specific spot to hit. Rather, you have to adjust it in a way that you can hit any part of the snare drum properly to make the perfect sound for each note.

Keeping that in mind, after adjusting the stool, we will focus on adjusting the snare drum first.

The Bass Drum- The Monster to Control With Your Feet

The bass drum is the largest piece of any drum kit. Basically, it’s the most visible part of any drum kit and asks any drummer; this is the part that most of them are most excited about. Why? Because playing the bass drum perfectly is a tough job and satisfactory as well. Keeping the flow according to your hands above and feet downstairs is not a very easy task.

People with zero experience with drumming think only hands have to be perfectly synchronized. But ask any drummer or a fanboy who knows what a single pedal or a double pedal bass drum is, he will make you understand what big a deal learning how to perfectly play the bass drums is, especially, learning double pedals.

The single pedal is fine and mandatory, but double pedal bass drumming is considered a very big deal in the world of musicians. Not all professional drummers know how to sync both of their feet to play a double pedal bass drum.

Bass Pedal- The One You Play The Bass Drum With

Bass Pedal

Your bass drum is nothing without your bass pedal. You absolutely need it to add some bass to any song from your drums. Without a bass pedal, your bass drum is useless.

TAMA HP200P Single Pedal:

Foraineam Heavy Duty Single Pedal:

Now, a single pedal is a must for every drummer to have. But to play genres that require up-tempo of bass sound coming from the drums, you need two pedals, and you have to synchronize them well enough so that both of your feet can be in action.

Hi-Hat- The Cymbal You Control With Your Feet

Hi-Hat

Basically, a hi-hat is an integral part of any drum set if you’re willing to learn jazz, blues, pop, or rock. But most drummers these days are concentrated on double pedals on bass drums because it sounds really cool, but you have to be near to a pro to be able to do that. But as beginners, people need to learn how to use the other leg and the pedal to control the hi-hat.

In jazz and blues music, knowing how to perfectly hit the hi-hat is considered another art in the music as art itself. So, that’s why the hi-hat is the part that completes any drum set. Not necessarily because you get to use it really often, but because it’s one of the most basic synchronizations you require to learn while learning your drums.

Tom-Toms- The Drum That Adds Color To Your Drum Set

Tom-Toms

Tom-toms are the drums that you hit the most during any song you play. Tom-toms adds the variation of sound to your drumming. A drum kit can be snare drums, a bass drum, and a cymbal. That’s kind of all you need to play your songs. But adding tom-toms to your drum set really spices things up. You get to add variations in your drum sounds to make them even more appealing.

Some drummers even use their tom-toms as the alternative to hitting the cymbals too often. Tom-toms are not snared drums and have been added to a drum set as late as in the 20th century.

So, you can understand that a tom-tom or any number of tom-toms were not a permanent and necessary part of a drum set yet now, you cannot think of any professional drum set without tom-toms.

Floor Toms: or Low Toms

Floor Tom

Floor toms or low toms are basically two-headed toms that are placed on the floor with three legs like a tripod. Floor tom’s main job is to add booming to any number. It may or may not be attached to cymbals with a drum clamp. It has no snare wires and is cylindrical in shape.

The floor toms have been there for over a century, but it was popularized as a permanent part of a drum set during the early 50s. Before that, they were used on certain occasions only. The usage of low toms became very popular when songs were going through a variation of pitch.

Ride/ Crash Cymbals: The Piece You Can’t Let Go Off

Cymbal

Cymbals are known to bear the exact sound that puts an end to a drum chord when you’re playing. It sort of provides the closure that every drum chord needs to complete a song with proper sounds.

Cymbals have always been a part of any drum set, starting from beginner to professional kits. In beginner kits, there’s usually one basic cymbal that provides both the sounds from the ride and crash cymbals. But professional drums like 5-piece ones have a different approach when it comes to setting up the cymbals.

We will clearly emphasize that after all other pieces are sorted out because they can only be set after setting up all the other pieces of a drum set. So, now we know what is what, we can focus on setting them up. Let’s follow the introductory order to complete our work.

How To Set Up A Drum Set: Step-By-Step Guide

1. Stool Setup

Stool Set-Up

The stool setup is the first basic set up that’s required before you can actually start setting up the other pieces of the drum set. Why? Because everything else kind of depends on the height of your stool. Believe me, the height of your stool will actively determine the height of every other piece of your drum set.

The stool setup is important because of another reason also. The stool also aims to make the drumming experience comfortable for you because when you have to sit on it and play the drums, which can be a very tiring job, you would need that comfort, so the height has to be perfect according to your height.

  • If the height is higher than you need you won’t be able to reach the pedals portly and it will actively damage your technique
  • If the height is too low, it will be the reason that your spine, shin, and back hurts every time after you play your drums.

So, setting up the height and adjusting it to ensure your comfort is the first step of setting up your drum set.

2. Snare Drum Placing

Snare Drum Placement

The snare drum is the most versatile drum of any drum set. It’s kind of that piece that will be mostly used. So, after setting up your stool, setting the snare drum is the most important part.

Now, while setting this up, you have to consider that it sits in the middle between your legs, and it has to be set in a way that you can hit different spots at will while going with full force at any song.

So, set it up in a specific way that you’re able to hit the dead center and also go for the edges when you need to.

Now, there are ways you can ensure that, but those ways are not specific. We could show you two ways of doing that.

  • You could keep the drum completely flat so that you can hit each spot similarly.
  • Or you can keep the drum a little bit tilted towards you.

This adjustment actually depends on the technique you’ll build-up eventually. You have to set it up and try to see which way you get you to hit the drum properly and set it accordingly.

3. The Bass Drum Distancing

The Right Distance Between You And Bass Drums

This huge drum is basically not an adjustable piece. You can’t really make any changes to the way it sits or to the height it stands on.

Also, you use a pedal to hit the drum, so you’re hitting the exact same spot every time, so there’s nothing to worry about the angle it’s placed in once you’ve found the sweet spot.

Then what is the crucial factor?

The crucial factor is the distance of the bass drum from your stool.

  • If you’re too far, you’ll have to cran to reach the other pieces of the set.
  • If you’re too close, your shins will ache for sure

You have to make sure of two things. One, the pedal is clamped properly with the bass drum hook. Two, do check if the hoop has any sort of protective measure or not.

These two things will stop your drum and pedal from getting damaged.

4. Bass Pedal Spring Adjustment

Bass Pedal Diagram

Some will focus more on how you set the bass pedal according to your feet, but that is something that comes naturally. You just have to keep it in a way that your feet comfortably rest on it.

The main adjustment you have to make is tightening or loosening the spring to ensure perfect tension.

If the tension is not perfect, the beat on the bass drum will be mistimed. So, rather than focusing on where to keep the pedal, be sure to focus on how tight or loose the spring is.

5. Hi-Hat Setup

The hi-hat is kind of the last essential piece of your kit. Yes, you do need some other pieces like the tom-toms and the cymbals, but without hi-hats, your art will still be incomplete.

So, Hi-Hat being the potential final piece, let’s see how you can adjust it.

Well, the adjustability is kind of not an issue to overlook, but it’s not that complicated. All you have to do is make sure the height of your Hi-Hat is comfortable for you to reach.

If the height is too low, you’ll see that there will be a conflict between your left and right hand while playing the snare drum. And if the height is too high, there will also be the same problem, but this time, the gap between the hands would unnecessarily increase.

So, what you have to make sure of is that the height is not too low or not too high.

6. Tom-Toms Placing

Tom Placing

To place your tom-toms, you’ll see that your bass drum has drilled holes where they go in proper brackets.

This means the distance of the bass drums is a significant factor while ensuring the placing of your tom-toms.

Now, there’s another issue. The issue is the height of the tom-toms. They have to be a little bit higher than the snare drum and a little bit tilted towards you for perfect hitting.

While buying the bass drum, make sure it has drilled holes. The modern-day bass drum has drilled holes, but some don’t have them. If your bass drum doesn’t have drilled holes, you’ll have to buy separate stands. And it’s not a pleasant thing to set tom-toms separate from your bass drum.

7. Floor Tom Placing

The floor tom is not actually something that you keep on the floor. The three legs are actually three brackets that you place properly above the mid tom.

Usually, the floor tom is a little bit tilted towards you as it’s a bit distant from the place you’re playing the drum.

8. Ride/Crash Cymbal Adjustments

Ride and Crash Cymbal

The ride cymbal is usually placed hanging over the floor tom. On the other hand, the crash cymbal is positioned on top of the hi-hat.

Now, the ride cymbal is played the same way as the hi-hat. The crash cymbal is usually played to add some extra accent to the cymbal sound.

So, the ride cymbal will be hit by the tip of the stick, and the crash cymbal will be hit by the edge of the stick.

To make sure of that, the ride cymbal has to have a lower height and a harsh tilt towards you so that you can hit it perfectly with the tip of the stick.

The crash cymbal will be higher and flat so that you can hit it on edge.

Another thing is, cymbals are usually wobbly. So, if they are placed too close to other pieces, they will hit them and overlap to create bad sounds. So, keeping a little distance is essential.

So, that’s how you set up your 5-piece beginner’s drum set. Now, you have to learn a thing or two about tuning.

Step By Step Drum Tuning

Drums Tuning

The process is a bit hard, but not many steps. Let’s go through this.

Step 1: Loosening The Lug Nuts

First, to ensure the tuning is at its best, loosen all the lug nuts and detune the drum completely. Then clean the nuts and lugs from dust.

Step 2: Starting With The Drum Head

Keep the resonant head on the stool because it will interfere in the way of tuning. Start with the batter drum head.

Now turn it upside down, and now you can tune the resonant side of the drum.

Batter means top and resonant means bottom.

Step 3: Make Sure There’s No Gap

Make sure that the drum head seats properly. Press around the edge and in the center to make sure that there are no gaps. If there’s any gap, the tuning process will be in vain.

Step 4: Finger Tightening

Finger tighten the tuning rods first. Do check properly to see if the tightening process is done properly. After that, tighten each rod a ¼ turn using a drum key.

Always remember to tighten the rod of the opposite side after the one you’ve done.

Suppose your drum has ten tuning rods, and you’ve numbered them accordingly. If you start with 1, the next rod you have to tighten would be number 6. The number 2s opposite is number 7. Follow this order till you’re done.

Step 5: Check The Sound

Check how it sounds. There are a lot of soundtracks with or without videos to measure the perfect sound when you’re at a beginner level. You can compare to see if the tuning is correct.

So, this is the step by step process of tuning any drum.

Conclusion

So, this is all that you need to know while setting up a drum set. You came to know about all the pieces of a 5-piece drum set. If you go through the article, I’m pretty sure that you’ll be able to set up your drum set yourself without any help whatsoever.

Also, if you follow the simple drum tuning steps, it’s a handy work, but nothing too hard that you can’t do.

This is all there is to know about how to set up a drum set. It’s crucial and evident to understand how to set up your instrument. This brings you a lot closer to it; you grow an emotional attachment that helps you rock better.

Learn the way of setup today, get ready to blow everyone’s mind with your skills tomorrow.

Author | Drums and Equipment Expert at Instrument Insight | Website

Jason J. Ford is a 33-year-old drummer and percussionist from the City of Commerce, CA. Jason has been playing drums for over 20 years and is an expert at Instrument Insight. He has a great understanding of drums, and related equipment, their materials, build quality, playability, and versatility. His in-depth knowledge of the history and origins of various drum manufacturing brands makes him one of the most credible sources on the subject matter.


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