Drum kits have many components that can make setting them up fairly confusing if you’ve never done it before. New drummers may also find it tricky to get the same setup that they’re used to when moving the kit to a different venue.
In this guide, we’ll look at how to set up a basic drum kit for beginners. Most beginner kits have 5-piece setups, so we’ll explain kit setup with that in mind. Just note that some drum kits may have fewer or more parts, so you’ll need to apply the same setup concepts to those.
- 1 Components of a Drum Set
- 2 Setting Up a Drum Set
- 3 Drum Setup Tips
- 4 Final Thoughts on How to Set Up a Drum Kit For Beginners
Components of a Drum Set
Before setting a kit up, you should be able to identify all the parts so that you know their roles and where to place them. It’s also good to know which parts make up a drum set so that you know that you have all of them ready for your kit.
If something is missing, you’ll need to buy it to complete your kit. This may happen if you buy a drum set that only comes as a shell pack. Shell packs only have drum shells, meaning you need to buy hardware and cymbals separately before setting a kit up (read our guide to buying your first kit to help make sure you get everything you need).
Drum shells are all the drums that form part of your set. These are the biggest pieces of the kit, and they include a snare drum, rack toms, floor tom, and a bass drum.
Cymbals are the thin metal discs that go around the kit. They’re smaller than the shells, and they need to be rested on cymbal stands.
A basic drum setup will have a pair of hi-hats, a crash cymbal, and a ride cymbal, and can be bought individually or as a pack.
Hardware refers to all the metal stands that lock the drums and cymbals in place. Hardware is very important as you can’t set your drum set up without it.
Typically, a kit will have a hi-hat stand, a crash cymbal stand, a ride cymbal stand, a bass drum pedal, a drum throne, and rack tom mounts.
Setting Up a Drum Set
A drum throne should be the first thing that you set up before placing your kit. If your drum throne has been collapsed and detached, you need to place the cushioned chair on the top of the stand and then open the tripod legs so that the throne sits securely on the ground.
You should adjust the height of the drum throne to suit you, but keep in mind that you might adjust it again after setting the rest of the drum kit up.
Bass Drum and Pedal
The next step is to place the bass drum. It’s the largest drum in the setup, so all the drums revolve around how you initially set the kick drum up.
You should place it far enough in front of you to give a bit of leg room but close enough so that it doesn’t feel like you’re reaching to play it.
The bass drum has two legs at the back that will secure it to the ground. Make sure to angle those legs so that the front of the bass drum is sitting at a 90-degree angle to the ground.
Also, those legs will have rubber feet with spikes that come out if you twist them. Sticking those spikes to the ground will further secure the bass drum.
The next step is to attach the bass drum pedal to the bottom hoop of the bass drum. Once it’s attached, use the tightening mechanism on the pedal to secure it. Then, make sure the beater is placed at a height that allows it to hit the center of the bass drumhead.
Get the basket stand that holds the snare drum and place it to the left of the bass drum pedal. If you’re left-handed, place it on the right.
Raise the stand and place the snare drum in the arms. The height should have the snare drum resting slightly above your knees.
You’ll be able to angle the snare drum with a tilting mechanism on the stand. If you play with a matched grip (holding the sticks with both hands facing down), the best angle would be a completely flat one.
If you play with a traditional grip (the grip that all the old jazz drummers use), it will be better to angle the snare slightly away from you.
The snare drum has a throw off lever on the side that controls the snare wires. Make sure to push that lever up so that the wires activate so that you get the snare drum sound.
Some drum kits will have rack tom mounts that stick onto the bass drum, while others have mounts that attach to cymbal stands. It’s mostly professional kits that have cymbal stand mounts, and most beginner and intermediate kits have toms that mount to the bass drum.
To mount the rack toms, you must put the smallest tom above the snare drum and attach it to the mount. This will look like some sort of metal arm that sticks out from the bass drum.
After that, place the middle rack tom next to it on the other arm. You then need to position the rack toms at angles that make them comfortable to play.
They shouldn’t be angled too much toward you, as you won’t be able to make a solid impact with your stick on the center of each drumhead. They also shouldn’t be too flat, as your drum throne will then need to be positioned very high near your kit. Angling them somewhere in between those two extremes is ideal.
The floor tom is the large tom that you need to place on the other side of the bass drum beater. It gets held up by three floor tom legs. Get these legs and place them through the metal pieces on the sides of the drum shell.
Make sure that the legs are fastened very tightly. Otherwise, they’ll come loose while you’re playing, and the floor tom will fall over.
Your floor tom should be positioned so that it sits at the same height as your snare drum. The best angle for it is also flat, but there’s nothing wrong with having a slight tilt toward the snare. Just make sure not to angle it too much, as you’ll also lose the impact by not being able to strike the center nicely.
The hi-hats get positioned next to the snare drum. Set the hi-hat stand up by expanding the legs and securing the pedal with the metal rods on each side. After doing that, raise the metal arm of the hi-hat stand to a height that you think will be comfortable.
Get the thin hi-hat rod and attach it to the stand by sticking it down the center of the thicker metal tube and screwing it in.
Place the bottom hi-hat on the large felt that sits on top of the round plastic piece near the top. Find the hi-hat clutch and attach it to the top hi-hat cymbal. You do this by loosening one of the nuts, sticking the clutch through the holes in the center of the cymbal, and then tightening the nut to secure it.
Now, place the top hi-hat cymbal on the rod and tighten it using the clutch. Make sure that there is about an inch between the top and bottom hi-hat cymbals when your foot isn’t pressing down on the pedal.
The primary placement for a crash cymbal will be above the hi-hats and next to the first rack tom. Place the stand there and then raise it so that the crash cymbal is sitting a good distance above the height of the rack tom. If the height is too low, the crash will hit either the tom or the hi-hats when you play it.
However, make sure not to raise it too high as you don’t want to have to lift your arms dramatically just to play it. Try placing the crash at shoulder height. See how that feels, and then adjust the height accordingly.
When it comes to an angle, make sure the crash cymbal isn’t angled away from you. That will break the crash very quickly due to your sticks hitting the shoulder straight on. A flat angle is okay but tilting it slightly toward you is the best thing to do.
The ride cymbal needs to be placed on the other side of your floor tom. You can also place it so that it rests in between your floor tom and middle tom. You just need to make sure that none of the cymbal is covering any of your drums.
Place the ride cymbal on a cymbal stand and then put it far enough away so that it doesn’t interfere with the drums. However, it should be close enough so that you can hit the bell with your sticks very easily. You’ll be playing the ride cymbal a lot for different grooves, so a comfortable placement is vital.
Now that everything is set up in front of you, relook at all the angles that you have for the drums and cymbals. Play around the kit for a bit to see how comfortable it feels. If things feel a bit weird, you may need to adjust angles to make them feel more comfortable.
A key thing to remember is that you should never be stretching to play anything. Your kit should be set up so that you can reach every drum and cymbal without straining your body.
Drum Setup Tips
Make Sure That No Drums Are Touching Each Other
Once your kit is set up, make sure that none of the drum shells are making contact with each other. If the drums touch each other, they’ll start getting damaged from the vibrations when you play them. The wrapping may get scratched off, or the metal parts may start chipping.
The drums also won’t resonate fully if they have any obstructions, so you need to ensure that each drum is freely standing without anything touching it.
Pay close attention to your rack toms, as many drummers don’t notice that their rack toms are either touching each other, or they’re resting on the bass drum. The rack tom mounts allow you to raise them high enough to clear the bass drum.
Also, allow space between you and your snare drum. Another habit of beginner drummers is to rest their legs against the snare drum when playing. This will eventually stop you from being able to play certain things on the bass drum, so stop that habit from developing early on.
Get a Drum Rug
Getting a good drum rug is one of the most important investments you’ll ever make as a drummer. If you set up your kit on a floor that isn’t carpeted, the bass drum will shift forward every time you play it. It’s one of the big frustrations that most drummers have gone through at some point.
Getting a good drum rug to put your kit on will stop any bass drum shifting from happening. If you already have a carpeted floor, a drum rug won’t be essential. However, it’s good to have when you set your kit up in different areas.
Some drummers place tape on their drum rugs to mark the spots where their hardware rests. This allows them to get the same setup every time they move their drum kit.
Final Thoughts on How to Set Up a Drum Kit For Beginners
While there are a few fundamental aspects of setting a drum kit up, you’ll find that there are a lot of preferences that you’ll develop as you become more experienced in your drumming. That’s why drum setups look so different when you watch pros play. Remember to think ergonomically when setting your kit up. If things feel uncomfortable, they’re most likely not conducive to a good setup. We just suggest that you nail the basics first before venturing to different drum kit setup options.