If you’re just getting started playing drums – whether learning jazz, rock, pop or something else – learning how to set them up correctly is an important lesson. In this guide we take a quick look at the best practices.

Drums are a fantastic instrument to learn and play. They’re great fun, an amazing form of stress relief, a great physical workout, and they allow you to experience the ultimate expression of rhythm.

Setting up your kit properly helps avoid any potential injuries, improves your drum sound quality and ensures optimal performance while you’re in the zone.

Drummers come in different shapes and sizes and one drummer‘s hi-hat pedal placement or chair height may not be comfortable for another.

A third might prefer two bass drums while a fourth finds this excessive.

But whilst everyone has their own preferences of brand, model, sizes, number of drums and cymbals, placement of parts, percussion knick-knacks, etc (as we covered in more detail here), there are some key basics which are universal.

The majority of beginner drummers have a 4-piece or 5-piece drum setup and this guide will focus on a normal acoustic drum kit setup.

There are three main components on your drum kit:

  1. drums
  2. cymbals
  3. hardware

The drums consist of the bass drum, snare drum, floor tom, rack tom, and floor toms.

The hardware consists of stands for the cymbals and hi-hat, the bass drum pedal, the snare stand and the drum stool.

The cymbals consist of the crash cymbal, the ride cymbal and the hi-hats. Some kits might also include a splash cymbal.

Follow the steps below to set up your kit and start making some noise!

Step 1: Adjust The Drum Throne

Adjust your stool (aka ‘the throne’) to a suitable height.

Having a well-adjusted throne will help you to keep power and balance while you play. Your thighs should be parallel to the ground with your knees slightly below the tops of your legs.

Experiment with different adjustments until you find one that is comfortable and well-balanced for you.

a drum stool

Step 2: Set Up The Bass Drum

To set up the bass drum, place it down so that it’s in the centre of your drum set.

You can position the legs to ensure your bass drum doesn’t move around while you’re playing.

Make sure that the legs are adjusted so that they are equal on both sides, and check that the spurs on the legs are anchored to the floor properly.

Leave enough space around your bass drum so that you can play with enough room, and don’t end up banging your arms on walls or other nearby objects.

Next, you need to fit and adjust the bass drum pedal.

Attach the foot pedal clamp to the centre of the hoop on your bass drum, making sure it is stable.

When you press the pedal with your foot, the beater should hit the bass drum right in the centre and then bounce back. If it doesn’t bounce back or pressing the pedal is difficult, you may need to adjust the tension.

Use the pedal screw to control and adjust tension until it looks and feels right.

a Bass drum

Step 3: Set Up The Snare Drum

Adjust the snare drum so that the height and angle are comfortable; it should sit a few inches above your leg.

Make sure you can hit the drum with both of your hands without hitting the rim with your sticks.

The lever used to engage the snare is located on the left of the drum.

a snare drum

Step 4. Set Up The Toms

Your drum kit consists of floor toms and mounted ‘rack’ toms.

The floor toms should be adjusted to around the same height as your snare drum, and mounted toms should be angled towards you so that you can easily hit them with your sticks.

You can adjust the arrangement of a floor tom or rack tom tom to whatever is easiest and most comfortable.

tom toms

Step 5: Set Up The Hi-Hat

Position your hi-hat slightly to the left of your snare drum.

Using the clutch on your hi-hat stand, attach the cymbals to the rod.

You should be able to easily reach the hi-hat pedal with your foot, if not, adjust the positioning. The hi-hat cymbals should be positioned above the snare drum to make them easier to hit with your sticks.

a Hi Hat

Step 6: Set Up Your Cymbals

It’s important to feel centred while drumming, so you need to make sure your cymbals are placed in a comfortable position for you to hit without having to reach out for them.

Set up the ride cymbal on your right, just above the floor tom.

The first crash cymbal should be set up on your left between your mounted tom and your snare drum. The second crash cymbal, if you’re using a second, set it up between the floor tom and mounted tom.

They should be sitting higher than the mounted toms, but not so high that you can’t reach easily with your sticks.

So now your drum kit is set up in the correct way, you’re ready to play!

Remember it’s important to experiment with different adjustments and heights until you find that perfect setup.

Once you’ve found a setup that’s comfortable and works for you, you’ll know how to arrange your kit every time you play to maximise your performance and enjoyment.

Looking for more jazz-specific drum tips?

Check out our guide to the set ups of 10 famous jazz drummers, the legendary drummers in history and the modern greats.

Discover Jazz
Discover Jazz

The label ‘Discover Jazz’ is attached to articles which have been edited and published by Jazzfuel host Matt Fripp, but have been written in collaboration with various different jazz musicians and industry contributors. When appropriate, these musicians are quoted and name-checked inside the article itself!