How to Assemble a Drum Set: Step by Step Guide for Beginners
Drum sets are one of the most enjoyable instruments to play, but they take a lot of time and practice when it comes to setting them up. Even for the most seasoned of players, a basic drum set will take about 15 minutes to assemble, which isn’t much time if you are playing shows and are on a time constraint. With your arms, legs, feet, and core all engaged, playing drums is a full-body activity that requires the proper setup to avoid accidents or instrument failure.
Basic drum kits use a 4-piece configuration, meaning you get 4 drum shells: kick drum, snare, rack tom, and floor tom. 5-piece configurations usually add in a secondary rack tom for a wider contrast of tones. In addition to the shells, you get a set of hi-hats, a crash cymbal, and a ride cymbal, all of which are mounted on stands. This gives you 7 or 8 pieces of hardware that need to be mounted correctly for you to bang away on them safely. Over time, many players will add extra cymbals and drums to their kit, which only adds to the setup time.
With drums, it’s not how hard you hit, but how precise you are with your strikes, and precision playing is dependent on positioning and comfort. There is no right or wrong way to set up your kit, as different drummers have their own preferences when it comes to angles and heights. But for the most part, drum kits are set up in a certain configuration that maximizes player performance to effectively serve the song.
This article will go through all the parts of a basic drum kit and show you how to set it up from scratch, starting with building the kit out from your sitting position.
The drum throne, also known as a stool, should be the first thing you set up. This will help you determine how high the drum kit will need to be for you to play comfortably. Thrones are height adjustable and swivel so you can play fluidly around the crescent shape of your kit.
You should set the seat height at a point where your hips are slightly higher than your knees, so that your thighs angle downward. Not only will this increase circulation in your legs and feet, but it caters to your posture, helping you avoid slouching during long sessions. The downward angle will also naturally provide you with a heavier and more precise triggering of the hi-hats and kick drum pedals. If you place the seat too low, you can develop lower back pain, while placing the seat too high can quickly fatigue your legs.
We also recommend investing in a high-quality throne. One that swivels well, has plenty of cushions, and provides shock absorption is ideal. The floating feeling this type of throne gives you will help alleviate pressure on your back and feet. As you will be sitting for extended periods of time, a comfortable throne will make all the difference.
There are two parts of the drum kit that are controlled with your feet: the kick drum, and the hi-hats. These are controlled using chain-driven foot pedals positioned under your feet. Triggering the kick drum provides your bass sound while triggering the hi-hats causes them to open and close, which is an important technique that many drummers employ.
Sitting on your stool, you want to think of your kick drum leg/pedal as the middle of your kit. If you play shows, this will be important, so you set up your drums in the middle of the stage, and not off to the left or right, causing an asymmetrical imbalance in aesthetics between you and your band members.
The kick drum pedal is placed under your right foot with a straight leg, although some drummers angle it slightly outward. The hi-hat pedal sits under your left foot and is angled somewhere around 45 degrees, so your legs form a “V” shape. If you are using a double bass pedal, the secondary kick drum pedal will rest next to the hi-hat pedal, and you will have to master taking turns controlling both the hats and double bass with the same foot.
Now that you have a solid foundation, you can move on to the rest of the kit.
With the exception of the kick drum, all shells can be adjusted for height and angle for a comfortable fit.
The snare should easily fit in the “V”-shaped space between your legs. It comes with a stand that allows you to raise & lower the snare, or angle it to your preference. Experimenting with different height levels, and tilting it toward or away from you will give you a good idea on where it feels most comfortable.
The kick drum sits directly on the floor. It has 2 feet on either side of it, which telescope so they can grip the floor, helping to keep the drum from sliding around during the performance. However, setting up the kick drum on a carpeted surface will best your best bet for “locking it” in place.
The kick drum pedal clamps to the drum’s hoop (the rim). This ensures your pedal doesn’t push the drum out of position. Also, a lot of drummers will muffle their bass drum sound to take the ring out of it. We will discuss this technique later in the article.
The rack tom(s) are mounted on top of the kick drum, which has pre-fabricated holes in the top of it where mounting hardware connects. They can be positioned together or slightly apart, and angled to your liking. Some 4 piece kits won’t have a rack mounting system, and instead, use the cymbal stand as a mounting point for the tom.
The floor tom stands freely on 4 legs and is positioned to the right side of the drummer. These legs are all adjustable, so you can raise it and tilt it according to your comfort level. Depending on your style, you may add a secondary floor tom for a wider range of lower tones.
Stands & Cymbals
With the majority of the kit set up, its time to move on to the accents. Cymbal stands are designed with three legs so you can position them around your kit for perfect placement.
The hi-hats pedal is attached to its stand and at this point should be more or less set up from when you were positioning your pedals. You can make minor adjustments to it, such as setting the height in relation to your snare, and also how open, closed, or loose you want the hats to sound.
The crash cymbal is mounted on a straight stand and sets up in line with your chest and the snare drum. This makes it simple to strike so you aren’t stretching to reach it. As with all stands, it can be adjusted for height, and angled to your preference.
The ride cymbal sets up to the right of bass drum, and in front of the floor tom. Most ride cymbals are mounted on a boom stand, which has an arm that can be extended and angled over the drum kit. This is because the ride is on the far side of the drum set, so it brings the cymbal physically closer to the drummer. Boom arm extensions are also used on stands when you need to mount two cymbals.
With the kit fully set up, you can do a quick play-through, making sure everything feels comfortable and adjusting where you need to. At this point, you should also be tuning your drums so they sound their best. Some drummers like to tune their kit to a specific pitch, while others tune to what sounds good to their ear. In any case, learning to properly tune your kit is an important aspect of drumming, as customizing its tone ultimately gives you more control over your instrument.
Additionally, dampers are used by many drummers to control the tone and amount of ring their drums emit. They can depend on the room, musical style, the sonics of the drum, or just because of personal taste. On the snare and toms, we recommend using damper gels, which are small square gels that rest on your drum heads. As for the bass drum, muffling it with pillows and blankets inside the shell has long been the way to go, but you can also use damper rings or kick drum gels.
So there you have it. A complete guide to setting up your drum kit. If you are a southpaw drummer, you can set everything up the same way by reorienting the pieces in the reverse order. Now get to playing!