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How To Set Up Your Drum Kit

In our series of easy guides and lesson tips, here are some quick pointers to help you set up your drum kit. When you come to start playing the drums, it is highly likely you will do so on a standard five piece rock drum kit, so we’ll stick to this format throughout this guide.

When you pick up or have your drum kit delivered for the first time, despite your excitement the job of assembling the pieces can be slightly laborious. It helps to go through each step methodically.

Step One: Arrange your Drum Kit

A five piece kit comes with one bass drum, one snare drum and three tom-toms as well as a hi-hat, crash cymbal and occasionally a ride cymbal. The first thing I would do is arrange your tom-toms with their corresponding drum heads, aka skins. With a standard drum kit you should have two drum heads for each drum, a batter head and resonant skin. It also helps to check you have all your necessary hardware, pieces and skins before you start. Don’t forget to grab a drum key if you haven’t been supplied with one!

A rock drum kit usually consists of a 22″ bass drum, 14″ snare and toms with a 12″ (high tom), 13″ (medium tom) and 16″ (floor tom). If you have purchased a fusion drum kit, these sizes will be 20″, 14″, 10″, 12″ and 14″ respectively. Drum skins vary in transparency, thickness and colour. Once separated into their corresponding drum, next we need to identify the batter and resonant heads. As the name suggests, the batter head goes onto the top side of the drum and is the skin that the drummer beats. The resonant head therefore attaches to the bottom side of the drum and helps to create a more resonant sound. With standard kits of various brands, you will receive clear and coated skins. If this is the case, the coated heads are traditionally used as the batter heads and therefore the clear skins will go underneath as the resonants (see below). Resonant heads are often thinner than your batters; the two most common thicknesses for resonant tom heads are 7 and 10 mil. Bottom snare heads are often very thin, ranging from 2 to 5 mil.

set up a drum kit

Step Two: Attach the Drum Heads

To attach the skins, use a drum key to unscrew the tension rod in each lug (the screws surrounding the drum) and remove the hoop from the shell. Place the drum skin onto the drum shell and replace the hoop. Next turn the tension rods around the drum with your fingers until they start to tighten on the head. You will have to tune these heads further with a drum key later on (step four).

Once you have completed this process for the bass drum, snare and toms, you are ready to attach them to the drum kit. The bass drum is your centre piece. Start by attaching the small high tom and medium toms to the bass using the hardware supplied. For right hand drummers (see ** below), the high tom will be to the left and the medium to the right on the bass drum. Place the floor tom separately to the right of the bass drum using the legs provided. The angle of the drums depends on your own position, height and comfort at the drum kit. Angle the drums towards you so that you can easily hit the centre of the skin.

The snare is then placed onto its stand in front of the high tom. Attach the beater to your bass pedal with your drum key and attach to the bass drum. The beater should be at an approximate 45° angle from the bass drum batter head. Suddenly your drum kit is starting to take shape!

Step Three: Cymbals

Let’s move onto the cymbals. Over time you will discover a drum kit position for the crash cymbal that is most comfortable for you and matches your style of drumming. For now though, place the crash cymbal onto its stand and position it either to the left of your high tom or right of your medium tom.

The hi-hat is slightly trickier to assemble. First stand the lower hardware up and place it to the left of your snare drum. Take the thin metal pole and screw it into the main stand. Next take the thicker hollow pole with the circular cymbal rest at the top and place it over previous piece and into the lower main stand. You can now place your lower hi-hat cymbal onto the stand (your hi-hats will be marked bottom and top or upper and lower). You should be supplied with a hi-hat clutch, which should be screwed onto the top cymbal. Make sure the bulk of the clutch is above the cymbal and that the felt washers are against the metal. Once tightened, you can pop this piece onto the stand and fasten it around a finger’s width above the lower piece. If you have a ride cymbal, place it to the right of the floor tom.

Step Four: Tuning your Drum Kit

Your drum kit will now be set up; all you have left to do is tuning. Using a key, turn one lug a quarter turn and then turn the opposite lug and continue turning opposites. Alternatively you can tune by turning the lugs in a star pattern. With your finger or drum stick, tap around the skin (about 2 inches from the rim) to make sure the pitch (and tension) is the same at all points; loosen or tighten appropriately. Different styles of playing require different tensions on the drum skins, for rock drummers be careful not to tighten too high.

Step Five: Let her rip!

Adjust your drum throne to a comfortable height and you are now ready to thrash your drum kit! Keep your eye out for more tips on drumming here at Booths. Click the following link for more information on our drum lessons in our Bolton centre.

* The transparency of a drum skin does not make a huge difference to the sound and is more an aesthetic quality. Nevertheless, coated skins are said to give slightly more warmth, with the clear skins giving more ‘attack’ or definition. Coated skins provide an ideal texture for using brushes.

** We would encourage all starter drummers to play right handed. If this is something you simply cannot get to grips with, arrange your kit the opposite way to the instructions above.

Drum accessories and kits are available in our Bolton store. Please pop in, say hello or call 01204 522908 for more details.


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