by Rob Richard
One of the most important things when it comes to playing drums, is making sure that you’re comfortable. This will probably be obvious to most, but alot of times, drummers don’t realize that their drum set up might be hurting them more than helping them. This is especially so in the case of a drummer who is disabled.
Part of the reason is that a drummer may set up in a way that they think looks cool, or if they’re inexperienced, they might not know any better. Eventually they fall into a “zone” with their setup and way of playing, and they don’t feel that anything is wrong with it. When in reality, they could improve their playing IMMENSLY just by adjusting their setup. In this article, I’d like to discuss examining your setup and your seating height, and take a good look at what it takes to truely be set up for comfort. This will allow you to play to the best of your ability, and make the best musical statement you can possibly make.
The first aspect to consider before you even touch your drums, is your drum throne height. I’ve known from experience that some drummers ignore this as an important part of their playing. Obviously, depending on what height you are, and what size your drums are, this may vary for some; but atleast keep this concept in the back of your mind.
Drum Throne Height
The usual school of thought is that when you sit on your drum throne, you should be sitting comfortably like you would in a regular chair. This usually means that your thighs will be parallel with the ground. This allows for the most movement in your legs without having to work too much, and it also provides you with the most optimum balance. Obviously, you can set the height to wherever is most comfortable, but take this into consideration: If the height is too low you have to work more to move your legs. Also, you could experience a pain in your thighs and most importantly, you could possibly put strain on your back. If the height is too high, you’ll probably be off balance. In my personal opinion, its better to have the seat too high rather than too low. Some drummers, including myself, find that having the stool alittle higher allows for better foot technique. Also, remember to adjust the throne height with your pedals in place so that you will know how the height feels once your feet are on the pedals.
Once you’ve gotten your throne height to a comfortable height, it’s time to start setting up your drumset.
Find your “Comfort Zone”
First we’ll start with adjusting the snare drum height. The snare is the “central” drum of the drumset, so this is a logical place to start. Start off with just your bass drum in place and no other cymbals or drums in front of you.
Before you begin, it’s important to be relaxed. First, let your arms hang down at your side, and just relax. Take a deep breath, meditate, put on some Yanni..whatever you have to do to get comfortable. Now, with drumsticks in both your hands, close your eyes and just “air drum”. Pretend to play a basic hi-hat/snare beat. When you feel comfortable with this, stop whichever hand you use on the snare in mid air, right at the point where you’d be striking the drum. Open your eyes and look at where your stick is; this is your “Comfort Zone”. Now, if you have someone available to help you, keep your hand right where it is, have them more the snare drum into position, and raise it to the height and angle where it meets the drumstick. If you don’t have anyone available to help, try and memorize where you stopped the drumstick, move the snare into position, and adjust the height and angle.
Now, when you hit your snare, your hand will only be moving as far as it naturally wants to. No more, no less.
The rest of the kit
Setting up the rest of your kit is pretty explanatory. Continue to play “air drums” with your eyes closed, and right at the point where you would hit the drum/cymbal, stop your hand in mid air. Again, either have someone move the cymbal or drum into position for you, or memorize the spot and adjust it yourself. My advice is that after adjusting the snare, you should adjust the hihat, then the floor tom, rack toms, ride cymbal, and then the crashes/splashes/chinas etc..
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, depending on your height and how big your drums are (bass drum, tom depth etc..), you might not get the drums as low as your hands might want them. If this is the case, just try to get them as close as possible.
The whole purpose behind this concept is that, you’re adjusting your drums to the height and position that your hands naturally want to play in. This way, you’re not reaching too high or low, too close or too far to reach them. Remember, the trick to being able to play comfortably, is only to move as much as you HAVE to.
Hopefully this article helps you to set up your drums to their optimum comfort level, and as always, play to the best of your ability. Good luck!