Granted, the ideal drum kit set-up is highly personal. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few guidelines that you need to follow. To help you find a comfortable, practical and most of all style-matching set-up, I’m going to show you a couple of different takes on the standard drum kit configuration!

Drum Kit Configurations: Try These Variations!

Playing Comfort

You, or rather your body, is the most important aspect when it comes to setting up your kit. Find out what feels right for you and what doesn’t, find your limitations and notice when or where you’re forced to stretch too far or lift your arms too much. Make sure you’re comfortable so you’re able to focus solely on your sound and playing technique.

The Standard Drum Kit Configuration

The most conventional drum kit configuration is the one you’ll see in most music class rooms and includes a drum throne, a kick drum, a snare, two rack toms, a floor tom, a hi-hat, a crash and a ride.


Not every drummer uses every drum in a standard set-up, so there are quite a few variations possible. Here are some of the most popular ones:

1-Up / 1-Down

The 1-up, 1-down set-up looks a lot like a standard drum kit but doesn’t include the tom in the middle. As such, there’s more room above your kick for extra effects, effect cymbals or a second hi-hat and, if you move your ride cymbal to where the middle tom used to be like most drummers do, you get completely unrestricted access to it. The ‘missing’ tom also leaves a more compact, easier-to-transport kit, but on the other hand, you lose a bit of versatility. A popular set-up for jazz kits, the 1-up-1-down build was also used by multi-instrumentalist Dave Grohl during his time with Nirvana.

Drum Kit Configurations: Try These Variations!

1-Up / 2-Down

If you want the same number of shells plus an effect on top of your kick, the 1-up-2-down configuration is your best bet. This set-up not only provides enough room to position your ride cymbal above your kick, gives you the extra range of the added floor tom. Bear in mind that this build might sound a little too deep for your style or liking, and that it takes a bit of getting used to since the second floor tom sits relatively far away. Either way, don’t hesitate to give it a try! Even Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith plays a 1-up-2-down-configured kit, which even includes a set of octobans.

Drum Kit Configurations: Try These Variations!

1-Up / 2-Down Variation

If you’d rather not reach so far to get to your floor toms but insist on having two instead of one, you can always set one up to the left of your hi-hat (in the case of a right-handed kit). This way, whenever you’re not using it, the second floor tom can be used as a side-table of sorts for smaller percussive elements. The downside of having a floor tom on either side is that rolling fills are harder to play because your snare and your own legs will be slightly in the way. On the other hand, this does force you to be more creative when it comes to playing fills, allowing you to discover new sounds and techniques. Unfortunately, adding a second snare to a 1-up-2-down-configured kit is a little harder than adding a floor tom. If you’re curious about what it sounds and plays like, just check out drummer Rob Turner of jazz-trio Gogo Penguin. He often sets a singing bowl up on the batter head of his second floor tom – and to brilliant effect.

Drum Kit Configurations: Try These Variations!

Nothing But a Floor Tom

What you can also do is maximise minimalism and replace both rack toms with a multi-effect pad to create a setup that takes up a lot less space and offers more potential. The only requirement is a bit of knowledge about hybrid drumming, so if the configuration matches your style, you can use our dedicated electronic percussion pad buyer’s guide as a starting point. This minimal build was Periphery drummer Matt Halpern’s go-to for a long time, until he switched to a kit with four toms. More recently though, he’s been using a 1-up-2-down configuration.

Drum Kit Configurations: Try These Variations!

Left-Handed Configuration Or Not?

Since drums tend to be designed and built for right-handed players, being a left-handed drummer isn’t always easy. As such, it’s wise for any lefty to wonder whether or not a right-handed set-up might be better for them. While a left-handed configuration might feel more natural and is a little easier to play, drumming on a right-handed kit can save you a lot of time converting ‘standard’ kits – whether it’s the one you play in drum class or a kit you share with other drummers on stage. In fact, if you usually play with a double kick pedal, you’ll save even more time because you won’t have to literally mirror and re-configure right-handed kits all the time.

Are you already using a more unconventional drum kit configuration? Or do you have any burning questions? Let us know in the comments!

See Also

» How do I become a drummer?
» Acoustic vs. Electronic Drum Kits
» The History of the Drum Kit
» What are the Four Most Important Drum Rudiments?
» The Four Most Important Drum Rhythms
» What do you need for drumming?

» Acoustic Drum Kits
» Electronic Drum Kits
» Cymbals

No responses

No comments yet...

Leave a Reply