Drummers! Build Yourself an Ergonomic Setup

Ask a few drummers how to set up a drum kit, and you’ll immediately notice a trend: none of them have the same answer. Any drummer’s setup is, of course, an incredibly personal thing simply because, as you grow as a musician, you quickly get to know what works for you and what really doesn’t. What all drummer’s will have in common, is the need for an ergonomic setup. In other words: a setup that allows you to get the most out of your kit without sacrificing too much in terms of efficiency, comfort and… well, your health. And that’s exactly why this blog exists: to serve as a short and neat guide to achieving an ergonomic setup.

What Does Ergonomic Mean?

Ergonomic: it’s a term you’ve almost definitely heard before but what does it mean exactly? When you look at a specific object (like your drum throne) through an ergonomic lens, you’re checking that it can support the average human being and help them do their work more efficiently, in greater comfort and in a way that’s generally more healthy. You’ve probably already encountered the phenomenon of the ergonomic office chair, so if ergonomics is important when you’re ruminating at your desk at work, it should be just as important when you’re sitting behind your drum kit – especially if that is where you work.

Tweaking Your Drumming Posture

One of the things that drummers really need to pay attention to is their playing posture. While you can make sure that your drum kit is set up ergonomically, if your posture is bad, then all of that effort won’t actually make much difference. Bad drumming posture can lead to problems like back, leg, shoulder, arm and wrist pain.

The first place to start when tackling bad posture is your drum throne. Make sure you’re not sitting on a model that’s too hard or too soft and from there, there are plenty of model variations that can help, like thrones with a saddle seat or a backrest – or both. Then, when sitting at your kit, make sure you’re sitting as straight and upright as possible, with your legs bent at a near 90-degree angle and your feet firmly planted on the floor. Of course, this last bit does depend a little on your pedal technique, but what matters is that your body is balanced and that you’re sitting comfortably – which will involve a bit of messing around and experimenting with the height of your drum throne and the distance between your kit and your throne. You need to be in a position where you can easily reach every bit of the kit without having to fully stretch your arms or your legs, but also not so close that you’re having to pull back.


Drummers! Build Yourself an Ergonomic Setup

An Ergonomic Drum Setup

The step-by-step instructions included below offer a guide to setting up your kit in a more ergonomic way and covers the kick drum, snare and toms. Since the kick is the foundation of any kit, that’s where we’ll start:

Setting Up the Bass Drum

Many drummers like to set up their bass drum directly in front of them and square to where they sit. While this can look cool on stage (it also affects the way the toms are positioned, but we’ll cover that later), it’s not the most correct way to set up the kick, because generally, you should be able to sit with your legs wide, with one knee pointing at your hi-hat, and the other knee pointing almost directly at the snare. So, if your kick pedal is somewhere in the middle, you’re pretty much forcing your leg into an awkward angle just so your foot can reach it.

Try sitting on your drum throne as you would any other stool and have a look at where your feet are naturally placed. Now, try positioning your bass drum so that it’s in line with your foot. This should immediately set up the optimum playing angle. Of course, if you’ve got a set of toms mounted on your bass drum, they’ll suddenly be at the wrong angle, but that’s easy to fix with special adjustable tom mounts or cymbal stand clamps. Also, you’re free to keep setting up your bass drum directly in front of you, it’s just advisable to adjust your posture to compensate.

Drummers! Build Yourself an Ergonomic Setup

Setting Up the Snare & Toms

Plenty of drummers see the toms as a big element of their kit. Whether you’re set up with one, two or ten, your toms need to be well positioned so that your elbows aren’t having to make too many weird movements to reach them and you don’t have to reach too far or pull back while you’re playing. Your toms also need to sit at an angle, and even if you’ve only been drumming for five minutes, you’ll notice if they’re set up too flat or too tilted. Basically, if you can’t easily slap on a new set of drumheads, then you know that it’s a sign that your toms are badly setup or your technique needs work (because it’s forced to you set up your toms badly). The same goes for possibly the most essential part of the kit: the snare drum.

Pay attention to both the angle and the height of your snare and find the position that makes techniques like rim shots and your other go-to techniques as easy and comfortable as possible. It’s also important to make sure that your snare is set up in line with the angle at which you hold your sticks.

Tip: Try setting up your snare and toms while paying attention to the ‘sweet spot’. This is the point in the batting motion of your stick where the most power lies. If your strike is losing a little power, then you’re just forward of the sweet spot, so the drum is probably sitting too close to you. If you’re losing strike power because your stick has to reach further than you’d like just to make contact, then the drum is too far away. 

Drummers! Build Yourself an Ergonomic Setup

Setting Up the Hi-Hat & Cymbals

Last but not least, we come to your hi-hat and cymbals. This is the bit you really need to keep an eye on, because, a bad cymbal setup can not only lead to some of the most painful playing-related injuries in the business, but can also be painful for your wallet. When it comes to your cymbals, it’s absolutely essential that you’re striking a good balance between setup and technique. So rather than hitting them with hard, full-on strikes, the best cymbal technique is more of a swipe. As such, it’s actually better if your cymbals are positioned at a slight angle to you and they’re not secured too tightly so they have room to move. If they are screwed on too tightly, the vibrations that happen every time you strike them can’t dissipate fully, which is exactly what leads to cracks.

For more tips on how to make sure your cymbals will live longer and the playing technique involved, see our cymbal blog on the subject.

When it comes to the hi-hat, pretty much the same rules apply. The only difference is the pedal, which needs to be positioned with the same approach as described for the kick pedal: so set it up in line with your foot so you’re assured of the most comfortable angle.

Drummers! Build Yourself an Ergonomic Setup

Find Your Own Drum Style

This might be a hefty chunk of information to take on board, but I really hope it’s been helpful. As a drummer, there’s just one last thing I want to emphasise: people can write an entire book about what an ergonomic drum kit looks like, but ultimately, you’re the one who’s responsible for the level of comfort you’re experiencing behind your kit. If you know your setup is ergonomic but some detail or other works better for you the other way around, then change it. Basically, comfort is king.


If after all of this talk of drum kit setups you want to try something completely different, then see our blog about Drum Kit Configurations to find out what’s possible.

What drum setup gives you the most comfort? Let us know in the comments!

See Also

» Saddle-Seat Drum Thrones
» Drum Thrones with a Backrest
» Tom Mounts & Stands
» Drum Clamps & Adapters
» All Drum Stands & Mounts
» All Drums, Percussion & Accessories

» The Snare Drum: 7 Techniques for Beginners
» Drumming in Irregular Time Signatures: Examples & Exercises
» How to Make Your Cymbals Last Longer
» Independence Exercises for Drummers
» Drum Kit Configurations: Try These Variations!
» Reggae Drumming – Rhythms, Sounds and Cues
» How to Hold Your Drumsticks

No responses

No comments yet...

Leave a Reply