As a drummer who performs in the Philippines, one of the blessings is that most venues have a drum set so I don’t have to bring all my gear everywhere. However, that same blessing can sometimes be the biggest obstacle to a great set. Instead of drum thrones, we are often faced with choices of how many ‘Monobloc’ chairs to stack, layers of tape and tissue or cardboard on the drumheads to make them last longer, and hardware that can’t be adjusted due to poor condition. The fact is sometimes we just have to deal with it. However, that doesn’t change the truth that the better you know yourself the better you can set yourself up for success.
I’m often surprised that drummers taller or shorter than myself don’t adjust gear positions or heights when playing after me or after others. It’s not like we are playing the piano with a set amount of keys and predictable spacing. Things are completely adjustable and there in lies the beauty – I can adjust the drums to fit me.
How High Should I Sit?
Well, according to my chiropractor, throne height should allow my thighs to angle downward to my knees. So you sit a little higher than a position that has your thighs parallel to the ground when playing. This may vary slightly depending on whether you use heel up or heel down technique.
Where Should I Place My Pedals?
I personally have found the most comfortable position for myself (and most of my students) is to have the ankle extended past the knee by around one inch. Though I have seen drummers play with their foot behind their knee, it’s really hard to execute anything in that position (try it now move your foot back and try to tap your foot).
So many things we do come down to speed, and again the idea that being comfortable should lead to a better performance. With that said, I don’t care what my setup looks like as long as I am comfortable. I generally keep my cymbals lower so they are easier to reach and I don’t have to extend my arms far to reach anything.
You want your pedal tension tight enough to rebound of the head, but not so tight to make it hard to play. I’ve heard of some methods that purposefully make the tension tight to build muscles. I have always been more of a ‘practice the way you play’ type person. If I want to develop volume then I’ll practice with that in mind. If I want to develop endurance then I’ll set up exercises that call for long periods of repetitions.
The biggest concern with the snare is getting it to a position that you can comfortably play it and consistently gets a clean rim shot. With that in mind, don’t overlook getting a clean rim shot from the right hand. You can check how you do with this by working on some simple hand-to-hand 16th note grooves on the hi-hat with 2 and 4 on the snare.
There is no right or wrong answer. You can look and find drummers getting great results using all kinds of methods. There are better methods, and some leading drummers will even say don’t copy me, this is probably not the best way to do this. Any system can be developed and honed to a pretty good level. The real question is, consider what is best for you and what is most comfortable for you. Know yourself so you can tweak your setup and enable yourself to be as efficient and consistent with your playing and practicing as you can be. If you don’t know why you do something, spend the time to figure out why you do it or if there is a better way for you to do it. Simple changes to the basics or fundamentals of what you do can lead to big changes in your playing. I always tell my students anything is ok as long as you can defend why you do it.