Height of toms vs back pain

stabmasterarson

Senior Member
Hey guys, I ran into a problem. I'm a pretty new drummer who experiments a lot with my setup. I have an 8 piece tama rockstar and a pearl icon curved rack for it.

I play death/thrash metal, and am constantly working on improving my double kick speed, endurance and coordination. The other day I set the metronome to various speeds from 120-200bpm and played for 90 minutes straight, just playing various beats that I use at the various speeds, non-stop. I usually jam with my band for 2 hours at a time, but with short breaks <1 min between songs, with no problems.

Anyway, the next day my lower back and the tendons that go along the backs of my legs were super tight and very painful. I had set up my kit fairly low with the toms pretty flat and close together for a long time. I tried to play that day and as soon as I bent over for a tom fill my back felt it big time.

I then re-arranged my kit so the toms are a lot higher and closer, so it looks set up more like an 80s metal drummer than it was before. Now my back stays straight no matter what I do, and my fills are easier to nail fast. I noticed my back didn't hurt anymore. I'm short btw, 5'6".

When I look at the way people set up their kits, usually the toms are flat, cymbals are flat etc. Doesn't playing like this wreck your back? I sit with my thighs slightly more than a 90 degree angle to the throne, with my legs bent so my toes stick out past my knees for better speed on the bass drums.

Maybe any other metal drummers got an opinion on this? Just curious.
 

GruntersDad

Administrator - Mayor
Staff member
Find something that doesn't hurt or you will follow the footsteps of Phil Collins and the rest of us old dudes that never paid attention to posture. I would suggest your back as sraight as possible and your knees a little lower than your thighs when sitting behind the drums. If you have to reach or contort to play you will pay for it in due time. In my opinion all of this flat stuff is a fad and to look cool. None of the great drummers that I can remember ever had flat toms.( cue for everyone to search the archives for one drummer from the 30's playing flat toms. GO.) They are slanted toward you so can reach them. Give it a try.
 

RollingStone000

Silver Member
In my opinion all of this flat stuff is a fad and to look cool. None of the great drummers that I can remember ever had flat toms.( cue for everyone to search the archives for one drummer from the 30's playing flat toms. GO.) They are slanted toward you so can reach them. Give it a try.
I wouldn't say the flat tom thing is entirely a fad. I'm 5'10" and and play on a small 5-piece kit (jazz sized toms) running 1 up and 2 down with everything pretty flat (aside from the rack tom which is slightly angled) and I feel extremely comfortable on it. As opposed to my 5'6" friend's 6-piece kit (4 up and 1 down), he's got his toms angled at about 45 degrees or so and damn does it feel awkward for me. Personally I like more of a vertical stroke than a horizontal strike, but that's just personal preference.

Although, I would have to agree with you to a certain degree. I remember about three years ago seeing a 1 up 2 down was rare, now every douchebag with a 5-piece thinks they need 2 deep floor toms. I've seen a lot of session guys on tv running their kits in this configuration for some reason, you know... because you need to deep resonant tones for Kelly Clarkson's stuff.

And I'm pretty sure I've seen early (circa 1966) footage of Keith Moon playing low/flat drums.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YdRs1gKpeGg

And then there's Ginger Baker. I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cqh54rSzheg
 

dairyairman

Platinum Member
speaking of flat toms, the most extreme kit of that type i've seen is the one jack white (of the white stripes) plays with his new group, "the dead weather". he's got three floor toms on the right. and it looks like at least one more on the left. everything is mounted super low and absolutely flat. it looks kind of cool, but sheesh! how many floor toms does one need? and i don't know what this would do to your back!

 

RollingStone000

Silver Member
speaking of flat toms, the most extreme kit of that type i've seen is the one jack white (of the white stripes) plays with his new group, "the dead weather". he's got three floor toms on the right. and it looks like at least one more on the left. everything is mounted super low and absolutely flat. it looks kind of cool, but sheesh! how many floor toms does one need? and i don't know what this would do to your back!

There's a youtube vid of him playing that kit on Letterman or something. He sits fairly straight, I'm more intrigued with how in the hell he gets around the kit, "Hang You Up From the Heavens" has a couple of pretty quick fills. Nice looking kit though.
 

dairyairman

Platinum Member
i do like the look of these kits, but i don't know how these guys play them. i like my toms close together so i can move quickly from one to another. have you seen aaron gillesie's kit (from underoath). the rack tom is about 20 feet from his floor toms. somehow he shreds this kit though.

 
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