Why is your kit set up like that?

ChrisCirino

Senior Member
I looking for some feedback as to the how's and why's of individual drum setups. I'm not looking for why you chose the drums, cymbals and hardware you play, but why you have it setup in a particular manner. I'll give a few examples of setups I can't quite figure out: I'll refer to these kits by their most prominent celebrity user i.e. The Barker or the The Ulrich. Now, let me say that I am by know means demeaning or insulting these drummers, I have specifically chosen drummers that I both respect and admire but can't quite rap my head around the ergonomics of their kits.

The Barker= This set-up is very common with your younger players, I see it all the time with guys like Aaron Gillespie or anyone on the Vans Tour. It consists of a low flat rack tom, 1 or 2 floor toms and huge flat cymbals. Why would you want your rack and FT three feet apart and why would you want our ride where you couldn't hit the bow or bell?

The Ulrich= This set-up is very common with your Metalheads (of which I am one) like Tim Yeung or Chris Adler. It consists of double bass drums, large multi-toms, and the hi-hat a foot away from the BD pedal (yes I know Lars has changed his set in recent years but many others haven't). Why would you want your hi-hat so far away and why would you want to have your toms at such an extreme angle?

The Peart= I know it's change every tour, but I'm looking for some feedback as to why there are so many clones (just check youtube) playing all of the different variations. Does one really need to play his exact set-up to recreate his playing?

As for me, I have arrived at my current set-up after over 30 years of tinkering. To me it's small and simple and is dictated by what I need to play and how much I am willing to schlep around. I have often received comments from other drummers about how compact and easy to play my kit is. Conversely, I have sat behind other players kits and couldn't make heads or tails to what was gong on back there.

Those are just a few things to stir the discussion. I am truly looking for some honest insight, not for people to tell me what a dick I am because I can't figure out Tim Yeung's kit.
 

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GruntersDad

Administrator - Mayor
Staff member
I'll start by saying that my drums are set up to be comfortable and easy to navigate. I think everyone should set their drums up for the same two reasons, not like mine, but
to their own comfort. To set them up like somebody else, to either look cool, or because you play a particular type of music I find ridiculous. With the addition of a double pedal and the skills I could play any type of music with my current setup. I don't understand a metal setup, or a rock set up, etc. Unless you are just trying to emulate someone else that plays that genre of music. When I see Travis Barker have to stand up to play certain fills because he can't reach his flat rack tom I just have to laugh. Set your kit up for you. Your height, you leg length, your arm length, your posture all have a bearing on that but certainly not the style of music, other than the Look Cool effect.
 

Naigewron

Platinum Member
I set up for comfort and ease of access. My needs and tastes have changed over time though, so heights, angles, sizes and number of drums and cymbals have changed along with them.

I currently run a 4-piece setup (12" and 16" toms), with the rack tom at a fairly low angle, but not completely flat (although it would probably be more or less flat if I could get it lower). I keep my rack tom directly in front of my snare for maximum ease of access with both my left and right hands, and to avoid having it too far away from my floor tom. My cymbals are fairly flat, but low enough so that I can easily reach any part of them, and strike them edge-on without destroying either the cymbal or the stick. My snare is flat and about level with (or just above) my thighs when my heel is in the playing position (I play heel-up). I can't comfortably play a snare drum that's angled towards me, it just feels awkward and I can't get a proper bounce from it.

My previous setup was a lot like yours (see some pictures by clicking here), although I could never dream of having my cymbals that flat at that height. I'd break my sticks and crack my cymbals very quickly if I did.

I don't understand a metal setup, or a rock set up, etc.
Well, I can understand where the setups are coming from, since the different genres have different needs (stereotypically):

Rock: Big drums for a powerful sound, and big cymbals for wash and power. This often means a single rack tom and two floor toms, simply because placing more than one drum up front would take up too much space.

Metal: More toms for big rolls, and often smaller toms for more definition, since speeds are often higher, and every hit needs to be defined. Often matched with smaller cymbals, for the same reason.

The Barker= This set-up is very common with your younger players, I see it all the time with guys like Aaron Gillespie or anyone on the Vans Tour. It consists of a low flat rack tom, 1 or 2 floor toms and huge flat cymbals. Why would you want your rack and FT three feet apart and why would you want our ride where you couldn't hit the bow or bell?
There's no question that this setup has become very trendy, and a lot of young players probably adapt their playing style to the setup instead of the other way around. However, for some players it might actually be a comfortable setup. The low, flat rack tom is actually pretty comfortable to play, even for me, and if you don't play tom rolls much, having the rack tom far to the left of the kick (and thus far away from the floor tom) might not be a problem. As for the ride cymbal, the styles of music where this setup tends to be used really only uses the ride as a huge crash anyway, so access to the bow and bell are not needed. It's all about full blast, full volume.

Like I said though, there's little doubt that many of the younger players who use these setups are simply imitating their idols. Don't worry about them, they will learn soon enough, as we all do. I'm sure we've all tried to emulate our heroes at some point in our life (in drumming or some other field) without really considering that what's right for them isn't necessarily right for everyone.

The Ulrich= This set-up is very common with your Metalheads (of which I am one) like Tim Yeung or Chris Adler. It consists of double bass drums, large multi-toms, and the hi-hat a foot away from the BD pedal (yes I know Lars has changed his set in recent years but many others haven't). Why would you want your hi-hat so far away and why would you want to have your toms at such an extreme angle?
Although there are a couple of pro drummers who still use the extremely steep toms, they are few and very far between. I see this as more of a beginner's thing, where the player has yet to notice many of the subtle things about setting up drums, such as keeping the pedals at equal distances from the throne, having the toms at sensible angles, having the cymbals at logical positions, etc. As long as they can hit it, it's fine.

I remember this from my early days too... It's not so much that I didn't know how to set up my drums, it was more that it didn't even occur to me that there were "right" and "wrong" ways to do it, and that even though I could hit everything just fine the way it was, it might still not be the best way to set it up. When I got serious about my drumming, I can remember having epiphany after epiphany concerning my setup over the space of a couple of years. Stuff that had never occured to me before, like the angle of my pedals in relation to the throne, how far away from me the snare drum should be for allowing easy rimshot, but without pushing my rack toms too far away in the process. Tom angles, hihat positioning and height, cymbal positions, angles and heights... The list is endless.

In general, as drummers get more experience, they will arrive at a setup that's comfortable enough for them. Yes, maybe they'll sacrifice some ergonomics for look, but I'm willing to bet that prticular balance is not something they've arrived at by accident.

When I see Travis Barker have to stand up to play certain fills because he can't reach his flat rack tom I just have to laugh.
He definitely stands up for show, not because he has to.
 
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TheArchitect

Guest
1st rule of thumb is compactness/ergonomics. I want the drums placed as compact as possible. This generally means as low and flat as possible with separating toms any more than necessary.

2nd rule of thumb is to have the cymbals just far enough above the toms to allow mic placement and angled to allow my natural stroke to shoulder of the stick on the bow of the crash cymbal or the edge as needed. High and flat just means broken cymbals.

Those rules make my 7pc somewhat similar in layout to what Steve Smith uses. The 6pc is roughly similar to Weckls setup. The bop kit like a standard 4pc. There was no intenet to emulate those players setups, just how they ended up. Maybe they setup their kits with similar concepts in mind. I can only hope I am that smart.
 

mrchattr

Gold Member
When I see Travis Barker have to stand up to play certain fills because he can't reach his flat rack tom I just have to laugh. Set your kit up for you. Your height, you leg length, your arm length, your posture all have a bearing on that but certainly not the style of music, other than the Look Cool effect.
I stood about three feet from Travis Barker, in a wheelchair, with a broken right foot, playing the bass drum with his left foot on a slave pedal, as he played a long drum solo. I can assure you he can hit everything just fine, and only stands up for showmanship purposes, because at that time he couldn't stand up, and it was easily one of the best, most complex drum solos I have ever witnessed live, invoking a bunch of different styles (I actually dislike most punk music, but went to the show with a friend who had a spare ticket, and hated almost every part of it except for said solo).

The idea behind flat toms isn't to look cool, but it's based on the principle that if you keep your snare and hats flat, you should keep everything flat, so that you just move your arms to the right height and then play using the exact arm position. I don't agree with it, for me, but it is a valid line of thought.
 

diosdude

Silver Member
I really haven't seen anybody else take the exact same approach as me. My main studio kit is a monster 10 pc kit, double kicks, snare, 5 up, 2 down. I arrange my pieces to be within reach at all times, with the emphasis on ergonomics. I start by sitting on the throne and then dropping both feet to a comfortable position on the floor. That dictates the position and location of the pedals and thereby the bass drums. Next, i position the snare between my legs in a manner similar to a marching tom. Everything else gets "stacked" in a "layer" effect from 9 o'clock to 3 o'clock:

Layer 1) Snare and floor toms. I have my 18" F/T immediately on my 9 o'clock, left, adjacent to my left hip. The 16" F/T is on my opposite side, 3 o'clock, adjacent to my right hip. The height of the drum heads are only an inch or so higher than my lap, with the floor toms basically level, but with the snare at a slight angle pointed toward me. This makes for great flam work between each floor tom and any other drum, especially the snare.

Layer 2) rack toms. Arranged from L to right: 8,10,12,13,14 in a semicircle, all angled toward the center of the throne (i play upright, 95% of the time, my spine is usally an extension of the the center column of the throne, thereby, any time i twist my shoulders, left or right, i'm in perfect alignment, angle wise, to any rack tom or cymbal that i hit.

Layer 3) cable Hi Hat and Ride. Arranged over the toms but not as to impede directly over them.

Layer 4) effect cymbals. Arranged L to R in a semicircle just above the rack toms, mostly splashes, a china splash and a zil-bel.

Layer 5) crash cymbals. Arranged L to R in a semicircle above the splash cymbals.

Layer 6) secondary crash cymbal layer. The highest layer of cymbals, seemingly impossible to reach while seated, but i have really long arms. Strictly for showing off and taking ridiculous pics.



Here's my "real" set up:



My "gig" kit is similar in set up, with a single layer of cymbals incorporating all types:

 

mrchattr

Gold Member
By the way, in case anyone cares, the way to figure out your set up that makes the most sense to me is:

1. Place your feet on the floor where they are comfortable and nautral. Pedals go there.
2. Place snare between your legs, at a slight angle down. The angle is determined by where you can comfortably hit all parts of the drum, incluidng rim shots and clicks, without changing your arm position.
3. Hold your arms in the comfortable playing position. Lock your wrists, and just move your arms up at the shoulders. This will show you where your rack tom above the snare should be (because the ideal is to not have to move your wrists, or elbows more than the natural extension as you move your arms). This will set the height and angle of your rack tom...if you have additional racks, they should all be based on this one, with the same angle and all the centers of the drums in a straight line.
4. The floor tom should be angled towards you, at the same angle as your snare drum, so that all you have to do is move your torso to play it. Again, if you have additional toms, you should use the same angle as established from this one.

By using this technique, you never have to move your wrists or arms unnecssarily to hit your drums. I have used it for everything from a 4-piece set-up to a huge monster kit.
 

ChrisCirino

Senior Member
My own kit is considerably smaller than it appears in the photos, the sizes of the drums and cymbals is specifically what I'm referring to. I've gotten slagged on here before about my cymbals, but the truth is that because of the diminutive size of the kit and my own 6 feet in height, I tower over everything. I would love to play a simple 4 piece but the music I play (Priest, Maiden, Metallica, Megadeth etc.) requires multi-tom fills and three toms is the least I can get by with. I've ditched any and all percussion for the Roland SPD-20, which also allows me to trigger my bass drum and aux pad on my right. I use an x-hat, because it's more comfortable for intricate double bass work. I have tweaked this set-up many times throughout the years but always wind up with basically the same setup. I often play in clubs where the kit is unmiced (except the bass drum) and found that the smaller drums and cymbals seem to cut through the wall of guitars better than bigger ones ever did. I've recently taken to triggering my bass drum to add a little clarity to my double bass work live. I blend it with my internal mic and have gotten pretty good results. I have a couple of other kits but generally they follow this basic design.

My current kit: (Pics on first post)

DW Collector’s Series Hybrid (Finish Ply Silver Sparkle)
7 X 8, VLT Tom (Batter: Clear Emperor, Resonant: Clear Ambassador)
7 X 10, VLT Tom (Batter: Clear Emperor, Resonant: Clear Ambassador)
10 X 14, X-Shell Floor Tom (Batter: Clear Emperor, Resonant: Clear Ambassador)
14 X 20, X-Shell Bass Drum (Batter: Powerstroke 3, Resonant: Coated Ambassador, Vented, Small DW Pillow, Internally Mounted May EA: ATM-25)
5.5 X 13 Collector’s Series Aluminum Snare Drum (Batter: Coated CS, Resonant: Ambassador snare-side)

Zildjian A & K Custom
8” A Custom Splash
12” & 13” A Custom Mastersound hi-hats
16” A Custom EFX
17” A Custom Crash
17” K Custom Hybrid Crash
17” K Custom Hybrid China
20” A Custom Projection Ride

Hardware
DW 9000 Double Bass Pedal
DW 9000 hi-hat stand
DW/PDP Rack

Electronics
Roland SPD-20
Pintech NR-6 Nimrod Tubular Pad
ddrum Pro Acoustic Bass Drum Trigger

And some pics of my other kits:
 

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eddiehimself

Platinum Member
My kit is the way it is partly because i had to really. When i bought my kit it had a 14" tom which is impossible to set up on the standard 5pc way. When i got used to the idea of having 2 down after trying 2 to the left i realised that it felt very nice to play. I'm looking for a 10" tom to add to it.
 

TTNW

Pioneer Member
but why you have it setup in a particular manner.
My main reasoning behind all of my setups is that I no longer like to play my ride in a high to the right position. I played for years with two racks mounted over the bass drum and that put my ride to the right of my second rack tom or high above the second rack. I started disliking the reach involved.

The photo below shows my typical 4 piece set up with the ride in the traditional 2nd rack position and at pretty much the same height as my rack tom.



Then, if I expand on my kit, I play with a set up very similar to yours. I add a rack to the left and a floor to the right. Variations on the four piece. For the most part I keep everything pretty close together. I am 6'4" 240 so sometimes smaller players have commented when getting behind my kit that it's all a little higher than they're used to.

When I play with just two crashes I will move them up and down based on the kind of music I play. For more flamboyant playing in rock I put my crashes a few inches higher and I don't feel like I arrive to early when I started putting more of my body into it.

When I want to keep a low profile and keep a more "fast hands" feel then everything stays sort of low.

 
A

audiotech

Guest
I set up all my kits about the same way. I always have my snare angled slightly away from me, just something my dad taught me many, many years ago, but it does enable me to play every inch of that snare comfortably. Three of my kits are seven pieces and the forth is a five piece. The seven piece kits, when I use all the drums, gets set up identically, including the cymbal packages. I can go from kit to kit and play them with my eyes closed. Nothing is out of reach where I have to stretch to reach something, although I do have to swivel a bit to reach my 16" floor toms if playing them two fist-ed. Sometimes my cymbals get switched around a bit depending on where and what I'm playing.

Here's my set-ups. After getting used to setting them up, it takes very little time to get everything in place and adjusted. If I mic my own kit, which is usually the norm, it takes just a bit longer.









Dennis
 

ChrisCirino

Senior Member
Thanks for all the cool feedback guys, just one more question though. As a sometime working drummer, I have continuously striven to streamline my set to the minimum pieces needed to faithfully recreate the music I am playing. I would love to play a huge double bass, multi-tom kit but find it impractical to cart around to practice and gigs. I can get by with a double pedal and less toms and yes it is a compromise. As for everything else, I figure if it's something I'm only gonna hit once or twice then I don't need it.

So now to my point (which I'm sure will raise the ire of some): I see many sets on this website that are seemingly just a collection of random percussion and drum pieces displayed more for their WOW factor then their practicality. I can only assume that most of these never leave the basement, living room or shed. I'm not looking for the big set/little set argument, play would floats your boat. I'm more interested in the mechanics of one's setup. I am curious about why so many drummers have such inefficient and non-economical use of their own equipment. I read posts on this site all the time where guys will word parse over the best heads, cymbals, drums and hardware only to look at their kits and wonder why do you need three separate boom stands to hold up three splashes, or why aren't you using the cymbal arm attachments in the vertical sections of your rack.
 
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Naigewron

Platinum Member
You're definitely right about that, some kits are obviously not being moved much. Nothing wrong with being a bedroom/garage/basement drummer though, or for that matter having one kit permanently set up and playing another kit live.

My kit is all about speedy setup. All my stands (except my ride stand) are straight stands, so I can just pull them out of the hardware bag, extend them a little and they're good to go. This also keeps them close to my kit to avoid taking up a lot of floor space. I'm currently designing and planning a setup for my sampler and in-ear monitor setup to be placed to the left of my hihat. I'm leaning towards using one of my cymbal stands with two small percussion table adapters, so we'll see what I end up with there :)
 

TTNW

Pioneer Member
... I have continuously striven to streamline my set to the minimum pieces needed to faithfully recreate the music I am playing.. .. I am curious about why so many drummers have such inefficient and non-economical use of their own equipment.
I notice with other forum members kits and usually never comment because you never know whether it's the woodshed kit or their shlep around kit.

Aaah, had I chosen to be a writer and a flute player, my load would be so small. Instead, I'm a photographer and a drummer. So, it's an endless haul of lightstands, tripods and cases. With drums it's just the same. Cases, stands, bags, trips and trips and trips to and from the van. Oh well.

I bought a rolling stand bag from RoadRunner that is long enough so I don't have to break down my cymbal stands. I only need 3 DW9000 series stands plus my hihat stand to run hats, two crashes and a china flown on an arm off the right from one crash stand and another splashamabob off my hihat on a cymbal arm. The rack tom is STM on an arm of the left side cymbal stand and I don't have any extra hardware.

Instead of big Roc n Soc, I take a smaller tripod based throne and the cushion fits in the stand bag. So for gigging, I've got 4 drum cases, pedal case, cymbal bag and the large rolling stand bag (I fit my stick bag, fix it bag and audio junk bag in this bag).

It's beautifully bare bones until I have to bring my own stands and mics. Then it's back to a dozen trips to and from the van.

There's a good photo of this streamlined rig at the bottom of the webpage available from my sig link.
 

nickg

Silver Member
that's the great thing about being a drummer....so much of it is SO personal. a piano is a piano, a sax is a sax, a violin is a violin....not a whole lot you can do to make it YOUR setup. but you'll NEVER find two drummers setup up the exact same way whether it is your kit setup, cymbals, heads, hardware, etc.!!!
 

theindian

Senior Member
OP- My kit is setup almost identical to yours, 2 to the left, 1 down, with one more crash in the center. I tried several different setups before and this one seemed the most natural, mainly because of easy access to the ride and I used to use 2 bass drums. I was worried at first about the distance between the rack and the floor tom but with a few adjustments its almost as close as a regular 5 piece set.
I'll try to post some pics later.
 

MadJazz

Silver Member
As for me, I have arrived at my current set-up after over 30 years of tinkering. To me it's small and simple and is dictated by what I need to play and how much I am willing to schlep around. I have often received comments from other drummers about how compact and easy to play my kit is. Conversely, I have sat behind other players kits and couldn't make heads or tails to what was gong on back there.
Looking at the number of cymbals and SPDS, your kit isn't small at all. I think small is a cocktail set and medium is a 4-5 pc with a similar number of cymbals. 4 pc bop sets have been around for ages and shops most often sell drums as 5 pc packs. A standard cymbal pack contains hats, ride and a crash. Because of that, I consider 4-5 pc the norm.

To answer your question, the goal of a proper setup is to create comfort. I keep that premise in mind when setting up drums.

I build my setup around the fundamentals being bass, snare, hats and ride. These need to be positioned in a comfortable spot and I am not willing to compromise on their position. I did in the past by adding extra gear and moving the basic four. It resulted in playing worse. The ride always goes above the kick. I cannot imagine playing with a swinging motion if the ride is positioned anywhere else. Obviously, this limits the options for other gear. Therefore, I usually add only two toms, two crashes and a cowbell. I can fit in a timbales, a db peddal, extra cymbals, an exra floor tom... But what matters are the basic four, the rest is optional.

On the same topic, I think sizes play a role in your setup. Smaller drums are easier to reach, have a clearer tone and less overtones, are easier to control... which results in playing better. Therefore I prefer 20" kick, 13" snare, 10 & 14" toms. All in deep size for a full bodied tone.
Cymbals don't necessarily need to be smaller but I prefer lighter cymbals. A lighter model is more musical, less clangy, has more dynamic range and is more pleasant to play. I do prefer 13" hats over 14" with a nice contrast between top & bottom. Too large cymbals overshadow the kit and too small have only one voice.

On a final note, sticks also add to comfort. I experienced that lighter sticks (not smaller) have a more airy and more gentle feel. They're less noisy and more musical imo.

To view my setup, check the sig.
 

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ChrisCirino

Senior Member
Guys, thanks again for the feedback. MadJazz: I guess I should clarify that I believe my kit is "small and simple" for the type of music I play, which is classic metal. I love the aesthetics and playability of a 4 piece, but it's hard to accurately recreate "The Trooper" with only two toms or "Raining Blood" without a double pedal. My kit isn't much bigger than your own, with all of the core sizes being the same. It can be lifted onto a stage in one fell swoop and fits in the back of my sedan when packed up into one cymbal bag, three soft bags and a 36X24 hardware case.
 

TTNW

Pioneer Member
Guys, thanks again for the feedback. MadJazz: I guess I should clarify that I believe my kit is "small and simple" for the type of music I play, which is classic metal. I love the aesthetics and playability of a 4 piece, but it's hard to accurately recreate "The Trooper" with only two toms or "Raining Blood" without a double pedal. My kit isn't much bigger than your own, with all of the core sizes being the same. It can be lifted onto a stage in one fell swoop and fits in the back of my sedan when packed up into one cymbal bag, three soft bags and a 36X24 hardware case.
er true but what about that rack and all the gizmos. Even your streamlined kit involves a few extra "be right backs" no?

BTW, I watched your outdoor backyard gig songs on YouTube and I really like your comfortable confidant style. Great playing. It's really obvious that you've been playing for a long time and I found your grooves and licks very advanced. Enjoyed it. Props to you.
 

ChrisCirino

Senior Member
TTNW: Thanks for the kind words. I guess "small and simple" is fairly subjective. I just got the SPD-20 and have been experimenting with it lately, certainly not a must have. The rack however is a great timesaver, especially when playing in multi-band shows where you've got to get your stuff on and off the stage as quickly as possible. I've cut all the pieces down to less than 36" (the long front piece, joins with a coupler) so that it will fit in a small hardware bag. I guess it's all a compromise, unrestrained I would probably play a prototypical Metal kit (double bass, three up, two down, many more cymbals) like Portnoy's main set-up.

For anyone else interested in seeing my kit in action, I just posted some more drumcentric footage on youtube.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VBK5_NgB1lI&feature=channel

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7yXfsfWkDqE&feature=channel

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H4-5Fsv6r_U&feature=channel
 
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