Conventional wisdom versus the actual snare height and seating position of top drummers

back2drumming

Junior Member
I was searching the forum about snare height and seating position (knees in relation to hips) because I felt that maybe I've sat too high all along. The conventional wisdom on the forum is the snare should be around the navel or so and the knees should be parallel with the hips.

So I decided to look on YouTube to see how some of the top (or at least well-known) drummers play. Here are screenshots from some of the videos. If you search the drummers' names, these videos will be appear in the first page of results:

Tony Royster: knees below the hips. Snare well below the navel.


Questlow: knees below the hips. Snare well below the navel.


Benny Greb: knees parallel with hips. Snare well below the navel.


Neil Peart: knees parallel with hips. Snare up high.


Steve Jordan: tough to find vids of him from the side but from what I've seen, his knees are below the hips and the snare is below the navel.


Jo Jo Mayer: knees below the hips. Snare higher but does seem to be below the navel.


Mike Johnston: knees parallel with hips. Snare below the navel.


Dave Weckl: knees parallel with hips mostly in vids I've seen but can be lower. Snare below the navel.


Steve Gadd: knees are mostly parallel in vids I've seen of him. Snare is probably higher than his navel and tilted.


Luke Holland (representing the younger YouTube celebrity drum crowd; plus I personally think he is a terrific drummer): knees parallel. Snare well below the navel.


Seems to me that most drummers play with the snare at about crotch level rather than navel level. The knee/hip thing varies but it's probably a good thing back-pain-wise to keep them parallel if you can.
 

Morrisman

Platinum Member
You've really put some work into this - a great resource. I also wonder how the 70's or 80's would compare. And of course there are a few drummers these days with all the drums at knee height, tilted away. I'd love to hear opinions from a spine specialist.
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
I've never perceived it to be conventional wisdom that the snare should be navel height. Never heard that before. The principle is that, when striking the drum, the stick should be at a flat angle, and your wrist should not have to be flexed one way or the other. Often that means the drum will be around belt buckle height, but drum height in relation to a spot on your body is purely incidental. Most people also want the drum to clear the tops of their thighs when playing.
 

Wave Deckel

Gold Member
I'd say, the bottom line is: There is no right and wrong as long as you feel good at the drumset and are able to reach and play everything the way you should. Peter Erskine sat very low at his set during the 1970s. Keith Moon was sitting way up. Ringo, too. Manu Katchè's butt is almost touching the floor. Everyone has a different body, different proportions, different ways to drumming.

I am one of those who have the snare at buckle-height while sitting slightly higher. I tried to put the snare higher once - but then, I always made "accidental rimshots", so I went back to the lower positioning.
 

buddhadrummer

Junior Member
True that each drummer finds what works best for them. But there are some basic fundamental laws of physics at play.

Gaining an understanding of basic physics of what happens between the abdomen, hips, thighs, calves ankles and feet can help you find what's best for you.

Starting at a neutral place can get you closer to that understanding. With the hips just slightly higher than the knee (throne height), you get more leverage and use the larger muscle groups in the upper leg, the psoas muscle and the abdomen more easily.

With the knee just behind the ankle, calve angled forward just a bit (throne distance from the pedal), this places the foot comfortably on the angled foot-board at about a 90 degree angle to the lower leg. Learning to let go of tension in all areas is really what's key, and these positions can help initiate that.
 

Hollywood Jim

Platinum Member
Thank you backtodrumming, this could turn out to be an interesting conversation.

After returning to drumming I have had to reevaluate all of these issues. Also new hardware and drums has forced me to rethink my setup and my body position.

One interesting point. looking at the position of Benny Greb: "knees parallel with hips. Snare well below the navel."
I don't see how he can hit a rim shot with his right hand without smacking his leg.


.
 

tcspears

Gold Member
I hadn't realized that there were conventional standards for this sort of thing.


I think it would be hard to really standardize, as different players are going to setup to meet their own unique needs. Trad grip players, for example, are going to put the snare in a much different place than matched grip players.

If I'm playing a lot of double bass lines, I would probably sit lower so i could get more power in my legs, vs a jazz drummer who doesn't need a powerful bass drum sound, might sit higher up so they can focus on cymbal and snare work.

For me, my knees dip a little down and my snare is probably just below my belt buckle.
 

opentune

Platinum Member
When I started drumming I also read of "snare at navel height" then see almost no professional do it. I think John Bonham, Clive Bunker, BJ Wilson are maybe the few pros I've seen pics of who were near navel height for snare.
I totally agree about the physics arguments, but every body is different and do what works best for your body.

'conventional wisdom' is always such a target.
 

WallyY

Platinum Member
There isn't any standard way to sit.

The force couple relationship between the pelvis and the major muscles connected to it are the defining factor of what makes someone comfortable at a seat height.

Proximal stability promotes distal mobility in functional movement patterns, so whatever height makes someone most stable would be how they might naturally choose to sit to make their arms and legs most mobile.
 

mikyok

Platinum Member
As long as your snare isn't below your thighs when you're playing and you can play rim shots you're ok.

Seen too many guys that hit their thighs on a snare hit...ouchy

Comfort is the big thing here.
 

BillBachman

Gold Member
I definitely wouldn't recommend naval height. The only one you found doing that was Neal Peart. I think when Freddie Gruber got Neal to play traditional grip the snare height rose to facilitate the left hand (same reason people tilt the snare to the side/away from them--to make it as if the drum were on a sling which is the only way traditional grip makes sense and the only reason it exists). Raising the drum that high helps the traditional grip left, but with a relatively flat drum is bad for the right.

Then he went back to matched and didn't lower the snare/toms. I think he compensated for the too high height by hunching up his shoulders and hitting the drums with a bit of a doggy-paw (with the wrist below its neutral range of motion). Both lead to injury. If you lowered his drums about 4" and/or angled them towards him so that he could hit them with relaxed shoulders and no doggy-paw, I'm convinced he'd be shredding at full power to this day with no pain.

I grew up on all of those 70's/80's Rush albums and love his playing on them. He's my 2nd biggest influence behind Phil Collins (Genesis came first when I was in 7th grade.)
 

Demford

Member
Interesting you posed this question now. Just yesterday I texted my brother from my practice spot to say, sometimes when I go to practice I spend most of my time raising, then lowering, my snare, my seat, my floor tom.....
 
F

funkutron

Guest
As low as you can have it without whacking your legs when you play.....and so you can execute a rim shot when necessary....
 
G

Ghostnote

Guest
John Bonham, Neil Peart, and Alex Van Halen are the only guys I can think of who play(ed) a snare drum anywhere near navel height.

I just raised my snare a small bit to try it out for a while after I noticed that my practice pad was set up higher than my snare. Right now I have it set up pretty much right in between my belt buckle and my navel.
 

bud7h4

Silver Member
My theory on Royster Jr's throne height is that he was already a great drummer before he was in his teens. As he grew taller he kept his seat height consistent with what he was accustomed to as a child.

Just a theory.

Another unconventionally positioned drummer is Scott Travis. He sits so low his knees are elevated yet plays double bass so incredibly well.
His snare is very low, just below the top of his knees.

 

Stroman

Platinum Member
You know, I think the navel-height thing probably came about because most people's elbows are at about navel height. So, you can have your elbows bent at 90 degrees and not have to reach up or down.

I don't think most people are real strict about any of this stuff, though.

The odd thing to me is, I see drummers with snares so low they can't possibly play rimshots without hitting their thighs. And they look all stoop-shouldered. It just doesn't look comfortable to me. It makes no sense in my mind. Other than that, I say play whatever is comfy.
 

Stroman

Platinum Member
You know, I think the navel-height thing probably came about because most people's elbows are at about navel height. So, you can have your elbows bent at 90 degrees and not have to reach up or down.

I don't think most people are real strict about any of this stuff, though.

The odd thing to me is, I see drummers with snares so low they can't possibly play rimshots without hitting their thighs. And they look all stoop-shouldered. It just doesn't look comfortable to me. It makes no sense in my mind. Other than that, I say play whatever is comfy.
 

mikyok

Platinum Member
I definitely wouldn't recommend naval height. The only one you found doing that was Neal Peart. I think when Freddie Gruber got Neal to play traditional grip the snare height rose to facilitate the left hand (same reason people tilt the snare to the side/away from them--to make it as if the drum were on a sling which is the only way traditional grip makes sense and the only reason it exists). Raising the drum that high helps the traditional grip left, but with a relatively flat drum is bad for the right.

Then he went back to matched and didn't lower the snare/toms. I think he compensated for the too high height by hunching up his shoulders and hitting the drums with a bit of a doggy-paw (with the wrist below its neutral range of motion). Both lead to injury. If you lowered his drums about 4" and/or angled them towards him so that he could hit them with relaxed shoulders and no doggy-paw, I'm convinced he'd be shredding at full power to this day with no pain.

I grew up on all of those 70's/80's Rush albums and love his playing on them. He's my 2nd biggest influence behind Phil Collins (Genesis came first when I was in 7th grade.)
Now if we're talking poor setup leading to injury, surely Phil Collins is a biscuit taker here.

He's one of my biggest influences too. Especially his Gabriel Genesis and Brand X stuff but I cringe watching him because of the strain he puts on his neck, shoulders and forearms. He sits too high and has everything barring cymbals below him tilted towards him.

He's playing Hyde Park in the summer and I'm tempted to go but I don't think he's drumming anymore.
 

beyondbetrayal

Platinum Member
My advice is just don't strain your body, and keep good posture wherever you sit... snare to high is going to be very uncomfortable, snare too low you will need to hunch over.


Set up your kit just snare and hats to start and dial it in,... Start with legs around 90, now move it up and down a bit in each way and decide for yourself. I could care less what ever other drummer does, I'll do what works for me.

Everyone's body is different, everyone's technique is different. The only thing is to keep it within reason. Don't start in a near standing position or sitting on the floor.
 
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