The influence of setup on your technique

ampman117

Member
I’m interested in any drum kit setup methods or “tricks” folks have discovered that have had some sort of impact on your playing / technique.

I am familiar with the general ergonomic theory of drum kit setup - sit relaxed and neutral on your throne, pedals under your feet, snare in front and build from there - this thread is not intended to be about that…

That said, here’s my example…

I used to have my hi-hat setup relatively high so I could really lay into the edge of the hats - why? I suppose it’s most likely that I didn’t know any better, and at some point habit and familiarity lead to staying with a specific setup. As a result my sticks would get chewed up and I was restricted on how easily I could apply certain hi hat techniques. However, these days my hi hat setup has changed in 2 ways:

1. The height of the hats is lower - holding my arm at a right angle I can point at the edge of the hats. This allows me to hit the top bow of the hats with the shank of the stick as my “neutral” type of stroke. I can easily adjust the stroke up or down to hit the top of the hats with the tip or the edge of the hats with the shank. Much more versatile playing position. Thanks to this Steve Smith video for helping me:

2. I have my hi hat stand setup with the bottom hi hat cymbal seat angle adjuster facing me, this allows the top hat to overhang bottom hat slightly and saves wear and tear on my sticks. My stand is 2 legged so I can also adjust the overall “tilt” of the stand so the hats are still flat. This video explains it:


So anyway, I’m curious about any setup tricks folks have discovered that have impacted your playing and technique.
 

pgm554

Platinum Member
Depends upon you ergonomics.
Colaiuta had to lower his throne by having part of the tubing cut down.
I need to set high to be comfortable.
Bruford flattened all his tom angles.
 

planoranger

Junior Member
Technique determines my set-up. I keep my hands "flat" so that the sticks always hit on the "meat" of the tip. So, basically, my set-up pretty much matches @C. Dave Run.

The only thing I reach for when I'm on the stand is my drink. I keep that under the floor tom. It's pretty much the only safe place so no one kicks it over.;)
 
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Odd-Arne Oseberg

Platinum Member
A lot of the general stuff always sort of worked because I started drumming pretty late after having been a musician for a long time, so I did what I could to avoid a bunch of mistakes.

Main change is that my throne has come a little bit higher now and then and any issue with distance on a bigger setup was solved by that.

I have cut inner tubes on school kit hi-hats to make them work for younger students.

I guess on thing is that since my A Custom Master Sound hats are on the thinner side I had to remind myself sometimes in the beginning to close them well enough to be able to roll on them, but it's not something I think about anymore.

This instrument is technically so different as you can get from the guitar, guitar like and woodwinds I started out on and getting comfy behind the kit was a long road, but in essence it came down to just doing it, adjust and review over time.

As with other instruments I don't really have the beginner type of sensitivity where everything must be right or I can't play anymore. It's not that big of a deal and I just go by feel to get it close enough. It still changes a little bit every time I set it up because of that. Setup changes all the time too, so it's not really that big of a big deal.
 

cbphoto

Diamond Member
I played churches for a few decades and the kits were never setup to my physical requirements, so adaptation was my friend. On my personal kit, I used a cable hat for a few years and placed it in front of me (á la Bill Bruford) just to mix up my physical setup. At first, it was difficult to adapt 'cuz I'd had the hats on my left for decades. Splitting the toms up helped me adapt double strokes as needed. It was ugly at first but I got very used to the setup.

Starclassic with cable hats.jpg
 
Technique determines my set-up.
Set-up can influence technique but I agree with @planoranger that technique should ultimately inform your set-up when you have the choice. When playing on other sets it's great to be flexible and adapt to it, and if a kit is spatially arranged in ways different than what you are used to then it will likely force you to slightly modify your motions/strokes/technique...for better or for worse.

I'm sure I have slightly modified something in my general set-up every year I've played, and it sounds like most drummers are also constantly fine tuning set-up to find a healthy balance between their bodies and the sounds they want to produce on drums. It can be hard to know when there is something in your setup that is working against you, something that is not great ergonomically or is causing you to use more energy than needed to play patterns on the drums, if it's something you've been used to for a long time.

I think it takes a while to figure out what works best for your body as a whole system, and whatever works best for us can easily change as we age and the sounds that we are trying to create change and our musical preferences change. But ideally we prioritize healthy motion in our technique first, and use that as we deal with the inherent limitations of setting up everything in a drum set perfectly.
 

Push pull stroke

Platinum Member
For me, playing in percussion ensemble for years in college made it so I could adjust to any setup pretty quickly. I think getting comfortable with ANY setup is a trap. I recommend switching between open and closed-handed a lot to prevent this.
 

planoranger

Junior Member
I'm sure I have slightly modified something in my general set-up every year I've played...

I think it takes a while to figure out what works best for your body as a whole system, and whatever works best for us can easily change as we age...
TBH, the only thing that I've changed with age is the height of my cymbals. They are considerably lower now that I'm in my 60's than when I was in my 20's. The drums...not one inch. Fortunately, I haven't gained much weight so I can sit as close to my snare drum now as I always did. (OK...I admit I have a "spare tire", but really it doesn't interfere with my set-up at all.)
 

JimmyM

Platinum Member
Technique determines my set-up.
Me too. Or in my case, lack of technique ;). But I put stuff up in a way that I think makes it easier for me to play comfortably. Might not work for others but it’s nothing out of the ordinary, though maybe a little squished together for some drummers’ tastes.
 

GetAgrippa

Diamond Member
I think everyone naturally finds an ergonomic set up they are comfortable-you can tell when you play another kit besides your own. It's not really an issue once I adjust to new setup-so I may go for a crash that isn't there once but I quickly adapt. It doesn't effect my playing except I'm more conscious of kit. I use to readjust kit, move stuff, tweak tunings or spring tension on bass pedal ,but I just adjust my mind and go with it now (it's not worth the hassle of tweaking it). I see that skill as an indication I'm maturing as a player-it use to throw me for a loop.
 

Xstr8edgtnrdrmrX

Diamond Member
Technique determines my set-up. I keep my hands "flat" so that the sticks always hit on the "meat" of the tip. So, basically, my set-up pretty much matches @C. Dave Run.

The only thing I reach for when I'm on the stand is my drink. I keep that under the floor tom. It's pretty much the only safe place so no one kicks it over.;)

same here, having sort of grown up as a marching tenors guy, my hands stay relatively flat and my set up allows for that

Other than that, I use the system Neil Peart did in his videos about 20 years ago. The ones that came out when they were doing Test For Echo and he was studying with Freddy Gruber. Basically start with kick/snare/hi hat, and build every thing around it. I don't care that my set up doesn't "look normal" (when all is said and done, it looks a bit like Nicko McBrain's b/c my ride is high and almost perpendicular to the ground, hanging over my #3 tom; 3 up/one down; virgin bass drum to allow it to go where I need it)
 

Bozozoid

Gold Member
My going down to a 22 had everything to do with ergonomics. I've always preffered traditional depths so no problem there other than I'd like to cut a chunk out of the right side of the bass drum to get the 8x12 lower. Not a huge fan of fast sizes ala 6 or 7x12. If it's one thing I do not like the look of or ergonomics is placing a 10 and 12 on a stand left of the BD. My cymbals are almost jazz low. I hate the look of the giraffe hihat..dont like Steve Smith low either but I need enough room as not to crowd the left hand wrecking ball when needed. I'm never 100% satisfied with setting up..its always a compromise of sorts. I STILL fidget with my left side crash like a mental patient.
 

Seafroggys

Silver Member
I know that I play a 4 piece and a 5 piece set very differently, in as far as how I compose my playing. Typically, on a 4 piece, I play with my focus on the snare, using the toms as sort of accents or embellishments to my playing. Whereas on a 5 piece, I do more of an up and down thing. Not to say I don't switch things up, but by default that is how my playing goes.
 

Bozozoid

Gold Member
I know that I play a 4 piece and a 5 piece set very differently, in as far as how I compose my playing. Typically, on a 4 piece, I play with my focus on the snare, using the toms as sort of accents or embellishments to my playing. Whereas on a 5 piece, I do more of an up and down thing. Not to say I don't switch things up, but by default that is how my playing goes.
Hmm?..that is some food for thought..very interesting..and a reason I believe a 4 piece could change things for the better for me. I found some more gold nuggets on DRUMMERWORLD today. 😃.
 

GetAgrippa

Diamond Member
I know that I play a 4 piece and a 5 piece set very differently, in as far as how I compose my playing. Typically, on a 4 piece, I play with my focus on the snare, using the toms as sort of accents or embellishments to my playing. Whereas on a 5 piece, I do more of an up and down thing. Not to say I don't switch things up, but by default that is how my playing goes.
I do pretty much the same thing when playing my 4 piece lil Sonor Safari kit-I like to accent with the floor tom and don't use toms much at all, but add one more tom ,with my Pearl Decade, the three toned toms sound great and just naturally add them. I pretty much never do both hands rolling down each tom fast like I use to-I find it boring. Now my fills are more creative and one handed interplay, so left hand on snare, then generally I do right handed on toms and will sometimes use my left to accent hats or crash on top of toms, or follow behind right on toms. Hearing the hats accent or crash on top of snare-toms interplay in fills really makes it sounds bigger to me.
 

1 hit wonder

Well-known Member
I went to jams a lot. My drumming arm range is way below the shoulder height. Many drummers I encounter are a fair amount higher.
I got tired of having to adjust to other kits while mine was so low, close and with the hihat low. So I flattened my snare (which elevates the elbows), flattened the toms a little less and mostly left the hat the same. One guy's play at jams reminds me of Dave Abbruzzese with arms elevated much more than mine during play.
 

KEEF

Senior Member
Technique determines my set-up.
Lack of in my case....
I have my hi hat set way back - so that the stick crosses the forearm of my snare hand - proper form would have the hi hat hand out in front of the snare hand.
 

flamateurhour

Active Member
I like a high throne. Everything that I've been able to find on the hips/lower back signals that higher is better. When you get too low the hip mobility maxes out and the lower back begins to round. Up high I can utilize my sit bones and feel more balanced.

High cymbals - I like being able to lift my arms by bending the elbows not by engaging my shoulders since I have pain there from abusing my body on dirtbikes for years. I also find that the more acute the elbow angle is the less the weight of my arms wants to tilt me forward thus engaging my back.

Snare is an inch below my belly button - my forearms are almost flat. And my hi hats are about 8 inches above that.
 
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