The Drums – Setting Up Your Drum Set

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 46,934
    Expert drummer Wes Crawford demonstrates the ergonomic set up of the drum set.

    Wes Crawford

    Wes began his professional music career after graduating with a B.S. in Psychology at Virginia Tech. Soon thereafter, he began performing drumset with the extraordinary Jazz/R&B singer Jane L. Powell, a musical association that lasted eleven years and continues as a managerial relationship. The group toured throughout North America and the Caribbean performing at festivals, universities, resorts, nightclubs, and cruise ships. They opened for such acts as Ray Charles, Melba Moore, Freddie Jackson, Lou Rawls, The Crusaders, Joan Jett, Ernie Watts, and Paula Poundstone, and occasionally performed alongside artists such as Tony Bennett, O.C. Smith, and Dorothy Moore. The 1,300 colleges and universities comprising the National Association for Campus Activities voted the group Entertainer of the Year in 1990, their highest honor, and Jazz Artist of the Year for 1990-1992. During these years of touring, Wes also recorded two albums with Ms. Powell as well as for several outside artists. Wes also conducted electronic percussion seminars at VA Tech and at the Virginia Governor’s School for the Gifted. In 1992, Wes settled with his family in the Washington, DC area as an independent artist on drumset and percussion where he currently performs and records with acts such as Shahin & Sepehr (Higher Octave/Narada world music recording artists), Cocktail Nuts (aka “C-NUTS”- Jazz versions of rock classics, on Wildchild/Mapleshade Records), mrudangam virtuoso Umayalpuram K. Shivaraman (including a clinic at PASIC 2000 and a featured performance at Baltimore Drum Day 2000), Squeeze Bayou (1998 winners of the “Best Non-Louisiana-Based Cajun Band Recording” awarded by the Cajun French Music Association), and Night Life (high-energy show band). Wes has also regularly performed and/or recorded with Aisha Kahlil (of Sweet Honey in the Rock), Eva Cassidy, Catalyst Events’ “Beatswork!,” Zydeco Crayz, Mary Ann Borelli, “Oh Susannah!”, Sugar Jones, and Armadillo recording artist Daryl Davis. His other noteworthy performances and recordings include those with the David Bach Consort (2nd place winner in the 1998 BET unsigned band video contest), Hennesy Jazz Search regional winner Jerry Gordon, and performances with Milestone recording artist Ron Holloway. Wes considers education to be an important link to the future of the percussive arts and teaches drumset privately and at Goucher College in Baltimore, MD. He also performs in public school assemblies with Mosaic, which provided the musical instruction and curriculum for the 2000 Maryland Artist/Teacher Institute. Wes serves as the Director of the annual Drumset And Percussion Camp of the Goucher Summer Arts Institute and as Vice-President of the MD/DE chapter of the Percussive Arts Society. In 2000, Wes started, a site to feature his interactive educational media such as his popular “Drumset Play-Along DVD.” His latest “A Rhythmic Murder Mystery” interactive DVD features a solo electronic drumset concert, which he also performs live. Wes holds Associate Artist relationships with Maryland Drum Company and with Trueline Drumsticks, and he occasionally works as Music Consultant for the not-for-profit Sustainable Environments for Health + Shelter.

    Hi, my name is Wes Crawford and today we're going to talk about the ergonomic set up of the drum set. Its very important to set the drum set up so that you're comfortable playing it. You dont want to wear yourself out. If you're doing a four hour performance or something like that somewhere, if you're not setup so that its uncomfortable for you, then that could be a problem. You will get tired and stressed. So, first thing you want to do is set your seat up. Find a nice height that your thighs will be parallel to the floor or angled down ever so slightly. Next thing you want to do, you want to notice where your feet naturally land on the floor. So, set your seat up and your pedals up so that your feet are on the pedals in a very comfortable position. So, now its just like you're sitting there, having a conversation with someone or something, and there is no more stress or anything in your legs than something as mundane as that.

    Then you want to set your Snare Drum up. I like mine fairly flat, angled toward me maybe ever so slightly. You want your Snare Drum as low as you can get so that its level with your arms, as your elbows just naturally fall to your sides in a relaxed manner, but high enough that you can get a Rim Shot. A Rim Shot is hitting the rim, the middle rim and the drum at the same time. There will be times when you will want to do that. Its a very sharp sound, and if its so low that you're running into your leg, then you have your Snare Drum too low. Then you want to set your Toms in close, close enough to be comfortable, and what you're trying to do is create as close as you can, one plain, one surface, that you could move across the Toms. I would probably want this low Tom up just a little bit, maybe angled a little bit, so that you can move across the drums as if you're moving around a tabletop, so they're not at all weird angles or at different levels. After you have this much set up, you want to bring in your cymbals. Now, you dont want your cymbals out so far, particularly Ride Cymbal, which you might play a lot so that you have to reach for it with your elbow up. That's what will tire you out very quickly. So, you want your Ride Cymbal in, where you can still keep your elbow down, its very comfortable, and then you will have your Crash Cymbals, which usually you want one convenient for the right hand, one convenient for the left hand, which these are. I might sometimes place this Crash Cymbal over to this side, either way, its convenient for the right hand, one for the left hand, and again, you dont want it so high or so far away that you have to reach for them. So, these are the ergonomic considerations for setting up your drum set.

    As far as the Hi-Hat height, if you're going to play right-handed, we typically play right hand on the Hi-Hat, which is the busier hand, and then the left hand on the Snare. You dont want them so close that you run into each other, so its a compromise again. You want it high enough that you're still comfortable, you dont want it too high, but that you have room underneath. Some other compromises you might come up with in this regards so that you dont run into each other as you might bring this stick in like this, you see some drummers do that, so than they could bring their left stick over higher. I like this one. I like to move my right hand forward and play over here so then my left hand is never underneath it when I'm playing a beat. So, a lot of these compromises in drum set setup are up to you also.