Where does the drummer come from? No matter how rock-steady their beat now, every drummer had to start somewhere. And that somewhere was a drum kit. We can share a little about each part of the drum kit and give you an idea of how they work together. Because soon, drummer, you’ll have to start your own kit.

Drums are considered the backbone of the band and are important in many genres of music. They set the rhythm and give the ‘feel’ or vibe of the music. If you have watched bands play on videos or live, you might have noticed that the drum sets they use may vary in sound and size. Some have just 4 to 5 pieces while others have a more elaborate setup.

With all these drum kits available, how would you know which drum set is the one for you?  Most of your decision will depend on the type of music genre that you play, your experience level, and budget. First, let’s review the major components of a drum kit.

Main parts of a drum kit

For any drum set, three main components will always be present because they give the backbone of the rhythm. This “big three” consists of your hi-hat, snare, and kick or bass drum.

·         Hi-hat. This is made up of 2 cymbals that produce sound by hitting them with your drumsticks or clashing them together using the foot pedal.

·         Snare. This is considered as the main component in a drum set. It is positioned next to the hi-hat on a stand in between the drummer’s knees. It produces a sharp sound and has several metal wires (called snares) running across the bottom.

·         Bass. Alternately known as the kick drum, the bass drum is the biggest component in a set, which is usually positioned in the center. It produces the deepest sound by using your foot on a pedal to make a beater strike the head.

Now, depending on the musical style or genre, more drums are added to the three components mentioned above. They are the toms, the cymbals, and the throne.

·         Toms. These are the drums that make a hollow sound with different pitches. There are usually three toms used - the high tom, which is the smallest one that produces the highest pitch; the mid tom, which gives a slightly lower pitch; and the floor tom, which makes a deeper and louder sound.  

·         Cymbals. 3 main kinds of cymbals are included in a drum kit. The crash cymbal, which may vary in size, makes the loudest ‘crashing’ sound in a set. The ride cymbal, which is a bit larger than the crash cymbal, makes a milder sound and the hi-hat cymbals as described above.

·         Throne. This part of the drum kit does not produce any sound, but it is still as important. It is the stool where the drummer sits. No drum set will be complete without it.

The Basic Drum Set

If you are just starting to learn how to play drums or you just like jamming with your friends every now and then, a 4 or 5-piece drum set will be perfect for you.  With just this setup, you can create or play musical styles like rock, blues or jazz. (The number of pieces in the description of a drum set only includes the pieces referred to as “drums” and does not count the extra pieces of hardware or the cymbals)

Positioning your drums

Bass. Place the bass drum in the center, with ample space behind it for you to freely move around without hitting the wall, as well as enough room on both of its sides for the other drums in your kit. To keep the kick drum from sliding on the floor, use the spurs on its legs.  A carpeted area Is ideal.  Attach the foot pedal to the hoop of the bass drum closest to you.  

Throne. Adjust the throne to a height comfortable for you, keeping you balanced and centered. Ideally, your thighs should be positioned parallel to the ground, but you can adjust until you hit your sweet spot.  Consistency is important when setting the height of the throne. Make sure that you are not sitting too far away or too close from the kit.  Place your foot on the bass pedal when setting height and distance from a bass drum.

Snare. This shall be fixed to the (left) side of the bass drum, mounted on a stand in between your knees. You can adjust the distance, height, and angle of your snare depending on what you are comfortable with and your drumming style. But as a beginner, try to position it in such a way that you don’t hit your thighs on your down strokes and the correct angle that allows you to hit ghost notes and rim shots quickly. Some drummers will actually set the height of the snare, so when their hand touches their leg they will be at a good angle for a rim shot. Make sure your knees are not rubbing on the snare drum when your feet on the foot pedals.  It is suggested to keep the snare drum as flat as possible.  If the snare stand does not go low enough, you may end up with a slight angle towards the player.

Hi-hat.  Hi-hats go beside (left) the snare and the pedal should be positioned in such a way that it forms a symmetrical V shape with the bass drum pedal, with the snare comfortably between your legs. Adjust the height and distance so that you can hit the hi-hat and snare comfortably without overreaching or overextending. If possible keep the distance from hi-hat to snare drum edges no more than 1-3 inches apart.  The height of the hi-hat cymbals is adjustable.  Suggested starting height is approximately 4-6 inches higher than the snare drum top.  Over time you may find a height that is right for you. 

Toms. Toms should be arranged in an arc, with the highest pitched tom nearest the snare and the lowest pitched farthest from it to the right of the snare drum. The high and mid tom are placed above the bass drum.  Try to position them, so they are at least 1 inch or more off of the bass drum to prevent them from hitting the bass when playing. The floor tom is on the floor slightly behind and off to the side of the bass drum, at about the same height as your snare drum.  The angle the toms are will affect how the stick bounce (rebound) off of the head, so be careful not to have them sit at too much of an angle.

Cymbals. Your crash cymbal should be just above the high tom and the snare.  If this cymbal is too high and sits parallel to the ground, you risk breaking drum sticks.  Try a slight angle and a height that prevents it from hitting the high tom when struck.

The ride cymbal is placed at the opposite side of the crash, besides the bass drum and just above the floor tom.  The Angle and height of this cymbal should leave it mostly comfortable to play with the tip of the stick on the surface and the bell.

The overall position of all of the drums should move your body in a well-balanced position without having to lean to strike any instrument.

As your drumming skills improve, you can start building a more advanced drum set by adding more drums and other percussion instruments to your kit. What you add to your drum set entirely depends on the sound that you want to achieve.

For example, you can add a second snare to your 5-piece drum set. Usually called a piccolo snare, it is smaller than the standard snare and produces a different sound. You can also use roto toms or October, which have usually are high than the toms.

Another bass drum can also be added, or a double pedal for a single bass. This is common in various styles of music and is used for making the best of drum fills and for powerhouse metal music. You can start using more cymbals with different sizes. Adding new cymbals, snares, toms and bass can give your sound more texture, depth, and variation. You can also use a cowbell, tambourine, woodblock, triangle, timbale, and a lot of other percussion instruments that could add different sound effects to embellish your music.  Experienced drummers show up with a bag full of goodies to complement the core drum set.

How elaborate your drum kit should depend on your skill and purpose. For beginners and hobbyists, having the basic set up would be ideal. For professional drummers, a more advanced drum set with different add-ons would be much more fitting, as this would give them more room to express their creativity and distinct musical style.

Now you know where a drummer comes from. What kind of drum kit do you think you would play?