Have you ever noticed how different pro drummers have varying drum setups? When we start playing the drums, we’re all taught to position the drum set in a certain way. As drummers get savvier behind the kit, they start developing certain preferences. This is how different drum set positioning comes about.
There are so many possibilities when it comes to drum kit setups. However, there are a few common configurations that most drummers typically go for. We’re going to look through those with diagrams. We’re also going to talk through why changing your setup every now and then can be very beneficial. Let’s dive in!
Choosing a Drum Kit Setup
Drum set positioning is crucial for every drummer. The way you set your drums up will determine how comfortable you feel behind the kit. Different drum set configurations often yield different results, so it’s important to find a setup option that makes you feel most at home behind the kit.
Before thinking about how to set your drums up, you need to remember to do it ergonomically. That’s a conversation for another day, but just be sure to keep ergonomics and technique in mind when positioning your drums.
There are a few standard ways of setting your kit up. We’ll talk through those and I’ll explain the benefits and drawbacks of each one. There are also a few unconventional drum set configurations that you could go for. Look through all of them and decide which setup sounds like the best one for you.
You may find that you like more than one drum kit configuration, which brings us to the topic of switching things around.
Benefits of Changing Your Drum Set Configuration
Have you ever felt stuck in your playing? It’s natural for every drummer to end up playing the same things over and over. One of the best ways to counter this is to change your drum kit setup.
Having your drums in different positions is a fantastic way of sparking creativity. Even if you play the same patterns as usual, they’re going to sound different going around the kit. This will lead you to experiment a bit more with sounds and ideas.
Changing your environment is a tried and tested way of sparking new ideas. You’d be surprised at how effective it is, even with a slight change. For example, you could add an extra rack tom to your setup and find yourself playing things that you never have before.
Every drummer should change their setup every now and then. It will make things fresh and exciting. It will also inspire you to play more.
Drum Setup Ideas
Now that we’ve gone through why setups are important and how useful changing things up can be, let’s move on to some practical examples of different drum set configurations.
These are all very common drum setup ideas. Each of them has a drum setup diagram so that you can clearly see how everything is positioned.
Standard 4-Piece Drum Setup
The 4-piece setup is one of the most popular drum set configurations. You’ll commonly see drummers who play rock and jazz set their kits up like this. You get most of what you need from a drum kit with this setup.
The rack tom and floor tom will have enough of a dynamic tone variation while the snare drum and bass drum are the main driving forces behind the set. You will also get the comfortability of playing drum fills that go from high to low around the set.
One of the big benefits of this setup is that you can position the ride cymbal quite close to your body. If there were a second rack tom above the bass drum, the ride cymbal would have to be placed further away. You’ll also see many drummers mount an electronic drum pad in place of that missing rack tom.
Another benefit of this setup is that 4-piece shell packs will always be more affordable than 5-piece ones. The added rack tom typically adds a few hundred dollars onto the price of a set.
Standard 5-Piece Drum Setup
The 5-piece setup is what most drummers learn to play on. It’s commonly seen as the most standard drum set configuration that you can get. The only added part here compared to the 4-piece is a middle tom. Middle toms are typically 12” in size. They used to be 13” back in the day of large rock drum sets, but they’ve stayed at 12” in modern times.
Having an extra rack tom allows you to play more complex fills that have a wider variety of tones. You have more to work with, allowing you to get more out of your drum setup.
As I said earlier, having the extra tom means you need to put your ride further away. Some drummers don’t like this. Other drummers don’t mind.
5-Piece Drum Setup with 2 Floor Toms
A great way of getting around the ride cymbal placement issue is to have two floor toms instead of two rack toms. This setup will give you a beefier overall sound as the two floor toms will provide plenty of low-end sound.
You’ll commonly see this kind of setup from rock and worship drummers. The low-end sound caters incredibly well to both those styles of music.
You have to be very intentional about playing the second floor tom with this kind of setup, though. It’s quite common for drummers to start using their second floor tom as a laptop stand, eliminating the whole point of having two floor toms.
Standard 6-Piece Drum Setup
The 6-piece setup is often seen as the king of drum setups. Having two floor toms and two rack toms gives you an incredible number of sounds to work with. There’s always a huge contrast between the smallest rack tom and the biggest floor tom. All the drums in between that fill up the tonal space.
You’ll commonly see setups like this being used by Gospel and metal drummers. Those styles of music typically have fast drum fills that need to be played on several drums.
You can play incredible drum solos on a setup like this thanks to all the sounds that your kit offers you.
The downside is that you have a large kit to lug around. It’s never fun taking a 6-piece drum set to a gig.
Symmetrical 6-Piece Drum Setup
The only difference between this setup and the previous one is that you place one of the floor toms to the left of your hi-hats. You get a sense of symmetry with a setup like this, which some drummers swear by.
This is one of those setups that does an incredible job of sparking creativity. Having your floor tom on the left will allow you to play floor tom patterns that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to play, opening up a whole new world of possibilities.
Kick Snare Hat
Another way of sparking creativity is to limit yourself. One of the best ways of doing that is to strip your drum kit down to its bare bones. Having only your bass drum, snare drum, and hi-hats will force you to focus on playing grooves.
It can be very rewarding to see just how many ideas you can think of with only these drums. You’ll typically see drummers use this kind of setup in bars and pubs. You’ll also see drummers with setups like this playing in hip-hop bands.
3-Piece Drum Setup
The 3-piece setup has all the benefits of the kick snare hat setup but gives you the added depth of a floor tom. This allows you to play drum fills that have a bit more character to them. It also allows gives you a bit more low-end to work with.
It’s very common to see jazz drummers and drummers who play in indie rock bands having setups like this.
7-Piece Drum Setup
The final kit setup worth mentioning is the biggest one. The 7-piece drum set is every drummer’s dream at some point in their lives. Having three rack toms and two floor toms at your disposal gives you so much potential.
This would typically be seen as a metal drummer’s setup. However, many drummers who don’t play metal still love having so many drums around. It’s also the only setup that will allow you to play the “In the Air Tonight” drum fill, which is an absolute classic.
Similar to the 6-piece setup, it will always be a drag to take this setup to a gig. It will also be seen as overkill in many settings. Just be wary of that!
If you’ve been playing on the same drum set configuration for years, I highly suggest you try switching it up. It may just spark some renewed inspiration in your drumming.
It’s also a great idea to change your setup depending on the type of gig you’re playing. A 4-piece setup would work well for a jazz gig while a 6-piece would work better for a Gospel gig.
See what works for you and take it from there. Remember that you can add as many cymbals as you’d like around the kit!