Drum Kit Setup – Electronic and Acoustic

This page describes how to arrange the components of an electronic drum kit so that it is comfortable to play. You can see an electronic drum kit setup for the Roland V-Drums in the picture below. Each electronic pad in this setup has an analogous counterpart in an acoustic kit. Therefore, both electronic and acoustic kit setups share many common characteristics, and if you have an acoustic set you’ll also find this discussion relevant. The picture shows a setup for a right-handed drummer. A left-handed setup would just be the mirror image.

Roland V Stage Drum Setup

In the paragraphs below I describe a typical drum kit setup that is best for many people, but ultimately you may want to do what’s comfortable for you. You can also use the setup I describe as a starting point and make further adjustments in line with your own preferences.

Let’s start with the throne. The height of the throne is typically set so that your knees makes a 90 degree angle when your feet touch the ground. When you sit, your right leg will go between the snare (bottom left) and floor tom (bottom right), with the right foot stepping on the bass drum pedal, which is directly in front. The left leg goes to the left of the throne, with the right foot stepping on the hi-hat controller pedal, which is the left most pedal in the picture. The pedal next to the hi-hat controller is an optional double bass pedal, which you may or may not have.

The bottom left pad is the snare drum. You’ll need to place it so that it’s positioned comfortably between your legs, slightly above thigh level. Placing the snare above thigh level is specifically important for playing rim-shots, in which the rim and the head are struck with the stick simultaneously to produce a distinct snare drum sound. This might not be so important to an electronic drum kit if it doesn’t support rim-shots.

The hi-hat is the dark pad that appears above and to the left of the snare. It should be placed so that it’s comfortable to play with the right hand crossing above the left, which plays the snare. With rare exceptions, in an acoustic kit the hi-hat and hi-hat pedal are directly connected, and therefore the hi-hat’s placement is a compromise between the accessibility of the left foot and right hand. An electronic drum kit setup affords us the luxury of placing the hi-hat pad and pedal independently.

Like a standard 5 piece acoustic kit, this electronic drum kit setup includes three tom-toms. The two top tom-tom pads are equivalent to an acoustic kit’s bass drum mounted toms, and the tom-tom on the bottom right is equivalent to a floor tom. The left side “bass mounted” tom should be placed comfortably close to the snare, not too high, so that a move of the sticks from the snare to that tom is quick and easy. Similarly, the next bass mounted tom-tom is placed so that a move from to the “floor tom” is quick. The floor tom, is placed opposite the snare, next to where the right leg would be, and at the same height as the snare. This tom-tom setup makes it easy to go around the set. It is particularly fun to do a fancy fill going from the snare, to tom-1, to tom-2, and to the floor tom, hitting each drum either twice or four times. Try it!

The top left cymbal pad is the crash cymbal, and it’s placed relatively high at about face level so that it is easy to hit across the edge with the side of the stick, and also easy to transition from the hi-hat. As a side note, for maximum loudness an acoustic cymbal is hit on its edge, not with the stick’s tip, but with the part that narrows, just behind the tip. For electronic cymbals this is also relevant because many have edge triggers.

The right side cymbal pad is the ride cymbal. It is placed lower than the crash as to not tire the right arm, and so that its bell, i.e. the center part of the cymbal, is readily accessible.

The bass pad and pedal are placed directly in front of the right foot. And that’s it we’re done with our setup.


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