Saturday, October 8, 2011

Getting drums that fit

As I mentioned in another post, I have a hard time with "standard" size drum kits.* In my world you choose drum sizes based on functionality and sound, not for style or image, and certainly not because a drum maker said they'd be "perfect for any player."

So-called standard sizes (diameters) for a five piece kit are as follows:
  • Bass Drum: 22"
  • Snare Drum: 14"
  • Rack Toms: 12" and 13"
  • Floor Tom: 16"
For more information on a what a complete drum kit is, check this great post at

Here's my big issue: not every player is the same size, but there are some physical and ergonomic rules that need to be followed - not only to ensure proper technique and comfort, but also to prevent injury. 

Consider this - When sitting at the kit with both feet on pedals, the thigh should slope slightly toward the floor from the hip to the knee. The knee should be slightly behind the ankle, but directly over the heel (not to one side or the other). This sitting position puts the shoulders (and thus the elbows, wrists and hands) at a certain height. 

When you put standard sized toms in a correct playing position on top of a standard sized kick (bass drum), the average person simply isn't tall enough to play them without seriously altering their technique, sitting position or playing motion.

To deal with this issue, most young players will either play with incorrect technique or form, or put the drums into an incorrect awkward position, or both. 

Imagine a kid on a bike that's obviously way too big or too small. This is an oversimplification of the problem, but you get the idea.

Bottom line - When considering a set of drums, first set them up so that they're ergonomically correct, then sit at the drums at the height you'd have to be at to play them with good technique. If your thighs are more than a little sloped, they're probably too big.

*As a disclaimer, I actually own and use all of the above sizes, but never in this configuration. I have no problem with 14" snare drums, although I use 13" hats (standard is 14") about 99% of the time.


  1. I have difficulty finding kits with a kick that is smaller than 20 inches. There was an 18 inch, but looked like a toy drum set. I have seen some players mount their toms on a separate stand to make it much lower. What is your take on that approach? Thanks.

    1. There are a handful of companies (Yamaha, Gretsch, DW, to name a few) that make a "bop" kit with an 18" or even 16" kick. I've almost never seen one that's a 5-piece kit, although you can "special order" whatever configuration you want. That can get pricy really fast! And I have seen a lot of drummers that move their toms off the bass drum to get them into better playing positions. I think that's probably the only way to accommodate a large kick drum. Great questions!


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