Tech Tip:How To Assemble And Set Up Your New Drum Set

by Mike Fitch

First, spread out all the parts in front of you. These include the shells, heads and a variety of different tension rods, bass drum claws, floor tom legs, tom holders, and a drum key-the special tool used to tighten rods and various parts. Assemble your drum throne so you have a comfortable space to work from. The throne should be set high enough so there is not more than 90° to the bend in your knee. It's advisable to have a piece of carpet to set the drum set up on to protect the floor and prevent bass drum creep.

I like to start by fitting all the drums with the proper heads, beginning with the bass drum (the biggest one) first. Many bass drums include a long felt strip which is laid diagonally across the back of the bass drum inside the head, where it dampens excessive ringing. So if you have one, first place this felt strip across the back of the drum (the back is the side that faces the drummer). Find the rear head (which has no logo or hole in it), and seat it on the rear bearing edge of the bass drum, pulling the felt strip snugly against the inner back head. Seat the bass drum hoop over the head. Find the bag of tension rods and thread them through the claws that fit over the bass drum hoop then into the lugs (the chunks of hardware attached to the drum shell which have swivel nuts inside that the tension rods screw into). Tighten with fingers only at first, making sure the head seats evenly on the drum. (A future article will cover tuning in depth).

Next, repeat process with the front bass drum head. Then install the spurs into the sides of the bass drum, facing the front. Most spurs these days have a spike, a rubber tip, and a lock nut. Generally you should expose just enough spur to keep the bass drum secure and prevent creeping. The spurs should be lengthened until the bass drum is just slightly off the floor in the front. Next fit the bass drum pedal onto the bottom rear of the bass drum and tighten down. Adjust spring tension on the bass drum pedal to your liking.

Now onto the toms. After seating the first tom head evenly onto the bearing edge of the drum, thread the appropriate tension rods through the rim and into the lugs, tightening with fingers only, while making sure the head is evenly seated. This is trickier than it sounds; it's easy to seat the head a bit off-center, which makes it impossible to tune the drum correctly. Tighten the rods the way you change a tire, tightening down rods on opposite sides of the drum in sequence. As the head seats down, turn the drum and look at the space between the head and the rim, making sure you see an equal space all the way around the drum.

Once you've got all the tom heads on, install the tom holders, which fit into the bracket on the top of the bass drum. Often these are tightened into place by using the drum key. Set the holders so the drums are slightly tilted toward you and are relatively even, you can fine-tune the angles later.

Next, assuming you have a free-standing rather than stand-mounted floor tom, insert the floor tom legs about halfway through the leg brackets, tighten down the t-rods on the lugs and set the floor tom upright.

Follow this by assembling the snare drum stand. Spread the snare basket wide enough to accommodate the snare drum, which usually will come assembled. Fit the snare drum into the basket, and tighten snugly using the butterfly nut. The snare throw-off mechanism (which pulls the snare wires against the head) should be facing you so you can release or engage it quickly.

Next assemble the hi-hat stand, which usually comes in three parts: the base, upper tube, and pull rod with clutch. First remove the rubber band which often comes wrapped around the radius rods attached to the heel plate. Fit the ends of the radius rods into the holes at the bottom of the base. Extend the legs out from the base, then thread the thin pull rod through the top of the base into the stand and screw in. Fit the upper tube over the rod and into the base tube, slide about halfway down and tighten.

Slide the plastic seat cup and felt over the pull rod and seat them on the upper tube. Place the bottom hi-hat cymbal, which is the heavier of the two, onto the felt. Now unscrew the top part of the clutch and fit the top hi-hat in between the upper and lower felt washers, and tighten down with the lock nut. Don't tighten too much or the sound will be choked. Slip this assembly onto the pull rod, place about one inch over the lower cymbal, and tighten down with the t-rod.

Assemble cymbal stands by fitting upper tubes into tripod bases and tighten wing bolts. Remove wing nuts and upper felt washers from cymbal tilters and slide cymbals over cymbal sleeves and into place, replace felt washers and wing nuts.

You're now ready to tune your drums up and get rocking.