How you set up your drum kit for jazz ensembles has a big impact on your performance. There are repetitive problems that often occur that have nothing to do with the way you play and everything to do with how you set up your gear.By simply moving things around, ensuring essential pieces are in the right position and having the proper accessories, you can avoid the same kind of problems cropping up time and time again. In no particular order, here are 10 simple suggestions to help you improve your performance as a drummer.


Since the flooring at every venue is always different, it’s a good idea to bring along a rug with your equipment. When the hi hat and bass drum are placed on a hard wood or linoleum floor, they can slide away from you as you’re playing. Setting up your drums on a rug is a simple solution to this problem, but make sure the rug is thin so your pedals rest flat on the floor.

Music Stand Placement

As a drummer, putting your music stand in the middle means you have to stand up and stop playing to physically deal with the music. That’s not practical nor is it user friendly. Setting your music stand on the left hand side allows you to turn pages with your left hand as you play the ride cymbal with your right hand. Of course, if you’re left handed and set up your drums in reverse, put the stand on your right.

Watch Your Angles

To ensure smooth movement around your set, drums and cymbals should slant gracefully down toward you. Extreme angles make it more difficult to create the right sound. Taking a look at how great jazz drummers have their drum kit set up can also be helpful.

Ride Cymbal

Since your ride cymbal is the most used piece, it’s important to put it in the most comfortable location. Situate your toms around the ride cymbal and not the other way around. Proper positioning while playing a ride pattern should have your upper arm relaxed at the side of the body.

Throne Height

Throne height is all about personal preference and playing style. You’ll probably have to experiment for a bit to find the perfect height that’s most comfortable for you. If your throne is too low, it can restrict the movement of your feet as well as cause back problems. Too high makes playing rim shots challenging. Once you’ve found the ideal throne heights, you’ll be able to relax while you play, and the more relaxed you are, the better you play.

Foot Pedal Positioning

To get the most out of your pedals, they need to be positioned to accommodate every possible technique. Ensure you can play with your foot flat, with the toe, in a rocking motion – imagine all the techniques you would possibly use during a performance – and if the pedals can handle all of them, then you’ve found the perfect placement. Sitting too close or too far eliminates one or more of the possible techniques and limitshow you play.

Tom Toms

Want your drums to project? Free-ringing tom-toms will do just that and also make fills and solos sound smoother and more connected. When you dampen the heads with tape, the sound won’t carry past the first row of seats.

Free Moving Cymbals

Let your cymbals vibrate naturally. They sound better and by letting your cymbals move freely, you avoid causing unnecessary damage. Tightening the wing nut so the cymbal can’t move when it’s struck can lead to cracking. Having a plastic sleeve between the stand and the cymbal is also very important. If the cymbal rubs against the bare metal stand, eventually an indentation will form and that can lead to cracking as well.

Proper Bass Drum Sound

Tuning your bass drum to accommodate the appropriate setting is very important. If you’re playing in a high school jazz ensemble, then you’ll want to place a strip of felt under each head. The bass drum will then resonate in a controlled manner and blend well with the longer sounds of the walking bass line. For a rock or funk setting, you want a completely dead bass drum to coordinate perfectly with the staccato electric bass patterns. This is easily achieved by placing a blanket or pillow inside.

Proper Stick Selection

A stick’s shape and bead size has a huge effect on the sound of your cymbals. You’ll probably want to experiment with different shapes and sizes to find the ones that deliver the best musical cymbal sound you’re looking for. For jazz, look for sticks with a more elongated bead as they usually produce a more appropriate sound.