Back To Basics: How To Set Up Your Drums
Next comes the hi-hat, which you want set up with the same considerations for ergonomics as your bass drum pedal. You want a direct, straight line from the toe of your hi-hat pedal up through your leg to your hip flexor. The hi-hat pedal and bass drum pedal should be arranged in a symmetrical “V” formation (Fig. 6), with you sitting comfortably at the apex, your snare drum directly between your legs without your thighs touching it.
Hi-hat height is another important but very personal choice, which depends a lot on your playing style. If you’re playing a strictly open-handed style on the hi-hat and snare (Fig. 7), where your hands do not cross over, then you can set your hi-hat quite low. Most players use a typical crossover technique, so you’ll want to leave some room for your left hand to play the snare strokes comfortably. If you’re an aggressive punk or metal drummer, you may want to leave a lot of room for the left hand, and place your hats up around chest height (i.e., Branden Steineckert of Rancid). Most drummers play some combination of open-handed and crossover playing, and so the height of the hi-hats will be somewhere in between. (Fig. 8) Remember that you want to be able to easily switch between stick tip and shoulder on the bow and edge of the hi-hats, respectively, for accents and rhythmic variation. Find the height that allows you to comfortably alternate those stick positions with alternating eighth-notes while playing a backbeat (beats 2 and 4) on the snare. If you can play everything easily and you don’t find your hands getting tangled up, you’ve probably found your ideal hi-hat height.
Another important thing to keep in mind at this point is that you shouldn’t be overreaching for anything on your kit. While sitting upright and centered, your hi-hat and snare should be easily reachable and comfortable to play without overextending at all. This especially comes into play when we add the toms.