Introduction: How to Assemble a Typical Drum Set

Although drum sets can come in countless styles, arrangements, and variations, many beginner drummers may not know how to construct what could be considered a typical or basic drum set.  With this set of step-by-step instructions, anyone with the proper materials will be able to put together a complete set.  Not all the materials that I present are required (because again, you may not have everything that I have), but it will provide the basic skills needed for assembly.  View the next step for the list of materials that I will be handling.

Step 1: Materials

The drum set I will be using consists of:

- 1 kick/bass drum
     - 2 legs
- 2 toms
     - 2 connector arms 
- 1 floor tom
     - 3 legs 
- 1 hi-hat stand/pedal
     - detachable hi-hat clips
- 1 snare drum
- snare stand
- drum sticks
- kick pedal
- 2 hi-hat cymbals (14")
- 1 crash cymbal (16")
- 1 crash/ride cymbal (18") 
- 1 ride cymbal (22")
- 3 cymbal stands
     - including all screws, pads, and washers
- 1 cymbal stand arm extension
     - including all screws, pads, and washers
- drum seat (also known as a throne)

Again, not all of these are required, but this would be considered as a standard or basic setup.  

Step 2: Choose a Location

Find a location that has plenty of room for assembly and has enough space for the completed set.  As a rough estimate, a circle of a 20 foot diameter should suffice.  Determine which direction the set will be facing, gather the materials, and continue on to the next step. 

Step 3: Establishing the Bass

As the biggest and most central part of your set, the bass/kick drum is where assembly should begin.  Remove the large drum from any bag or case and lay it upright so that it would roll like a wheel (Picture 1).  So to prevent the kick from rolling, the legs will need to be set up in order to support it (Picture 2).  With the flat side of the drum facing where you will be sitting (a lot of drums have a hole in the side facing away from you), point the legs away from you and tighten them into place (Picture 3).  The legs should be pointing diagonally away from the direction that you will be kicking so that it will not slide away as the kick pedal beats on it.  You can test the stability of your kick drum once you put the kick pedal into place.

Therefore, to install the kick pedal, slide the pedal up to the center of the kick drum.  Loosen the knob on the kick pedal all the way so that you may attach it to the rim of the kick drum (Picture 4).  Lightly lift the kick drum in order to slide the rim of the kick drum into the slot of the kick pedal.  It should fit snugly but still be loose until it is is tightened down.  Rotate the knob on the pedal in a clockwise fashion until the pedal is secured onto the kick drum (Picture 5).  

Test the stability of both the pedal and the drum by kicking continuously on the pedal.  The pedal nor the drum itself should move in any direction.  If it does, adjust the position of the legs or the pedal until it remains steady.

Up to this point, the bass and kick pedal are assembled (Picture 6).

Step 4: Set Up the Toms

Once the bass drum is established, two toms are mounted onto the top of the bass, and one is a stand-alone on the floor.  The toms increase in size, with the floor tom being the largest.  I will explain the attachable toms first, then the floor tom.  

The first step is to attach the arms to the tom drums (Picture 1).  Insert the short end of the arm into the tom, slide it all the way in, and tighten the screw (Picture 2).  Do this for both of the toms.  

Now it is time to connect them to the bass drum.  There are two adjustable slots on top of the bass drum (Picture 3).  The smaller tom goes into the left slot (from the perspective of the seat) and the larger tom goes into the right slot.  Slide the long end of the arm (with the other end attached to the tom) into the hole.  Slide it as far down as necessary to achieve an appropriate height and then tighten the screw to secure it (Picture 4).  As long as the tom isn't touching the bass drum, it is fine (Picture 5).  Tilt the toms slightly towards where you will be sitting. 

For the floor tom (Picture 7), assembly is as simple as taking the three steel legs, sliding them into the slots on the sides of the floor tom, and then tightening the screws (Picture 8).  You may screw set them all to the same height in order to create a flat surface, but I prefer to slightly tilt the floor tom towards where I am sitting.  So to adjust which direction that the floor tom leans, simply lower one of the legs in comparison to the other two (Picture 9).  

The position of the floor tom is directly adjacent to the right side of the bass drum and attached toms.  However, your entire set will be arranged in a semi-circular shape, so it won't be directly next to it, but instead should be closer to where the seat will be.  At the end, I will further discuss more of the overall arrangement of the kit.  

Up to this point, there is the bass, kick pedal, and two toms assembled (Picture 10).  

Step 5: Set Up the Snare

With the bass section of your kit assembled, let's move to the snare.  Placed to the left of the bass drum, the snare and its stand are slightly more complex.

The snare stand looks like a complex claw, but is, in fact, quite simple.  Loosen the bottom screw in order to extend the base of the stand.  Tighten the screw back once it is wide and sturdy enough to be able to support the snare drum. 

In order to deploy the claw support, simply pull down the three prongs so that they lay flat (Pictures 1 and 2).  There is no screw to perform this action for most drum kits. 

Now that the stand is set, simply place the snare onto the stand (Pictures 3 and 4).  The rattles are facing down while the smooth surface faces upward.  Similar to the floor tom, you can adjust the angle of the snare stand to your preference.  This is achieved by using the same screw that deploys the claw mechanism.  Loosen the screw, adjust the angle, and then tighten the screw back into place.

With this step complete, the only thing remaining is cymbals and cymbal stands (Picture 5). 

Step 6: Add the Throne

With the hardware of your drum set predominantly established, now would be a good time to go ahead and set your throne.  

Drum thrones (the seat), although diverse, are very easily assembled.  Loosen the large bottom screw in order to open the legs of the stand (Picture 1), expand them to a wide base by pulling them apart, and then slide the cushioned seat onto the axle (Picture 2).

The throne should be placed in the center of your arrangement in a manner and distance that is most comfortable for the drummer.

With the bass, toms, snare, hi-hat, and throne set (Picture 3), you are now ready for the cymbals.  

Step 7: Hi-Hat Assembly

By far, the most complex piece of the kit is the hi-hat.  It consists of two hi-hit cymbals (Picture 1) that are held together by a potentially confusing holding system, all of which is controlled by a pedal and chain.  

First, establish the base of the stand by loosening the bottom screw, widening the legs of the stand, and retightening the screw.  The already attached pedal should be flat on the floor and facing the seat (Picture 2).  This pedal controls the movement of the central bar of the stand that the top hi-hat will be attached to.  

The top section of the stand is where the actual cymbals will be attached.  Unscrew the top holding mechanism, slide it off, and set it to the side temporarily (Picture 3).  Also, slide off any padding or any other securing materials so that the top section is barren (Picture 4).  The two cymbals themselves are identical, so choose either one, turn it upside down (concave up), and slide it down to the stopping point of the stand (Picture 5).  

Return to the holding mechanism from Picture 3 and remove the bottom bolt and washer (Picture 6).  Slide the other cymbal onto the holding mechanism and secure the washer and bolt so that the cymbal is firmly supported by washers and bolts on both sides (Picture 7).  Then, slide the holding mechanism (which now has the cymbal attached to it) onto the center rod of the hi-hat stand.  Do not simply drop the cymbal all the way down onto the bottom cymbal, but instead tighten the screw on the holding mechanism so that the top cymbal rests at about a half an inch above the bottom cymbal.  

This establishes the resting position of your hi-hats, which means that there is no pressure applied to the foot pedal (Picture 8).  However, when the foot pedal is pressed down, the cymbals will clamp closed, creating a different sound (Picture 9).  The resting position separation between the two hi-hats is up to the preference of the drummer and his or her desired sound.  

Up to this point, the bass, toms, snare, and hi-hats are assembled (Picture 10).

Step 8: Crash, Ride, and Crash/Ride Cymbals

All of the cymbals (Picture 1) are set up in the same manner.  The stands may slightly vary, but in general, they all follow the same premise.  

To establish the base of all stands, simply find the bottom screw at the fulcrum of the legs, loosen it, expand the legs to a sturdy width, and retighten the screw (Pictures 2, 3, and 4).  How wide the base will need to be will be determined by the size and location of that cymbal, the angle of the upper arm of the stand, and whether or not you will be adding an additional arm extension (Picture 5).  

The actual cymbal holders on each stand are also identical.  At the tip of each stand, there are several washers and a securing screw (Picture 6). The screw and the top washer should be removed, and a cymbal should be placed on top of the bottom washer.  The washer is placed back on and the entire thing is secured by reapplying the screw.  The finished product should look like Picture 7 or 8. Do not tighten the screw too tightly or the sound of the cymbal (which comes from it vibrating) will be overly suppressed.  

A lot of drum kits benefit from cymbal arm extensions (Picture 9).  These eliminate the need for an entire extra stand, and it also conserves space.  The exact mechanical construction of the clip of the arm extension varies, but I will only explain the one displayed in the pictures.  The clip has an open (Picture 10) and closed (Picture 11) position.  Open the clip by loosening the screw and rotating the metal bar so that it hangs limp.  Choose a sturdy cymbal stand, put the extension clip around the pole, swing the metal arm back to the closed position, and tighten the screw back in to place (Pictures 12 and 13).  Extend or rotate the arm according to where you desire the added cymbal to be located around the perimeter of your drum set.  Add the cymbal to the tip of the arm extension as outlined above in order to complete this step (Picture 14 and 15).

Disperse the cymbals around your set according to your preference.  I organized mine (from left to right) as hi-hats, crash, crash ride, and ride (Picture 16).  

With the bass, toms, snare, hi-hat, and cymbals set (Picture 17), you are very close to grabbing your drum sticks and jamming!

Step 9: Arrangement

As I mentioned at the beginning, no two drum sets are the same.  Your drum set's arrangement should cater to your individual musical preference.  The displayed arrangement is simply my attempt at laying out what could be considered as a standard drum kit.  Feel free to move, replace, add on to, or eliminate any of the shown components.  

Step 10: Closing

In closing, I hope that you have acquired the basic skills and knowledge required in order to assemble a drum kit through this tutorial.  With different components come different nuances of assembly, but the general skill set applies throughout.  It took me years of practice to master a quick and easy assembly and disassembly, and my hope is that I may impart some of my wisdom and expertise upon you as you begin your venture as a drummer.  I wish you a flourishing musical career, whether that is as a professional or just as someone who enjoys banging on the drums.