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Posture and Pain: a Drummer’s Biggest Challenge?

Published by Kristin Stancato on 19th Mar 2015

There’s nothing worse than a shooting pain in your lower back or shoulder in the middle of playing your drum set. You’re in the groove, doin’ your thing and ZOW! You’re in agony! Plenty of drummers experience the natural aches and pains of drumming, like sore muscles, blisters on the fingers or hands or blurred vision from over-drumming (it happens!). But, when you’re finding yourself in a chronic pain situation from drumming, fixing it could be as simple as adjusting your drum kit to your body’s needs.

There are thousands of recommendations from drummers, professional and amateur, alike, about how to set up your drum set “the right way.” But, there are just as many different drum sets as there are drummers, and there are also thousands of other issues at hand when you’re setting up your drum set. So, when it comes to the basics of setting up your drum set, the general consensus is as follows:

  • YOU need to be comfortable, or as comfortable as possible. If your drum set is fairly stationary, you’ll be able to rely on it staying put for the most part. If you move your set around, try to remember and/or mark where to adjust the drum stands, your throne and the angle of the drums, cymbals, pedals and accent percussion.
  • Check your range of motion. Some spaces are more cramped than others, or, maybe you were off when you initially set up your drum set. All playable parts of the drum set should be reachable, with the more common drums and cymbals set up so you can reach them without straining at all.
  • Your posture on the throne is important. Support your core with your bottom, try not to lean or hinge at the waist too much. Adjust the height of your throne so that your legs are as close to a 90 degree angle as possible, with a slight downward slope.
  • If your posture changes, so will your drum set configuration. You could be having an off day and are more slumped, or, you are compensating for back pain and more angled. Adjust your drum set accordingly, and often.
  • Snare drum height is just as important as the height of your throne. You don’t want to lose your rebound from a snare being too low to the ground or lose power when it is too high. Plus, this drum gets so much action, you don’t want to strain to reach it.
  • Let your foot take the lead with your bass drum. Your bass drum pedal placement should dictate the placement of your bass drum, not the other way around. Your entire leg, hip and lower back can be affected if your bass pedal isn’t situated correctly.
  • Check your grip and your gear. The drum stick grip you use may add into any pain you experience in your hands, wrists or arms. Your drum sticks could be too heavy or too light or you’re (gasp!) just playing too hard.
  • Relax. If you cannot play your drums without feeling physically stressed or strained, then locate the problem and fix it. Listen to your body and let it lead you – otherwise, you’re just asking for an injury.

Once you get the hang of setting up your drum set and finding out what works best for you, your chances of being in a long-term relationship with pain are slim. Just like the “office jockeys” who must adjust computers, keyboards, the mouse and chair to eliminate strain from hours of sitting, the same considerations are just as important as the killer behind the drum set. That’s you… so take the time to care about yourself.