The right drum throne height is something which is stunningly often overlooked. But it is very important because this is where it all starts for us, because in order to get good we have to sit countless hours on our stool.
So how do you find your perfect drum stool height?
Here’s how you find your perfect drum throne height:
- Place your feet on the sweet spot of your main two drum set pedals.
- Raise your knees as far as you can while keeping your toes on the pedal.
- In its highest position your knee should now be at the same height or ever so slightly below your thigh.
You have a few inches to work with here but this is basically it.
In the rest of this article I’ll further delve into all things related to our beloved drum throne.
Table of Contents
1. Drum throne height for heel down players
These exact same steps apply to heel down players as well. Heel up players have the heel down position as a resting position so the basic principle applies to both methods of playing.
I personally don’t feel the need to make an adjustment if I play heel down for a four on the floor jazz groove or a bossa nova or something. But if you really only play heel down you might want to lower your drum chair by an inch or so.
2. Drum throne height for double bass players
The same basic setup also applies to double bass drummers. And because of the emphasis on footwork double bass drummers should be really focused on playing from the correct seat height.
Just the other week a serious double bass player who has been playing the drums for over twenty years came over to the studio. He wanted some tips on how to iron out some wrinkles technically and basically get even faster. He was able to play singles in 16th notes at quarter note = 220 bpm with his feet. This is faster than I’ve ever been able to get them for longer periods of time. I was able to get to around 210 bpm for a few bars on an extremely good day. But this is simply not enough these days if you want to play extreme metal, which he did.
I had him sit across from me and play some single strokes. He was leaning backwards quite a bit. Then I asked him to air drum a tom roll while playing the feet as well. He almost fell off the chair and told me this was one of the most difficult things for him to play well.
The solution was quite simple actually.
He was sitting too high which didn’t give him the support he needed. I had him sit at the correct height and asked him to play the pattern again. What a world of difference this simple adjustment made.
So if you have a balance issue playing double bass, first check your seat height. Play a single stroke roll with all vertical unisons. So RH in unison with RF, and LH in unison with LF.
1. If you're too high you will have problems staying balanced while getting around the drum set in unison with your feet.
2. If you're too low you will become fatigued quite rapidly and you will most likely have trouble moving horizontally as well. And your back may hurt, certainly if you've been playing like this for a while.
If you're not sure, make a video of your playing and examine it yourself. If you're still not sure after watching the video of yourself consult with a professional drum teacher. If you experience serious pain while playing you may need a physical therapist or licensed physician to take a look at your playing in the video.
3. Drum throne height for a small (Jazz) kit
The same basic rules for setting up the pedals, stool, snare, drums and cymbals apply here. But this is one I personally have to be aware of when setting up.
I have the luxury of having both a large kit for rock and a small kit for jazz set up at the Skillz Drum Academy. So I can just switch kits and be in a very different musical environment in literally just a few steps.
But I have a tendency to set up things as low as possible because I like the sound and feel of a 22” bass drum. When setting up a jazz kit with a 18” bass drum everything could come down 4” (10 cm).
This seriously messes up my ergonomics when I’m behind a jazz kit so I have to remind myself not to do that. Just apply the same basic steps of setting up and you’ll be fine.
4. Drum throne height when practicing without drums and pedals
Personally I don't adjust the height of my seat when I practice without the drums. The added half of an inch distance to the floor without the pedals present don't present a problem to me.
However, if you feel an awkwardness in terms of balance when practicing without a kit you don't experience when playing the drums on the pedals, you may want to lower your stool for about half of an inch.
If you're interested..
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5. Spindle or nitro drum throne
This really doesn’t matter all that much. A nitro gas throne is perhaps a little more convenient when determining the correct position. But when the height is correctly set up you’re not going to be using the lever anymore. In fact, you want to leave it alone.
A spindle actually has one big advantage over a nitro throne. You can secure its position more accurately.
6. The drum throne you don’t want
Stay away from wobbly thrones, as these will mess up your balance.
Also avoid thrones which are only adjustable by sticking a metal pin in a hole every two inches or so. If you’re very lucky you can find the exact right height for you with one of these prefixed position. But more often than not you should be in between two of these preformatted positions. I guess you could customize the throne to your specific needs by drilling a hole in between though.
I would avoid wooden seats altogether because your butt will get sore quite rapidly. Adding a pillow is a bad idea because this will slide all over the place.
7. Rotating seat or stationary seat
Another important aspect to consider is whether you want a seat which (slightly) rotates while you play or not. My personal preference is to have a bit of movement while I play but I know of many players who prefer their seat to be completely free of movement.
There is no right or wrong here, but this is definitely a try before you buy kind of thing.
8. Benefits of sitting correctly
Now let’s look at the benefits of sitting correctly. First here are the quite obvious physical benefits.
- Your body is in a relaxed state because you’re working with nature instead of against it.
- This means you’ll be able to play for longer periods of time and quite probably faster for longer periods of time as well.
- Reduced chance of sustaining injuries over longer periods of time.
But there are also quite a few musical benefits from sitting properly.
- Balance - You will be able to play complicated patterns more easily than you would if you would be sitting improperly.
- Sound - Because of this you will sound better. You can focus more on sound and ou will sound better because your balance is optimal. No rocking back and forth for instance.
- Coordination - Same as with balance, coordinating things is way easier when you sit properly.
- Timing - This is a big one. Sitting well can do wonders for your timing and flow.
- Tempo - Your flow will be better, so your tempo will be more consistent as well.
- Orchestration - If moving around becomes easier then new ways to orchestrate patterns around the kit will emerge.
Arguably you could say that each and every one of the main categories of rhythmic elements will benefit from having a proper stool height. Everything is balance right?
9. Possible injuries when not sitting properly
Lower back pain is the most common drumming injury from not sitting too low.
Your knee can NOT be higher than your thigh because you will be putting some serious stress on your lower back which can (will) cause problems down the road.
But there are other things to consider as well. If you sit too high you could be putting too much pressure on lower body parts as well. It’s hard to move anything but the whole leg from the hip when sitting too high. So maybe your hip flexor muscles or other parts of your thighs become very fatigued when playing for extended periods of time.
Or you might not be able to use your knees and ankles the way they’re supposed to. Not moving them freely may put too much strain on these joints and/or calve or shin muscles.
If you set up the drum throne as described above you really can’t go wrong. But the most important thing is to always listen to body closely. Work it out often and hard, but be sure to make correct movements. As an added benefit your technique will get better and better because you’re now working with the laws of physics, not against them.
10. Video: Observe your balance and movements closely
If you’re not totally sure, record a video of yourself playing various things on the drums from the side. Then watch and closely observe your movements. Do you see anything odd happening? Or something rigid which should be fluent? GOOD! You found something to work on!
If you’re not sure what to make of this go visit your doctor or a physical therapist and show them the video. Point out the specific parts of which you are not sure. A good physical therapist will be able to tell you instantly if there’s anything wrong with your setup, movement, or ergonomics as a whole.
11. How to find the perfect drum stool
This is a very personal decision. I personally use and love Roc n Soc Nitro drum stools. But I don’t think which brand you pick matters at all. I’ve used an Osan drum stool in the past which was excellent as well. I’m sure almost every brand has excellent options for you.
Having said this, I feel it’s important to mention that not any drum stool will simply do. At our studio we have two Roc n Soc drum stools and a few other more generic drum stools. While these sit fine it’s always a very pleasant feeling to be able to return to the Roc n Soc. Not just because of the soft cushion, the softness of the fabric of the other stools is great as well. It’s more about the balance I think.
It’s probably just a matter of getting used to but I wouldn’t try to save money on something as important as a drum stool ever again.
12. Do you need a backrest
No you don't. In order to play drums ergonomically correct you don’t need to use one to let your back rest. In fact, I’ve always felt a backrest only restricts my movement so I thoroughly dislike playing with a backrest.
Think about it this way. Don't know about you, but I only use the backrest of my desk chair when I’m thinking about how to do something or when I’m watching a clip or something.
When I’m actually working I’m trying to sit up as straight as possible to not strain my back. But I’m intentionally not comfortably resting against anything, because I want to be in an active position.
For me the same applies to drumming.
13. Drum chair for teaching
- Asking how a student’s doing, and how his or her practicing has been.
- Explaining (new) material to a student.
- Observing a student play something.
In these cases it may actually be nice to have a drum chair with a backrest. I think I’ll give this a try and get back on this.
14. My personal history
I was your basic shortsighted teenager. I started out on a crappy drum set so I had to replace a lot. This just had to start with a double bass pedal. The the cymbals were next because these sounded dreadful. After that I really should have invested in a good drum stool. Or actually ear plugs first, and a drum stool second since at that point I was still using these Home Depot crappy foam ear plugs…
But being a stupid teenager I had to go for a shiny large drum set first. I could’ve bought at least twenty five really good drum stools for this money, but okay..
After that purchase which took me years to save up for it took me at least another few year to replace my first nameless drum stool. I actually had been a professional musician for a few years before finally replacing my first crappy way too hard drum stool.
Needless to say, I would tell my teenager self to first get a decent chair. Also needless to say, I wouldn’t expect my teenager self to seriously use this advice because I was a pretty stubborn kid. So I probably would've got the double bass drum pedal first anyway..
A decent drum throne is a very important part of your kit. The effect it has on your playing and your physical wellbeing should not be underestimated.
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Share your views
What do you think? Which throne do you have and how is this working out for you? Or perhaps there's something you find missing in here. Leave a comment below and share it.
About the Author
Music and drumming have pretty much dominated my life for the last twenty five years. I enjoy every facet of it, and I intend to keep doing so for many more years to come.
Fan of music since 1981
Drummer since 1989
Teacher since 1993
Professional musician since 1996
Composer since 2002
Owner of Skillz Drum Academy since 2011
Author since 2014
Blogger since 2018