Arming the Artists

Drum kit setups for any situation

Updated: 17 November 2022

Posted: 5 May 2020

No two drum kits are ever the same. Watching the professionals for some pointers on how to set up your kit may confuse you even further, especially when you compare different setups for different styles. We’ve created this handy guide to help you configure your drum kit for every eventuality.

Read time: 4 mins

Three-piece kit

A three-piece drum set consists of a bass drum, a snare drum and one tom, which is usually a deep sounding floor tom. Three-piece kits were often used in the 50s and 60s for doo-wop and early forays into rock and roll, as well as country music from the same period due to many country beats being heavily reliant on the snare and hi-hat.

Advantages of a three-piece kit are that they’re simple to transport and maintain. They also force a drummer to focus on doing the simple things by preventing the opportunity to bring in over the top fills.

Although the most popular configuration of a three-piece kit is a bass drum, snare and floor tom, some musicians choose to swap out the floor tom for a high tom. Others, such as the The Jesus and Mary Chain, have even created albums with just a floor tom and snare, and no bass drum at all.

Four-piece kit

A four-piece kit consists of a bass drum, snare drum and two toms; often a floor tom and a higher pitched tom. This configuration is probably most synonymous with Ringo Starr and is a good all-rounder, capable of working across pop, rock, country, blues and jazz tracks.

Other configurations of a four-piece kit incorporate two higher pitched toms in place of a floor tom, or instead focus on lower frequency beats by sacrificing the high tom for two floor toms of slightly different diameter and depth. Typically, drummers who play kits with more toms also use additional cymbals too, and you will often spot four-piece kits being supplemented with multiple crash cymbals.

Five-piece kit

A five-piece kit consists of a bass drum, snare drum and three toms, most commonly a high pitched and medium pitched tom above the bass drum, and a low pitched floor tom. This provides options across a wide range of frequencies for fills and solos, making it a standard for modern pop and rock.

The increased kit size also allows for more versatility so players can mix and match their toms depending upon the style they wish to play. This is often the gateway into huge kits that incorporate countless toms, octobans and all manner of odd percussion.

The extras


All the set up types we’ve mentioned so far make use of one bass drum, but for particularly bass heavy tracks or metal, drummers may use two bass drums that are side by side. This is often coupled with lots of crash cymbals to cut through the deep tones.

On the other hand, a kit is much more than the acoustic drums you can see, and increasingly now drummers are choosing to incorporate electronic drums or even triggers that play a preloaded sample. This is common across modern pop and electronic music.