Playing drums can be rewarding, but putting a set together can seem like a daunting task. By following these simple steps, you will have your set put up like a pro and ready to deliver a pounding. Each drummer's ideal setup may be different. but this will teach you the basic tenets of setting up a drum kit for ease of play and protecting your investment.
Start by placing your bass drum roughly in the center of the area you want to use. Level the legs or spurs coming out of the drum and lightly shake the drum. If it moves too much, either try to level the legs better or place an object in front of the drum so it does not move.
Attach your bass pedal. Underneath the beater, you should see a wing nut or some form of clamp you can unscrew. Loosen this and slide the bracket onto the middle of the bass drum. Press the pedal to make sure the beater is hitting the middle of the drum. Once positioned correctly, tighten the screw down to hold the pedal in place.
Slide the tom-tom bracket into the top of the bass drum and secure the wing nut. Slide your rack toms (the small ones that are supposed to be above the bass drum) into this mount. Position them to the point where they are tilted towards you and are roughly level with each other. Your toms should increase in diameter from left to right so their sound can increase through a roll. Practice doing a simple drum roll through your toms to ensure that you can move easily between them. When satisfied, secure all hardware nuts.
Position your floor tom(s) on the ground. If you have more than one, put the smaller one closer to the bass drum. Your floor toms should have three legs attached. Level the back two so they are the same height. The one closest to you can be dropped to allow your floor tom to angle towards you. Many drummers find this to be the best playing position but some like to have their floor tom pointing straight up. Try both and see what works for you.
Unfold your snare stand. Set it at a height where the snare will be sitting in your lap, almost level with your legs. Adjust the tilt until it feels comfortable in between your legs. Place your snare drum in the basket and tighten the arms to hold it firmly in place.
Practice doing simple drum rolls through all of your drums and adjust until you're comfortable with them. Your snare should be between your legs to the left of the bass pedal, and you should be able to easily move between your snare and the left rack tom. If this is not smooth, either raise your snare stand or adjust the tilt on the rack toms until it works for you.
Unfold your hi-hat stand and secure the height roughly even with your rack toms for now. This is the stand that has a pedal on it. Look at your hi-hats and determine which of the pair is the top and which is the bottom. It should have this written on the cymbals. Place the bottom cymbal over the rod onto the rack.
Attach the hi-hat clutch to the top cymbal. This piece unscrews and will go around your top hi-hat securing it with felt on each side. Screw this firmly onto the hi-hat and place the top cymbal over the bottom making a sandwich. Notice the wing nut on the clutch. This is to determine how far apart the two cymbals will be when the pedal is not depressed. Unscrew this nut, slightly depress the pedal and tighten the nut. When you release the pedal you should notice that the top cymbal will raise. Adjust this distance until you get a sound you like, usually not too far off the bottom cymbal.
Set the remaining cymbal stands up. At the top of each stand where the cymbal sits you should have a washer and a cymbal felt. Place the cymbal on the stand and use another cymbal felt before you put the clamp or wing nut in place.
Put the cymbal stands in the proper places. The hi-hat stand goes to the left of the snare. If in the proper place, you should have your right foot on the bass pedal, the snare in between your legs and your left foot on the hi-hat pedal. Traditionally, the ride cymbal usually goes to your right and barely above your rack toms and your crash cymbal is reasonably high to the left or right of the rack toms. If you have two, put one in each spot. Adjust the heights of all the cymbal stands until they can be comfortably reached.
This is the traditional set up. Don't be afraid to try new things. You may find something that works better for you.
When setting up your cymbals, be sure there is felt on both sides and replace it when it wears thin. This helps prevent the cymbals from cracking from the center post hole.