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I'm not a drummer. But sometimes I play basic beats on my brother's kit when at his house.

His snare it positioned so the head is around 5 inches above my lap. He and I are about the same height 5'10" and the stool is set so my feet are flat on the ground and thighs parallel to the floor.

OK, those are the basic measurements.

I feel like the snare is too high. Not a lot, I might drop it 2 or 3 inches.

How much variation is there in snare height? Any standard for height?

You see so many variations on kit layouts. It seems like anything goes. But it also seems posture and position are pretty standard for all instruments in formal education. I'm interested in both formal and informal perspectives.

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I'm sure there are as many setups as there are drummers.

I sit so my knees are just under 90° & my thighs maybe 2" higher than level. That gives me my optimum pedal position. This, btw, is with my feet on the pedals. Distance to the ground is absolutely unimportant - distance to pedals is the one you need. Get this right before you even think about anything else. This is your entire balance & feel, too low you'll always feel like you're lifting your legs, too high & you'll be resting too much weight on them, even when static.
If after 10 minutes of getting the entire kit right this starts to feel uncomfortable… change the throne height, then move the whole kit to match.

Snare I have almost level - I play matched grip so I don't like it tilted sideways, but I have a very slight slope so the section nearest my body is about ½" lower than the far edge. The height I set so that on a hard rimshot [not side-stick, rimshot] my hands just hit my thighs. I find that makes for greater accuracy when a track needs constant rimshots. I never miss that way - there's nothing more embarrassing than 20 massive rimshots in a row in the big last chorus… then a small click as you hit just the rim;)

I do a similar thing with the toms - they're tilted to make rimshots easy & repeatable, without the embarrassing click. That gives another 'measure' for repeatable rimshots; the difference between clean strike & rimshot is probably less than an inch in terms of where my hand aims for, as opposed to the stick. It gives you an amount of 'push-through'[1] for intensity.

My entire technique is based on being able to be delicate, then raise very high volume levels without breaking a sweat. Call me idle, I call it efficiency :P

Part of my setup for snare & toms is that if you take a ruler & place it over each drum, pointing in towards where my right knee is, then the lines all converge at a point about 2" above that knee & an inch in front.
That's where I put my mic - a very expensive omni - so it can pick up all the top skins evenly, & never get hit by a stick.[2]

Hats & cymbals I place high enough that I can never accidentally hit them on an upstroke if I'm going a bit 'mental' in a wild section, except for the ride, which I keep low but further out, as that never gets belted like a crash. All cymbals I keep the felts tight so they don't swing around much - that way if you go for two quick crashes in a row without looking, the cymbal is always in the same place.

Everything relies on muscle memory, not looking for where it is.

[1] I don't know if there's an actual musical term for this 'push-through' but I would liken it to the part in any kung fu movie where the old master tells the student. "Don't aim to hit him in the face, aim to hit him two inches behind his face".
It's a volume-gaining technique that requires no more effort than playing quietly.

[2] This is a mic technique I've used for 30 years. I worked it out painstakingly in the studio in the 90s, when I would spend maybe 80 hours a week in the studio. It also works live, up to about a 3,000-seater so long as you don't push it through the on-stage monitors. I've never tried it in anywhere bigger.
It does rely on a good omni. I used to use a B&K 4006 but I later discovered a tiny lav mic which sounds almost identical, the DPA 4060 [DPA is the new name for Brüel & Kjær, it's the same company] which is easier to put where it can't get hit & is a 'mere' £450, rather than the £2,500 or so the B&K cost.

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A similar question would be - 'how high should I wear my guitar?'. Check hundreds of guitarists, and the obvious answer is - where the heck you like - as long as you can reach what you need.

One basic start point is where you are in relation to the kit. How high is your throne? If it's too low, or too high, your thigh, knee and ankle angles will be adversly affected. Heel up or down for kick drum will be a main consideration. So once that's established, we can move on to snare. Usually between your thighs, but, height? Our arms aren't all standard length, and the way we use them isn't either.

For me, slight slope from hips to knees, foot on pedal (that adds an inch or two!), snare's about an inch above thighs. Any lower, and rimshots aren't easy. Some slant the drum towards, to one side or the other, mine's level-ish.

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  • I did think about the parallel with guitar straps. But, there is a formal guitar position. Your snare about an inch above thighs seems to be my preference too. – Michael Curtis Jul 17 at 12:08
  • After 60+ yrs of playing and teaching, it's news that there's a formal guitar position. I look forward with scepticism as someone explains it ..! – Tim Jul 17 at 12:15
  • I'm not necessarily advocating it, but it's usually shown in pictures at the beginning of classical method books. I'm sure you know what I'm talking about. – Michael Curtis Jul 17 at 12:35
  • Ah, you meant classical. Other guitars (and their positioning) are available... – Tim Jul 17 at 14:16
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The first question: does HE feel comfortable?

Regarding your height(s): it depends on which "part" of these 5'10" belong to your legs and which to the upper part of your body. In German we have the word "Sitzriese" for a person which legs are shorter compared to the upper body. Also the upper arm might be shorter compared to the forearm. There are different aspects of anatomy to take into account.

If your forearm and the stick fall in line and the snare is too high you could only touch the rim with your stick (because the drumhead is lower). If you lower the snare a bit (or rise the stool) there will be a point where you - technically - could reach the drumhead with the tip of your stick. That's the point to start trying out. The more you lower to snare the more you can lower your forearms which might be more comfortable if you play over a "longer" time (so not only 15min or so).

And that's only the snare part - and also very theoretical. Detailed practical examples are already given.

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I’m not a drummer, either, but I play one in my garage, so this answer should go under “informal perspectives.”

I prefer a higher throne than you describe, with my thighs sloped downward from hips to knees. I find the obtuse angles at hips, knees and ankles make it easier to relax and I feel less strain in my legs and back (none at all) than with a lower throne that puts those angles at 90 degrees or less.

My snare sits with top at about same level as upper thighs, sort of right in front of and flush with my lap, and tilted toward me slightly. With a traditional grip (maybe matched grip, too,) I am able to play relaxed, with elbows at my sides, comfortably and with no strain to arms, wrists or any other part of body.

The floor tom head is at the same level as snare. My rack tom and crash/ride sit about 4-5 inches higher and are also on same level with each other. High-hat is somewhere in between. I find this setup facilitates efficient movement between drums and cymbals, and I need all the help I can get!

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