The right drum set for left-handed drummers

This is how you identify and overcome the obstacles while turning disadvantages into strength

You might think that any drum set can easily be converted to left-handed by simply setting it up in reverse.

Unfortunately, that's not entirely true, as there are some stumbling blocks you need to consider as a left-hander. Depending on your personal situation, it may be sufficient for you to acquire specialized equipment. However, it may also be necessary for you to roll up your sleeves and rebuild your set (almost) from scratch.

This article will help you identify and effectively deal with the pitfalls when acquiring or modifying a drum set to become the perfect left-handed drum kit.

By the way, if you're a proud parent of a left-handed child and currently searching for a suitable beginner drum set for your child, this article is the perfect complement to our post "Choosing the Right Drum Set for My Child".

In a "conventional" rock band, the guitarist usually receives much more attention than the drummer. One of the reasons for this is that the guitarist stands at the front of the stage and is simply more visible. Therefore, you have probably noticed a guitarist (or bassist) who plays their instrument in reverse. Superficially, it is quickly apparent that such players are left-handed. Jimi Hendrix and Paul McCartney are famous examples of left-handed guitarists and bassists. Of course, there are also left-handed drummers, such as Phil Collins. Since you are reading this text, it can be assumed that you are also left-handed. Perhaps you are also a parent of a drumming child who is left-handed and searching for useful information on this topic.

Depending on how experienced you already are, you may have already encountered problems that come with being left-handed in your everyday life. But just like guitarists and bassists have found different ways to solve these problems, as a drummer, you also have several approaches to overcome potential obstacles or even turn them into an advantage.

Can't I simply set up my drum set in reverse?

This question can be answered with a clear "Yes and no!" The market practically does not offer drum sets specifically designed for left-handers. However, it is not necessarily required because you can set up all individual parts of the drum set in reverse. The hi-hat will be placed to the right of the snare, the floor tom to your left, the mounted toms will be arranged from right to left in increasing size, and the ride cymbal will hang on the left side. So far, no problem. The devil, however, lies in the details.

The left-handed drummer has to deal with specific problems that lie in the details. Since each instrument in the drum set is independent, they don't have to worry about head tension and tuning. When it comes to the drum set itself, as a left-hander, you need to pay particular attention to three components: the double bass pedal, the drum rack, and, in the case of e-drums, the cable routing and cable lengths.

However, there is another situation that is much more important for left-handed drummers than for left-handed guitarists and bassists. This is the performance at city festivals or festivals where a single drum set is intended to be used by all the bands performing there. In 99.9% of cases, this single drum set will be set up for right-handers. And as a left-hander, you must be able to adapt to this situation smoothly and quickly.

Bonus Knowledge: It's not as simple for left-handed guitarists as it may seem. If they simply turn their guitar around, they will find the strings in reverse order: the thinnest string with the highest pitch is suddenly no longer the lowest one but the highest. The guitarist now has three options: either they learn to play with this string arrangement. It makes no difference to them compared to a right-handed guitar if they are beginners and find a teacher who can handle and teach the reversed string arrangement. Or the guitarist swaps the strings so that the highest string is back at the bottom and the lowest one is at the top. Then they can also be taught by a right-handed guitarist because the playing techniques, chord fingerings, and finger placements are the same.

However, the components of the guitar are designed for the original string arrangement. The guitar needs to be reconfigured by a professional so that the strings don't constantly break or go out of tune, and the forces exerted by the string tension are properly balanced. But there's another catch when simply flipping the guitar. The positions of switches, knobs (controls), possibly the vibrato bar, and any existing cutaways (where wood is cut out from the guitar body to allow the fretting hand greater access up the neck) also reverse. Adapting to the new positions can be varying degrees of difficulty. The cutaway, which serves the purpose of giving the fretting hand more reach on the fretboard in right-handed guitars, becomes entirely useless.

That's why every manufacturer offers special models for left-handers, although the selection is quite limited. These models have everything appropriately mirrored.

What should I consider with the double bass pedal for left-handers?

Note: In this text, we generally assume that as a left-hander, you are also left-footed. Therefore, the bass drum is operated with the left foot in this case.

< p>Be prepared for a relatively high budget when it comes to the double bass pedal. There are only very few models that are completely symmetrical, allowing you to simply swap the position of the pedal with the two beaters and the auxiliary pedal. However, such models are inherently high-quality and therefore expensive.

Renowned manufacturers offer several models for left-handers. If you're planning to get a double bass pedal, pay close attention to every detail, especially when considering high-quality models. The reason is simple: it's doubly frustrating to skimp on quality and realize shortly after that the "cheap" option doesn't meet your expectations. Because in the case of rare left-handed models, "cheap" is already quite expensive.

By the way, you can find information on what you need to consider with the bass pedal and how to adjust it correctly in our article “The Proper Adjustment of the Bass Pedal”.

If you're using freely positionable pedals for triggering on a hybrid or electronic drum set, you usually won't have any difficulties adjusting the positioning to fit a left-handed setup. The only potential hurdle could be the cable connection. If the space is tight, it might be problematic to keep the cable connection on the same side when mirroring the position. You may need to do some tinkering or use a longer cable. It's nothing insurmountable.

What should I consider as a left-handed drummer with the drum rack?

Modular drum racks are easy to assemble in a mirrored configuration. It doesn't matter if they are symmetric or asymmetric in design. You can usually adjust each component to fit your needs. However, it doesn't hurt to check before purchasing if your preferred model is truly designed to be assembled in a mirrored configuration.

This generally applies to compact drum racks as well, which are commonly used with compact electronic drums. However, pre-assembled drum racks for compact setups are often designed for right-handed drummers. This means that you may need to disassemble the entire rack first and then reassemble it in a mirrored configuration. It can be a bit of work, but you only need to do it once.

But be sure to pay attention to the size of the rack! If, for example, the snare drum holder is fixed to the left column (welded joint), you won't be able to adjust it to the right side. Such super-compact racks are typically integrated with the entire set and don't allow for modifications. They are not suitable for left-handed drummers.

Note: You can learn everything about selecting and adjusting the drum rack in our article series “Drum Rack or Stands?”

What should I consider as a left-handed drummer with electronic drums?

In addition to the construction of the drum rack, there is another potential issue to consider with electronic drums, and that is the cables and cable routing. The devil may be in just a few centimeters.

When you purchase pre-configured electronic drums of any size, you often receive a cable harness with individually labeled cables that are already optimized for connecting the drum module to the corresponding instrument. The configuration is designed for right-handed drummers, but it's generally not a big deal to simply mirror everything.

Keep in mind, though, that you cannot mirror the connections on the drum module itself. This may not be an issue for modules equipped with a multi-pin connector, as long as the connector is somewhat centrally located on the device (either on the back or underside).

However, when dealing with individual cables, including those bundled together in a cable harness, it can be significant to consider that you may not be able to reverse the connections of your module if you mount it on the right side of the rack instead of the left.

The cable connection positioned on the far left (when viewing the back of the mounted module) will essentially point towards the rack when the module is mounted on the left side of the rack, which is the standard setup for right-handed drummers.

If you mount the module for your left-handed setup on the right side, the connections will not be mirrored! The same cable connection will suddenly be up to 30 cm further away from the connected instrument, depending on the width of the module. This can quickly lead to the cables in the cable harness not being long enough. With individual cables, you can easily replace them with suitable ones. However, with a fixed cable harness, replacing individual cables can be much more challenging. This is especially true when the entire cable set is enclosed in a protective sleeve (such as heat shrink tubing). Of course, you can leave the affected cables in the cable harness and simply add individual cables of the appropriate length. However, this compromises the advantage of the compactness of the cable harness.

In the market, complete cable harnesses are available. If your setup is affected by the described problem, you may find a cable harness that perfectly fits your set. The "Deluxe" option, suitable for both left-handed and right-handed drummers, is a custom-made cable harness that you can order from reputable cable manufacturers. This option is quite expensive as the cable harness is handmade. From the perspective of "left-handed vs. right-handed," it may be less worthwhile compared to the perspective of a "home drummer" versus a professional with many performances.

Bonus Knowledge: One particularly tricky aspect of drum racks for e-drums is the integrated cable harness, which is a fundamentally elegant construction. The cable harness is hidden inside the crossbar's inner tube of the rack. Only the cable ends for connecting to the module or instruments are exposed on the left and right sides. This design creates a clean and tidy appearance for the drum set. However, it can be very challenging to extract the cable harness from the rack and mirror it for a left-handed setup. Replacing a single faulty cable is also a labor-intensive task. Additionally, the cable harness may not provide additional cables for possible kit expansions with extra instruments.

As elegant as the solution of the integrated cable harness in the rack may be, make sure to take a closer look here!

There are drum racks where you can easily swap cables. This includes the MDS series racks from Roland and the Cable Tube Racks from drum-tec for the Diabolo series and the Pro series.

How can I handle a right-handed drum set as a left-handed drummer?

If you find yourself faced with a right-handed drum set, there are several options available to you. Before diving into the specifics, it's important to consider how often you'll encounter this situation.

If you're a hobbyist musician who rarely needs to set up or tear down the drum kit due to limited performances, your main focus will be on clarifying the arrangements beforehand. If you're provided with a drum set that only you will be playing, allocate enough time to set up or modify the drum kit accordingly. Remember to bring any left-handed-specific parts you may need, such as your double bass pedal.

If you plan on accumulating many performances (or if you're already a semi-professional or professional drummer), the nature of the gigs will determine the level of difficulty with your left-handed setup. If you always play with your own drum set, then you're all set.

On the other hand, if you frequently perform at events like city festivals or similar gatherings where multiple bands share a single drum kit, you should consider equipping yourself with a different approach - namely, adapting your drumming technique.

Bonus Knowledge: Regardless of whether you're a beginner, hobbyist, or professional, you're ALWAYS on the winning side if you take the time to contact the relevant technicians before your performance. Say hello and clarify that you have specific requirements. By doing this, you send several professional signals:

  1. You show that you're considerate and thoughtful.
  2. You demonstrate concern for the needs of others.
  3. You exhibit reliability and dependability.

Bonus Knowledge: This approach is always appreciated and will be particularly helpful if you make it clear that you may not be experienced but are willing to listen to advice and act accordingly. When you approach technicians in this manner, you can highly likely expect them to work with you instead of against you in challenging situations. They are your colleagues on this performance day, and you don't want any conflicts with them. The person at the mixing desk has control over your sound, which gives them significant power. It's as easy for you to make them your friend as it is to make them your enemy…

A left-handed drum set may ultimately be a minor issue, but by introducing yourself in advance, you will already be familiar to the technicians on-site ("Ah, yes, we spoke on the phone/wrote emails, you're the one with the left-handed drum set…"). And who knows, maybe for some reason, the left-handed kit is a huge topic at this particular stage! In that case, it's good for the relevant responsible individuals to be informed ahead of time.

What advantages does switching my playing technique (even temporarily) provide?

Instruments are typically designed for right-handed players, with the right hand considered the "striking hand" (responsible for the strong beats) and the left hand (referred to as the "fretting hand" for guitarists) handling the intricate work. However, drummers, unlike guitarists, benefit from training both hands to have equal playing abilities.

Most drummers prefer to play the left-positioned hi-hat with their right hand and the snare with their left hand, resulting in crossed hands while playing. For left-handed drummers, it's the opposite: the right-positioned hi-hat can be played with the left hand by crossing over.

However, this technique of crossing hands is not a strict rule, and many drummers intentionally choose not to cross their hands for various reasons. This technique is called "Open Handed" playing. As a right-handed drummer, you would play the hi-hat with your left hand and the snare drum with your right hand (with the bass drum still operated by the right foot and hi-hat by the left foot!). For you as a left-handed drummer, the reverse would apply.

But as a left-handed drummer, using the Open Handed technique can provide you with an invaluable advantage!

Let's address the perceived disadvantage first, which is the need to invest practice time into mastering the Open Handed technique. However, this is something you would need to do anyway as you strive to continually improve your drumming skills. So, in the end, it plays a relatively minor role.

However, the major advantage is that with Open Handed playing, you can easily adapt to a right-handed drum setup! You play the (left-sided) hi-hat with your left hand and the snare with your right hand. This is exactly what you do on a left-handed drum set (when you cross your hands).

So, initially, you need to focus on getting a feel for the reversed roles of your legs and feet. Unless you're playing complex prog-rock or fusion styles, you can easily get through at least 90% of a Top 40 setlist with a solid groove and tight, short fills. You don't necessarily have to be as proficient with your Open Handed playing as you are on your left-handed drum set.

For right-handed drummers transitioning to Open Handed, they need to focus more on the reversed roles of their hands, as their feet maintain their positions. This means that the difficulty of transitioning to Open Handed playing is essentially the same for both right-handed and left-handed drummers. However, right-handed drummers will rarely find themselves in a situation where they have to play a left-handed drum set. Therefore, they will practically never practice "switching" their feet. Their Open Handed playing remains limited to the right-handed drum set, while you can handle both variations. With a little practice, you can turn this material disadvantage into a playful advantage. Pretty cool, right?

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