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What Are Toms on a Drum Set?

Learn about toms from drum teacher Jason Gianni in this Howcast drum video.


We're going to talk about the toms on a drum set. Now, what we're talking about are these drums that sit in front of you, and also the one that may sit to your right.

The name 'tom' originates about 100 years ago when the drum set was created. The drum set was originally called a contraption set, or a trap set. The percussion devices that you could find were placed on a rack in front of you. They had old style drums that would go on that rack, so oftentimes we call these the rack toms, because they're still sitting up on devices that are held up front of you. This one off to the right is called the floor tom.

So you have toms, or the rack toms, and you have the floor tom. In a typical five-piece kit, you will usually have two up front, and one on the ground. Another common way to play them is with two on the ground, or one up front. On a Jazz kit, you may just play one here and one here. In a rock kit, it just gets bigger from there. Sometimes three, four, or more on the ground.

The way toms are constructed is you have a top head and a bottom head, and it is common to play on both heads. Years ago, drummers like Phil Collins would play without the bottom heads. We usually call those concert toms.

Normally for the rock style, we would tune up the bottom head a little higher than the top head, so that you would get a warmer, lower, and fuller sound.

In the Jazz style, we would normally turn them up even higher to get a more twangier or open sound.

Rock heads are normally clear so that you can see through both heads. In Jazz, we usually use coated heads on them to create that warmer, twangier, open style we spoke about.

And this is the way the toms sound.

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