Tom toms are an integral part of a drum kit. Some players have two toms, others have five, but how many do you actually need? In this article I’ll be discussing the different types of toms and the pros and cons of different configurations to help you decide what’s best for your kit.
How Many Toms in a Drum Kit?
Most standard drum kits have three toms (two rack toms and one floor tom). Some jazz drum kits only have two toms (one rack tom and one floor tom) but it is possible to have as many as give toms on a kit to give the drummer more options when playing fills.
Types of Toms
There are two main types of toms on a standard drum kit: floor toms and rack toms. Let’s take a look at them in a bit of detail.
Rack toms are also known as mounted toms and most drum kits have two of them which sit above the kick drum. The most common rack tom sizes are 8″, 10″ and 12″ and the depth is typically 6″-10″. Rack toms produce a sharp and thin sound.
Rack toms can be further divided into two categories: hi-toms and mid-toms. Since most kits have two rack toms, they’ll have one hi-tom and one mid-tom.
The hi-toms is usually placed nearest to the hi-hit/ crash cymbals and is smaller so produces a higher pitched sound compared to mid-tom which is placed nearest to the ride cymbal and produces a deeper and lower sound.
The floor tom is also referred to as the low-tom and sits close to the ride cymbal. They usually have a diameter between 14″ and 16″ and a depth between 10″ and 14″ making them larger than rack toms.
Most drum kits have one or two floor toms. These produce a lower pitched sound compared to rack toms and sound deeper and more resonant.
Looking for some more info? Check out my in-depth comparison between rack and floor toms.
Two Tom Configurations
Some drum kits only have two toms. This is a popular configuration with jazz drum kits which have a single floor tom and a single rack tom.
Toms are primarily used for accents/ fills so if the drummer does not use them that often then there is no need to have more than two toms and having a single rack tom and floor tom will provide them with enough options to produce different sounds.
Having more toms in this instance would not be beneficial as they would potentially get in the way whilst playing, make the kit unnecessarily more expensive and make it harder to transport. Some players also like to position the ride cymbal closer to the centre of the kit so having only one tom makes that possible.
Three Tom Configurations
Most standard drum kits have three toms in total. Usually this configuration is composed of two rack toms and a single floor tom. However, there are some players who prefer two floor toms instead.
Having three toms gives the drummer plenty of tonal variation but without making the kit too crowded and unnecessarily expensive or complicated. It is considered well balanced and practical by the majority of drummers in most styles of music.
Four Tom Configurations
Some larger drum kits will have four toms in total. Typically this means there will be two rack toms and two floor toms, however in some cases there may be three rack toms and a single floor tom. It simply depends on what sounds the drummer prefers to have available.
This configuration is popular with rock and metal drummers who typically play more complicated and longer fills and hence having an additional tom is useful.
It is not a common configuration with jazz musicians, or with beginners who will prefer a more simplistic set up featuring either two or three toms.
Five Tom Configurations
Finally, some drum kits can have five toms. In the vast majority of cases this means the kit will have three rack toms and two floor toms. Having this many toms on a kit is rare and only used by advanced drummers typically in the rock or metal genre for long and complicated fills.
How Many Toms Do I Need?
If you are relatively new to drumming then I would stick to having either two or three toms, one of which will be the floor tom and the other(s) will be rack toms.
Most drummers at this level will not need more tonal variety than this and having more creates a extra cost and complication when playing that’s simply unnecessary.
If you have more experience and find yourself limited by three toms, then you can add an extra one. But there shouldn’t be any pressure to do this if you don’t feel like you’ll use it!
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