When setting up their kit, many drummers wonder if their mounted toms should either sit flat, or be tilted at an angle. The topic often creates a lot of debate in the drumming community, so in this article I want to address the differences between flat and tilted toms and how to determine the right angle for you. Here’s the quick answer…
Most drummers tilt their toms at a slight angle to avoid hitting the rim. Having the toms tilted at a very steep angle can cause the wrist to bend backwards uncomfortably. Positioning the toms completely flat typically suits taller drummers with longer arms compared to those with less reach.
A Slight Angle Helps to Avoid the Rim
One of the main reasons why a lot of drummers like to have their toms tilted slightly towards them is to avoid hitting the rim. This is a particular issue for smaller players with shorter arms as they don’t have as much reach so is is likely that they may hit the rim if the tom is at a completely flat angle.
For taller drummers with longer arms and hence, more reach, hitting the rim is less likely so a slight angle may not be necessary.
Too Much Tilt Can Cause Issues
Having the toms at a very steep angle is likely to cause issues for a lot of drummers. If the angle is severe, then it’s likely that the drummer will be hitting them with the point of the stick which reduces the contact area of the impact.
This results in a few things:
- The drum won’t sound as loud
- The drum will sound a bit “dead”
- There won’t be much rebound
- It can cause excessive wear on the drum head
Although a slight angle is fine, having the toms severely tilted not only reduces the sound quality, but will also damage the drum head over time since it will be repeatedly hit with the point of the stick. It’s best to try and hit the drums parallel instead.
A steep angle causes particular issues for taller players with longer arms as it will cause the wrist to bend back uncomfortably. For smaller drummers, this is less likely to be an issue (depending on the height of the tom), but should still be avoided for the reasons described above.
The Best Angle Varies Between Drummers
The reason that the flat vs angled toms question sparks a lot of debate in the drumming community is that there really isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer and it completely depends on the drummer and their proportions.
The angle that your toms should be at will depend on:
- Your height (more specifically torso height)
- Arm length
- Throne height
- Snare height
- Bass drum height
The aim is to try and hit the drums parallel and using straight wrists. You should have your toms at an angle that feels comfortable and allows you to do this.
Having the toms flatter, makes it easier to play if you are taller. Having the toms at a slight angle is usually better for smaller drummers with shorter arms as there is less distance to reach.
Angling the toms towards you slightly is fine, as long as you aren’t cranking your wrists back which will feel awkward and uncomfortable. This is why taller players with longer arms often feel more comfortable playing flatter toms.
Comfort vs Looks
It’s really worth emphasising that you should position your toms at the angle that feels best ergonomically, and avoid fashion trends in the industry.
At one point, severely angled toms were considered “cool” looking, however now the trend is towards flatter toms.
I’d definitely recommend steering clear of dramatically tilted toms, as for the vast majority of drummers this won’t feel comfortable. However, you’ll need to figure out if having the toms at a slight angle or completely flat works for you. Don’t just go with flat toms because you think it looks better, it really needs to be about the ergonomics.
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