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Although they may take their name from native Americans, drum toms are exactly as advanced as the rest of your drum kit. Toms are the most numerous drums in the kit, with even beginners often using two or three alongside other percussion instruments.

What is a Tom?

Of all the drums in a drum kit, the tom is the closest to the general public's idea of a drum. It's not as deep as a bass drum, nor does it have the snares of a snare drum. It's a simple round drum with a thin shell and warm tone. One advantage of toms is that they don't always need a lot of depth, so you can mount them fairly low on the top of the base drum. They range in size from six inches at the smallest, to about eighteen inches at the largest.

Basic Toms

Most beginner drum sets use three toms; one high tom, one mid tom, and one floor tom. Some drummers prefer to omit the mid tom, while others add more intermediate toms. Whichever toms a drummer may choose, they usually arrange them in an arc running from the highest pitched tom beside the snare to the deepest on the outside. For most drummers, an eight-inch tom is about the smallest high tom that's practical to play. Six-inch drums are too small a target for many. Ten and twelve-inch toms are the most popular sizes, while fourteen inches and above is usually good for floor toms.

Depth

In general, it's a better idea to go with a shallower tom than a deeper one. Deeper toms produce deeper tones, and it can be more difficult to go high with a deep tom than it is to go low with a shallower tom. In most cases you don't want to go any shallower than about six and a half inches on a rack tom, or any deeper than the drum's diameter. When it comes to floor toms, you don't want to go as deep as the diameter as that becomes difficult to play. Anything over fourteen inches should give away at least a couple of inches of depth against the diameter.

Picking Toms

The number and kind of toms you want depends a lot on your style as a drummer. In general, a jazz drummer can get away with fewer and shallower toms than many rock drummers. Rock toms often go for more of a rumble, which is where the big eighteen-inch toms come in. It's also why rock drummers often go for deeper toms than others.

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