Has the Drum Set Evolved to Include Too Many Toms?

Bandit

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Re: technology....

List say ten other instruments....

Acoustic piano
Sax
Trumpet
Flute
Acoustic guitar
Upright bass
Violin
Trombone
Clarinet
Organ (ala B3)

What techno advances do we see there...and yet exciting, relevant music is being produced every day on every one of them-and many, many, others.

An instrument is a voice a musician uses to communicate....

Be thankful there are no rules to interfere with the expression of "your" voice-no toms or ten toms.

:)
I will bet you that all the people playing those instruments are glad they aren't only allowed a couple of notes to create their music.
 

Dave HCV

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Not to get off track here, but it's not just toms that some are adding. One of my bands plays a handful of Santana tunes, so I've added a pair of timbales to my setup. To echo many others, bring what you need to play to support the music.
 

tommykat1

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Shoot, you can configure a drum set any way you like. I have a cocktail kit with no mounted tom, two with a mounted tom, a 4 piece kit, two 5 piece kits and one 7 piece kit. Oh, and a four piece suitcase kit.

A drum set for every fantasy.

My favorite configuration is the 5 piece.
 

cworrick

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... I never tire of viewing those kits. Freekin amazing stuff there.
TRUST ME. YOU HAVE TO SEE THEM IN PERSON TO REALLY APPRECIATE THEM!

And that's coming from a two up two down guy that plays them like a four piece kit. However I have options to change the two toms I use depending on the music.
 

Tornado

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I thought that stopped being a trend almost 30 years ago.
 

Old Drummer

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Haha, OK, so I responded to your rather lengthy post with the shortest answer I could muster, but I think there are plenty of examples of drummers using the various multi-tom voices incredibly well, and there are certain styles of music where multiple toms are more appropriate. Simon Phillips comes to mind.

I rest my case.

Take away the visual, and from sound alone ask people (including drummers) to identify the number of toms played. I guarantee you that the answers will be all over the map, and the few who get it right will be either extremely tom-sensitive drummers or lucky guessers.

Or, experiment #2: Give the drummer a 3-tom setup, have him play the same song that way, and ask people (including drummers) if (a) they notice any difference and (b) which version of the song they prefer. I'd bet the average person wouldn't notice a difference or have a preference (although a few drummers might).

PS. He plays a zillion toms well.
 

Old Drummer

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I hear far more abuse of double pedals than too many toms.
Let's not go here . . . I'm with you about the overuse of double pedals while contributing nothing, but I'm not going to criticize the drummers who use (or aspire to use) them. At least a double pedal allows for a genuinely different sound.

The more appropriate analogy to my mind would be a drummer setting up multiple bass drums and tuning each one differently. To my mind, this almost makes more sense than a bunch of toms because bass drums can have different sounds and the bass drum is played much more often than the toms. I'm not though seeing as many drummers with multiple bass drums as I am with multiple toms.
 

Old Drummer

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I would say the average number of toms I have noticed being used for the last several years is once again, just two! I see it as a "what was old is new again" type situation.
I've noticed about this too--and we might add the various mini kits these days. It's as if there's a backlash against the ever expanding drum sets and a certain pride in playing a simple set well.

There might even be some snob appeal to the smaller sets. An analogy that comes to mind are car enthusiasts who take more pride in restoring and driving a classic car than they do a new car. Another analogy that was true some years ago (I don't know whether it's still true) is that the higher a person's social class level, the smaller was their TV screen.

But there does seem to be a trend toward simplifying and getting back to the basics.
 

Old Drummer

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You make good points about redundancy and available real estate. Not as much on the thud comment, as it depends on how one tunes.

Some drummers, yes, the toms more or less thuds and fairly similar at that (it must be a real chore to tune up & maintain 6 or more toms). However, others tune to distinct pitches with a fairly wide spread, so no thuds there.

3-4 toms seems a reasonable balance and still leaves room for other stuff.
Tune-Bot's tuning guide gives a maximum range of about an octave and a half for a maximum of a six-tom setup (and Tune-Bot recommends tuning the six toms a third apart). This though is the range of fundamental pitches, when in reality the overtones are all over the place. This is also striking the drum in the center. If the drum is struck off-center, the fundamental pitch changes. Others' ears are surely better than mine, but I can't hear any significant difference between adjacent thuds this close together.

To the thud issue (which I suspected would rile some people) I like singing and cutting toms too. In fact, I gravitate to 3-4 toms myself in an attempt to get different tom sounds (not just different pitches). But the multi-tom players seem to have toms that deliver the same sound quality, just at different pitches. That can be nice for soloing--it's almost melodic--but 99% of the time strikes me as redundant. I'd be more forgiving if they had some thuds and some singers, for example, mixing it up.
 

Old Drummer

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To answer the OP, nope, the drum set hasn't evolved to include too many toms. Drum sets have evolved based on need, whether perceived or real. I don't need cowbells, wood blocks, Chinese tom toms or wood blocks for the music I play, but all those instruments were very important when the drum set was developing as an instrument, because the music of the time needed those sounds. As mentioned by several others, some styles of music just sound better with the big roundhouse tom fills. Other styles don't. As drummers, we are lucky in that our instrument is the most individualized instrument ever made. That gives me the ability to tailor a set to a specific musical situation, whereas a guitar player or keyboard player can only rely on outboard equipment to make themselves sound different. Too many toms? According to whom?
I'm not sure that drum sets have evolved based on need alone. If this were all there were to it, the manufacturers wouldn't have marketing departments. I also suspect that if drummers set up cowbells and wood blocks with the same regularity as they set up multiple toms, they would find uses for them (and music would be improved for the variety). Traditions, however created and even of short duration, can be confining. I totally agree that a great thing about drums is the ability to tailor a set, but my point is that too many drummers have succumbed to the multi-tom fashion and not tailored their sets. I don't truly mind a bunch of toms if that's the sound a drummer aspires to, just think too many drummers have been pressured to go in that direction when more variety would be better.
 


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