A tom-tom (not to be confused with a tamtam) is a cylindrical drum with no snare. 

Fitted with an adjustable mounting for floorstand, bass drum or marching rig.

Can be single or double-headed.

Sizes: shell depth standards vary according to era of manufacture and drum style. Diameters are usually in the range 8",10",12",13",14",16",18",20" with heads to fit.

The tom-tom drum was added to the drum kit in the early part of the 20th century. These first drum kit tom-toms had no rims, the heads were tacked to the shell. Jazz drummers used cigarette burns and water (or whisky depending on the venue) to tune them. The best were imported from China.

As major drum manufacturers began to offer tunable tom-toms with hoops and tuning lugs, a 12" drum 8" deep became standard, mounted on the left side of the bass drum. Later a 16" drum 16" deep mounted on three legs (a floor tom) was added. Finally, a second drum was mounted on the right of the bass drum, a 13" diameter drum 9" deep. Together with a 14" snare drum and a bass drum of varying size, these three made up the standard kit of five drums for most of the second half of the 20th century. Later, the mounted tom-toms, known as hanging toms or rack toms, were deepened by one inch each, these sizes being called power toms. Hanging toms an extra inch deep again, known as canon depth, never achieved popularity. All these were double-headed.

Single-headed tom-toms have also been used in drum kits. Concert toms have a single head and a shell slightly shallower than the corresponding double-headed tom. Roto toms have no shell at all, just a single head and a steel frame.

The tom-tom drum is also a traditional means of communication.

Construction and Manufacture

Typically a tom consists of a shell and chromed or plated metal hardware.


One or two cast or pressed metal rims attach by threaded tension rods or lugs to nut boxes bolted onto the shell holds the heads onto the bearing edges of the shell. The tension rod assembly needs to be precision machined, casted and fitted to enable predictable and secure tuning without inhibiting resonance or introducing extra vibration. All components will be placed under great tension and experience added stresses from playing.

Mounting systems vary greatly, from a simple cast block on the shell which accepts and clamps to a rod attached to a clamp or holder to much more sophisticated arrangements where there is no attachment to the shell, instead a frame clamps to the tuning lugs.

Another sort of rod clamp system allows attachment of the drum to the tom holder without the need of a hole in the drum shell for the rod to pass through. The clamp is attached to the shell at the nodal point with two bolts so as to allow the shell to vibrate freely without degrading the shell's dynamic range and sustain. The nodal point is the location on a shell with the least amount of vibration allowing for the mount to have minimal affect on the resonance of the shell.


A crucial factor in achieving superior tone quality and ensuring durability, especially with wood, is the creation of perfectly round shells and much research and development effort has been put into this manufacturing technology.

Shells can be constructed of 6-8 wood plies (often using different woods e.g. mahogany and falkata - birch or maple are commonly used for single-wood plies), solid wood (turned) or man-made materials e.g. fibre-glass, pressed steel, plexiglass, resin-composite. Wood or composite shells can be finished by laminating in plastic in a large variety of colours and effects e.g sparkle or polychromatic or natural wood may be stained or left natural and painted with clear lacquer. Steel is usually chromed, fibre glass self-coloured and plexiglass tinted or clear.