Ah, yes. The 1970s and 80s. It was a different time for drums and drummers. Kits were massive and the crews setting them up must have been overworked and hopefully much appreciated. Concert toms are definitely a relic of the past, however, we have seen companies begin to manufacture and rebrand them again in recent years. Today we’ll be looking at all the best concert tom options available now.
The main drum manufacturers making concert toms today include the following:
- Drum Workshop – winner
- Sound Percussion Labs
- Pearl Drums
- Black Swamp
What are concert toms?
Concert toms are single-headed tom drums that have a much different sound than a traditional tom drum. To my ear, there’s much more punch and less resonance. Drummers that popularized the concert tom include Neil Peart, Phil Collins, Steve Gadd, Carmine Appice, Carl Palmer, Taylor Hawkins, and many more.
Roto-toms, a set of three shell-less toms with spinning tuning mechanisms, are often mistaken for concert toms, given their similarities in sound and pitch.
Concert toms used to make up an entire drum kit, with as many as six or seven different tom drums around the snare drum. Here’s a video showing off a vintage Tama Imperialstar from the 1970s!
Concert toms used to be all the rage! Why did they lose their popularity?
Music in the 1970s and 1980s was different. Rock music was much more of a driving force in the popularity sense and drummers used to play much more liberally (drum fills used to be quite pompous). Of course, there’s always the exception to the rule, where many drummers who employed large drum sets with concert toms played them tastefully.
Unfortunately, drum sets began getting smaller and smaller. I think this period in time is a bit of an anomaly, as many players now play just a simple four-piece kit.
Drummers who use concert toms today are usually in very large acts or are clinicians by nature. It just doesn’t make sense for a drummer in a young band to be lugging in a bunch of extra drums when they can play just fine on a smaller kit.
I, on the other hand, do love the sound and freedom of concert toms. I don’t necessarily think large drum setups are bad, contrary to what you may read online. Many people have an attitude about drummers not utilizing all the drums in a large setup. I think adding concert toms to a setup adds a sense of uniqueness and personality!
Drum Workshop is one of my favorite manufacturers these days. They make incredible sounding drums and, despite their high-end pricing, have recently made leaps in expanding their consumer base with more affordable drums.
DW’s Design Series concert toms are offered in the following size sets:
If you want to go full Neil Peart, you can get the entire set. These drums are a great value, though I wish the drums were just a bit deeper. All four concert toms are only 5″ in depth.
What concert toms should you avoid?
There’s been a listing on Amazon for the last few years that has an image that you see to the left. There is nothing about these drums that allow them to qualify as concert toms!
I’d imagine these are cheap, Chinese drums that are just keyword spamming to get to the top of page one on Amazon for the keyword ‘concert toms.’ Stay away from these drums at all costs!
You can clearly see that there are top and bottom heads. One other dead giveaway to the quality of the drum is the lack of lugs. Each drum only has four lugs.
How does the tuning of these drums differ?
Depending on your taste, you can either crank concert toms up super tight or keep them loose! I personally love the sound of super high toms for exciting fills.
I’ve found that the 6″ drum can be a little difficult to tune at lower pitches due to the nature of only having four lugs. I tend to use a piece of moon gel on the drums, as well, to rid some of the overtones.
Are Rototoms different than concert toms?
Yes, rototoms are much different than concert toms, though they share a similar sonic tone. Rototoms do not have a drum shell and are fixed on an aluminum frame. The drums are tuned in two different ways: with a standard drum key on the tension rods and also by rotating the drum’s rim. Rototoms were commercialized by the well-known drum head company Remo.
Do you use concert toms or any kind of auxiliary percussion in your setup? I would love to hear from you down below! Thanks for reading.