The tom-tom is a cylindrical drum with no snares attached (unlike the snare drum). It can have either one or two heads. The shell is usually made of wood.
Tom-toms come in varying sizes, from about 15 cm (6”) to 40 cm (16”) in diameter. The bigger ones make a lower sound and the smaller ones make a higher sound. They often come in pairs.
In the West, tom-toms can be tuned and can imitate the sounds of, for example, Indian, African and Chinese drums.
To play it
You can play a tom-tom with drum sticks, mallets, bare hands, brushes or a variety of other implements.
The tom-tom makes a satisfying ‘bom-bom’ sound. It can range from low to high and soft to very loud.
Tom-toms and tam-tams might sound alike when you say them, but they don’t sound alike when you play them! Tom-toms are drums; tam-tams are big dishes of metal.
Do You Know?
See if you can answer the questions below!
● A tom-tom has...
● Which of these is not used to play a tom-tom?
● The tom-tom is part of which section?
● Which of these is the tom-tom able to do?
● What is the tom-tom?
Play More Music!
Here is more music to listen to. Click the + to see tracks and information about each work!
Selected Tom-Tom Extracts
Dmitry Shostakovich (1906–1975)
Violin Concerto No. 2 in C sharp minor, Op. 129: III. Adagio – Allegro (extract)
A dramatic moment for tom-toms in Shostakovich’s Violin Concerto.
Performers: Ilya Kaler, violin; Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra; Anton Wit
Taken from Naxos 8.550814