Tom Tom Drums: Sizing and Other Considerations

Like many drummers, I’ve not given a lot of thought to drum sizes other than small drums have a higher pitch and large drums have a lower pitch. I bought my last kit because its made of Birch and did not pay much attention to the tom tom diameters. After all, It has a small tom, a medium tom and a large tom. What else do I need to know? I’ve looked at some of the big drum companies to see how they dimension their drums. I’d like to make my drums similar to the industry standards. It turns out there are a few different sizing schemes in use by the big manufacturers.
After looking over DWs website, I made the attached spreadsheets of the three lines of shells they offer.

Traditional Tom Toms
These dimensions were popular back in the 40s to 60s. It looks to me like a hodgepodge of sizes that were probably popular with the drumming pioneers such as Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich. These guys probably inspired up an coming drummers who then tried to copy their gear.

Standard Tom Toms

These are the dimensions you will see in a typical kit at Guitar Center. This sizing scheme has a diameter to depth ration that is closer to liner than Traditional. The depth of the shell is typically 2 inches deeper than the diameter.

Fast Tom Toms
This is a newer sizing scheme that is similar to Standard with an additional inch of depth. I’ve never played a kit with Fast toms so I don’t know what the extra depth does for the sound.

Some interesting things I’ve discovered:
The following diameters seem to be “forbidden” (not sure why. Maybe they are unlucky): 9”, 11”, 17”, 19”,21” and 25”.

Bass toms are always the same diameter. Only the depth varies. (it’s technically a kick drum. Bass drum is the big drum you see in a marching band but people think I’m a snob when I say that) Traditional Bass, 14” diameter, Standard bass, 16” diameter. Fast Bass 18” diameter.

So I have an idea of the proper dimensions for tom toms. I’ll probably use the Standard scheme when I start building my shells.


Traditional Tom Tom Drum Measurements Chart
Standard Tom Tom Drum Measurements Chart
Fast Tom Tom Drum Measurements Chart
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