I wanted to take this opportunity to write my thoughts on this topic, which can potentially lead a drummer down a rabbit hole of a confusing array of options with regards to mounting Toms on your drumkit. The decision to write this post came out of a WhatsApp conversation I had the day before with a very good student I am currently teaching. He is in the process of choosing his very first acoustic drumkit to purchase, and the ideal rack-tom mounting system was one of his concerns.
Here’s my story:
Like every other drummer who started out not knowing any better, I used the conventional bass drum mounted tom set up. I had no issue with it at all, and I felt that such a mounting system had no effect whatsoever on the bass drum’s tone. I just did not think of it.
Many years later after I started out, I read (though I forgot which source) that bass drum mounted toms do in fact affect the tone of the bass drum – because of the added mass on the bass drum, it prevents the drum from “breathing properly” like a snare drum with its own separate stand, or floor toms with their own separate mounting systems, independent of any part of the kit. This same source also recommended trying out mounting the rack toms on stands that can hold two rack toms, or on a snare drum stand for a single rack tom. When I saw pictures of some of my favourite drummers such as Ian Paice and John Bonham, alas, they used snare drum stands tall enough to mount their single rack toms. I noticed how full and resonant their rack toms sounded on their hey-day recordings.
I acquired a tall snare drum stand about 6 or 7 years ago – the kind also used for concert snare drum work, as you would typically stand up and play the snare drum – made by Gibraltar Percussion. Between the time I bought the stand and when I actually started using on live gigs as a mount for my rack tom around 2018, it was basically a white elephant. I tried selling it off online but to no success, for some reason (my sales luck in the past wasn’t that great. It’s getting better now, though..). Then, having been fed up with my failure to sell it off, I decided, one fateful day, to use it in the same manner as Ian Paice and John Bonham.
When I tried out this “new” mounting system for the rack tom on a live gig in 2018, I immediately noticed how much bigger, resonant, and explosive my bass drum sounded. It was like a cannon. Very impressed, I decided to stick with this setup. I do not see myself changing from this setup when live performance returns (whenever it does). I just like the way my kit sounds now with each drum free of each other, and allowed to resonate as freely as possible.
This is my story so far with mounting toms. Now, when it comes to a student asking me to recommend him or her to go with either the conventional bass drum mounting system, or a separate stand, OR a clamping system attached to the cymbal stands, I can only share my opinion. My opinion, however, is not the absolute truth. The truth is, many drummers in the world are just as happy with the conventional bass drum mounting system. Many recordings have been done with such a setup – and you have to keep in mind that the resulting drum sound you hear on the final mix has gone through various forms of signal processing during the mixing process, regardless of what mounting systems/hardware used. It is truly a personal preference, although, I am highly convinced of how much the bass drum tone improves when there isn’t something lumped on it like Goliath on a horse, in a purely live setting – where there is much limited time for mucking about with the drumkit tone. You should be able to dial in your kit tones as quickly as possible before you conduct a band soundcheck pre-show time.
To this end, I would suggest researching and experimenting as far as your time and budget allows you. It is also not a sin to start out the conventional away and then gradually break away from it in search of new or improved sounds. It would, perhaps, give us greater peace of mind to not obsess over getting it all perfect the first time around. Forget it. Any successful seasoned professional drummer knows how to work well with what he/she is given.
By putting this post here, I can refer students to this so I do not have to repeat myself again, ha! Of course, they are welcome to put forth follow-up questions and even arguments against what I wrote here.