One Rack Tom vs. Multiple Rack Toms

wesporter

Member
I've struggled with a set-up delema all my career. Using two to three rack toms verses using only one rack tom and one or two floor toms. The "one up, two down" set up seems to be the "fad" today. Almost all my favorite drummers use this set up; ie Abe Laboriel Jr, Chad Smith, Stanton Moore, Shawn Pelton, etc... but there are many awesome drummers who use multiple rack toms like Dennis Chambers, Stewart Copeland, Chris Coleman, etc... The man himself Neil Peart kinda uses a hybrid of the two having multiple rack toms but mounted over his hihat so that his ride is still tight over his kick and separating the racks from the floors. I have a Mapex Horizon series kit with 8, 10, and 12 rack toms and a 16 floor tom. I have tried just using the 12 and 16, (one up, one down), I've also used two up, one down (10, 12, 16) and recently been using all of them, three up, one down (8, 10, 12, and 16). If you look at my pics on my profile page you can see the different variations.
I have found interestingly, that the different set-ups, tend to inspire different kinds of playing in me. Last night while spending some time in the woodshed, I have a revalation. It seems that when I play my kit with the 2-3 up, 1 down set up, it tends to invoke a more expressive type of playing, whereas the 1 up, 1 down set up tends to make me more of a "groove" player. Has anyone else ever experienced this? I think its something about when you have the 2-3 up, 1 down set up, you feel a little more "buried" behind your kit, and you feel more like, "I am the great and powerful OZ!!! never mind that man behind the curtain" kinda thing. All the gear kinda makes you feel a little more detached and seperated from the audience, so I tend to think more like a "drummer". Conversly, when I play the 1 up, 1 down set up, I feel more exposed to the audience, and feel more freedom to, if you will, have a "personality" on stage, and feel less like the man behind the curtain, and actually a little less like a "drummer" and more like a "performer"....if that makes any sense. As a result I tend to play in a more "groove oriented" fashion.
My feeling is that the way that these two different types of set-ups make me play respectively, is useful in different applications. If I was playing something more progressive I would probably feel more comfortable playing the 2-3 up, 1 down set up where I can be more expressive, having my "pallet" more right in front of me at my disposal. However when playing in my band ATOMIC LOUNGE, which is basically a rock party band (covers), It's more about bringing energy to the dance floor and "entertaining" if you (ie more "groove" playing). My next endeavor is to mount my 12" tom off of a cymbal stand as a "floor" tom, and go with a 1 up, 2 down set up (10, 12, 16), thus still having more tonal variety with my toms, but preserving that "feeling" I get from playing a 1 up type set up, ie feeling more connection with the audience.
I was just wondering if anyone else had ever noticed this, what others preferrences are, and in general what anyone elses thoughts are on this. I've never seen any articles on this issue in any major drum publications and think it would be cool to.
 

Nickropolis

Senior Member
I've never owned a mid-high end kit and the sizes of drums that are par for lower end gear are 12, 13 and 16, with the rack toms being 10 or so inches deep. That doesn't leave me with any sort of comfortable setup aside from lately I've added the 13 back into the mix on the left of my hihat.

I don't necessarily feel buried in the sense of not being a part of what's around me when using lots of toms, it's more that I feel less of a connection with the kit as a whole. I'd rather have 2 more cymbals than 2 more toms.

I like new and cool junk just as much as the next guy but I don't really follow fads although certain drummers have inspired me to try things similar to what they are doing. Some of it works, others I instantly hate and change within 5 minutes.
 

Anduin

Pioneer Member
Yes, 1 up 2 down is very trendy. But it’s inefficient and a waste of space. With that setup, your left hand has no chance at working as much as the right, which goes against my basic philosophy of drumming.

I say 1 floor tom is plenty. Arrange rack toms so both hands can get at them easily.
 

Toolate

Platinum Member
I play one up 2 down with my largest Ft on my L side (I am R handed).

Its so liberating and fun to have somewhere to go with the L hand and gets you out of many situations where you would be crossed or doing double strokes on a tom. Cant do the old 16ths around the toms very easily but I think that would be a blessing for some.
 

Naigewron

Platinum Member
Whenever I have more than one rack tom, I get much more "fill-heavy", with tom runs and various intricate creations. However, when I'm behind a single rack tom (preferrably with two floor toms), I focus much more on the groove, and my fills are much simpler and sit much more inside the groove instead of being a "hey, look at me" moment.

I definitely prefer the 1 up, 2 down, both for looks, sound (gotta love rumbling floor toms) and for how it inspires me to play.

edit: Also, one thread is enough!
 

jonoori

Junior Member
I grew up playing two up, one down like most people here and actually just went back to it in rehearsals recently (also 3 up). It works for some music better than others. There's a song or two that my band plays that are sort of tongue-in-cheek hard rock songs, with huge choruses that call for lots of toms and stuff, along with a few reggae songs where the fills seem to flow better better in that set-up (reggae and dancehall drummers, apparently, knew what they were doing).

It's fun to play all those toms and, especially, to have them available to you; but in my situation living and gigging a couple nights a week in NYC and carrying all my own stuff, i generally have to make sure the kit can fit in the back of cabs and that I can carry it easily. At that point, the extra toms and bigger bass drums stay back in the apartment or in the rehearsal space.
 

wesporter

Member
I grew up playing two up, one down like most people here and actually just went back to it in rehearsals recently (also 3 up). It works for some music better than others. There's a song or two that my band plays that are sort of tongue-in-cheek hard rock songs, with huge choruses that call for lots of toms and stuff, along with a few reggae songs where the fills seem to flow better better in that set-up (reggae and dancehall drummers, apparently, knew what they were doing).

It's fun to play all those toms and, especially, to have them available to you; but in my situation living and gigging a couple nights a week in NYC and carrying all my own stuff, i generally have to make sure the kit can fit in the back of cabs and that I can carry it easily. At that point, the extra toms and bigger bass drums stay back in the apartment or in the rehearsal space.
I live in a very small town in Ohio, I've often wondered how drummers in NYC do it when so many people there don't have cars or don't use them.
 

jonoori

Junior Member
I live in a very small town in Ohio, I've often wondered how drummers in NYC do it when so many people there don't have cars or don't use them.
A lot of the clubs here have house kits. The better the club, the better maintained the kit. After about a year of playing on the junkers of the lower east side I started to keep a sort of mental list of places that we played in regularly and made sure I brought what I thought would improve my performances at those places. Usually, bass drums and floor toms are passable in nearly all of the places - so i'm in the habit of bringing a 12x8 rack tom and a 12" piccolo which can fit into the same tom case in addition to my cymbals (an 18" ride, 16" crash and 14" hihats) and pedals - this i can comfortably take in one trip on the train. I also have an 18" kick drum and a 14" floor tom that can fit in the back of a cab if i'm going to a party or something at someone's apartment or i'm playing a gig somewhere that doesn't have a backline.

In short, living in this city forces you to learn to love things that are small and easy to carry.
 

K.Howden

Senior Member
I disagree that it's a fad. The 1-up 1-down or 1-up 2-down has been used since the conception of the drumset, just look at Papa Jo, Gene Krupa, Buddy, Kenny Clarke, Joe Morello etc that set up was being used long before adding rack toms became commonplace, not until the 60's (possibly late 50's) at least.

With that setup, your left hand has no chance at working as much as the right, which goes against my basic philosophy of drumming.
I don't mean to come off as an ass here at all and I apologise if I do, but I don't see the correlation between having an extra tom up top and how much one uses their left hand. Surely it has every chance of working just as much as the right, it's just a matter of whether you choose to, regardless if there's one tom up there or two or three and so on? I understand that having two toms will give you two pitches but that's all it comes down to, a different pitch. What would be to stop a person using the left hand just as much when there's one pitch to work with?

Just to be clear, I'm not one of these "the less drums there are the more creative you become" people, I just happen to think the number of instruments you have in front of you should have no bearing on how creative you can be and how much you can use either hand for that matter.

Hope everyone is well,

Kev
 

Anduin

Pioneer Member
I disagree that it's a fad. The ... 1-up 2-down has been used since the conception of the drumset, just look at Papa Jo, Gene Krupa, Buddy, Kenny Clarke, Joe Morello etc
I think you’re actually supporting my point that it is a fad. Yes, it used to be common. Then, for DECADES, it was uncommon. Now it’s coming back into fashion, therefore I label it a fad. Not really a big deal though, is it?


I don't see the correlation between having an extra tom up top and how much one uses their left hand.
What I’m getting at is physical access to playing surfaces. With 2 floor toms, your left hand is pretty much never going to play either floor tom unless your right hand is out of the way, which it almost never is. With toms in front of you, your left hand has more unobstructed drums to play.
 
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Anduin

Pioneer Member
Whenever I have more than one rack tom, I get much more "fill-heavy", with tom runs and various intricate creations. However, when I'm behind a single rack tom...my fills are much simpler...
Interesting. I find almost the opposite to be true. If I’m playing a 4-piece I tend to play more rhythmically complex fills. If I have a bunch of toms all around me it’s easy to fall into the trap of just playing a fairly boring run down the toms.

With a big kit I can play intricate stuff if I think about it. With a small kit I play intricate stuff without thinking as much simply because the plethora of tonal options just ain’t there, so that leaves me toying with more complex rhythms on a few surfaces as opposed to playing simpler rhythms on many surfaces.
 

wesporter

Member
I disagree that it's a fad. The 1-up 1-down or 1-up 2-down has been used since the conception of the drumset, just look at Papa Jo, Gene Krupa, Buddy, Kenny Clarke, Joe Morello etc that set up was being used long before adding rack toms became commonplace, not until the 60's (possibly late 50's) at least.
Very true that this configuration has been common since the beginning. However, I would point out that in those early decades of the drum kits, one of the main reasons people used 1up 1down, or 1up 2down was because that's just how drum companies made their kits. Companies, to my knowledge, didn't start making multiple tom mounting systems until as you said the late 50's, or 60's. So back then I'd say drummers did it mostly just because thats what was available, thru the late 70's and 80's multiple mounted toms became common place, probably, as our friend points out, because it made more sense ergonomically, then with the coming of grunge and Nirvana, we start seeing drummers go back to the single rack tom set up. A throw-back or "going retro" if you will, which I would say is indeed a fad. However, while I agree that having your whole pallet more in front of you with multiple rack toms makes more sense ergonomically, I can't ignore the difference it makes on my playing psychologically. When I have everything in front of me, I tend to want to use them more, and when I have but 1 rack and 1 or 2 floors, I tend to focus more on groove. I think it all depends on the person, their influences, etc... Also, I like having less gear in front of me and being able to be more engaged with the audience within the context of a "party band", as opposed to wanting to be more focused on my instrument in a more progressive project.
 

Mark_S

Silver Member
Growing up I played the standard 2 up 1 down, then eventually went 3 up 1 down. Lately though I've been playing 1 up 1 down (I would play 2 down if I had a second floor tom) and for some reason it just feels more comfortable and I just seem to play better. I really can't put my finger on what it changes about my playing. I do love having the ride cymbal practically in front of me, and you can get the floor tom nearer the kit so it becomes easier to play. The gap between rack tom and floor tom doesn't feel anything like as much as I thought it would.

My best gigs seem to be with this configuration. I think maybe my playing just becomes more groove oriented rather than feeling like I need to use those toms.. maybe.

Whether I'll stay this way I don't know, but for now it is feeling good. That's the great thing about drums, we can configure them according to our whim.

I can't get enough cymbals, the more the better!
 

Anduin

Pioneer Member
That's the great thing about drums, we can configure them according to our whim.
Now that’s where you’re just wrong!

Obviously, it’s only Travis Barker’s whims that are the truly useful ones.
 
P

plangentmusic

Guest
One up and two down is actually very old school. It makes the most sense to me because the ride never feels comfortable with 2 toms.
 

wesporter

Member
Now that’s where you’re just wrong!

Obviously, it’s only Travis Barker’s whims that are the truly useful ones.
LMAO!!! That is very true though, I love tinkering with my gear and finding unique and interesting ways to set stuff up. In that way we are very different from guitarists, pianists, or any other instrumentalist. And, I agree can never have too many cymbals.
 

SticksEasy

Senior Member
I use the one up, two down kit, but that's how I've always played. My first drum kit had two rack toms and a floor and I never used the second rack tom. I actually prefer two rack toms, with them angled around my snare. Like, my highest tom mounted on a stand to the left, and then the second tom be located where the high tom would be. I like my ride cymbal to hand over my bass drum.

I've never been able to afford my own kit like this, so for me it'll probably be one up and two down for a while. I hate the traditional method of mounting two toms on a bass drum. The second tom never gets used because it's uncomfortable for me to play on it in it's position. I have no clue why, It's just always been that way.

I used to go to a jam session every two weeks with some friends in this church. They church had a drum set they let me use. I'd always take the second tom off and position my ride cymbal where it would be, and play one up, one down.
 

PDL

Senior Member
I've always used 1 up, the reason is I like my ride to be right next to the kick. I started playing 1 up 1 down then as I got into heavier bands I moved to 1 up and 2 floors. I have no problem getting round the kit what so ever. I don't like multi rack toms it is a/ too prog rock (joke!!) and b/ makes it easy to opt out of good snare work/use. For me Kick, Snare, hat and ride are the most important part of my playing, I don't need 7 rack toms I'm not Chester Thompson. ;0
 

jonoori

Junior Member
I've met Chester. His kit was an Ayotte two-up, two-down at the clinic he played. Nothing outrageous. But he was an awesome guy.
 
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