Jon Farriss of INXS has used Rototoms throughout his career

You either love them or hate them…I’m speaking of the Rototom. A fixture in the 1980’s this distinctive drum is still found on the kits of some of today’s top players. The Rototom first became popular when trendsetting drummers such as Terry Bozzio (Missing Persons), Alex Van Halen (Van Halen) and Jon Farriss (INXS) used them extensively in their repertoire. Their distinctive tone rang above standard toms and expanded the options on a typical drum kit.

According the their definition: Rototoms are a drum developed by Al Payson and Michael Colgrass, that have no shell and are tuned by rotating. They consist of a single head in a die-cast zinc or aluminum frame. Unlike most other drums, they have a variable definite pitch. They were commercialized by the drumhead company REMO. Rototoms can be tuned quickly by rotating the head, which sits in a threaded metal ring. Rotation raises or lowers the tension hoop relative to the rim, which increases or decreases the pitch of the drum by increasing or decreasing the tension of the drum head. Rototoms are often used as a substitute for timpani students, as they have a very similar sound, are not as loud and expensive as timpani, and do not require as much room space.

Popular Drummers who still use Rototoms include: Tim Alexander of Primus, Travis Barker of Blink-182, Danny Carey of Tool, Taylor Hawkins of Foo Fighters, Nick Mason of Pink Floyd and Eric Kretz of Stone Temple Pilots. Dozens more have periodically incorporated Rototoms into their signature sounds. I have a friend, Mike “Woody” Emerson of Color of Fate, who incorporates Rototoms extensively in his drum solo. Some experimental drummers have gone as far as building full drum kits using nothing but Rototoms. I myself use a 12” Rototom as one of my primary toms along with a hybrid Ludwig kit that utilizes ddrum triggers. I love the crisp tone of the drum as it “sits” above the rest of the kit’s tuning. It’s perfect for accents or fills that require a unique sound. My favorite drummer is Jon Farriss so I attempted to set up my kit similar to his. Immediately I found a configuration that worked well for me. As with his drums, the Rototom rounded out the sonic palette that I use to create sounds.

For more information on Rototoms or to view a collection of nostalgic catalogs featuring the drum, visit

Leave a comment

Filed under Drums and Drumming

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s