Updated on March 3rd, 2018
While the snare lines in the marching ensemble receive considerable amount of attention and accolade, the toms – more precisely called tenors – are typically manned by the best musicians in the ensemble.
Since most tenor sets come with five or more individually pitched toms, there are literally hundreds of options available with just as many manufacturers selling them.
The quest for the ideal tenor set is at its best a two-phase process. First, the purchaser must determine which configuration of toms provides the ideal setup given their needs and the needs of their group.
Second, the purchaser should look at brands to determine which manufacturer offers the best options to meet their need and their group needs.
While this process, especially the first phase, can be quite time consuming, it is a necessity when purchasing tenors.
A beautiful, well-crafted instrument that does not blend musically with the larger ensemble is a millstone around the band’s collective neck. Take the time to make the right purchase.
Gone are the days of the tri-tom tenor. Most marching bands equip their percussionists with tenor sets that have four, five or six toms. There tends to be a direct correlation between tom size and the pitch of the tom.
The wider and therefore the larger the drum head on the tom, the lower the pitch. As is the case with all instruments with the battery section of the marching band, tenor pitch can also be modified by tightening or loosening the tension on the drum head.
When selecting the number of toms to include in the tenor set, the teaching professionals should consider the complexity of the percussion score as well as the aptitude of the musicians within the tenor section.
Tenors with six toms provide significant versatility for the percussion sections of the marching score, but may not be suitable for the playing ability of the novice or intermediate percussionist. Similarly, a large tenor set means additional weight for the musician.
While modern marching percussion carriages help to properly distribute the weight, the set may still be unwieldy for a musician with a smaller build.
Generally, “quints” are the optimum size tenor sets for all but the elite performing units. Within the quint family, sets with 6, 10, 12, 13, and 14 inch toms seem to provide the ideal voicing for the outdoor competitive ensemble.
In the Dynasty family of percussion offerings, the Custom Elite tenors continue to receive praise from numerous scholastic and drum corps units.
Crafted in maple and available in deep and shallow cuts, the Elites are customized based on the ensemble’s voicing expectations.
Fully assembled before leaving the Dynasty manufacturing facility, the Elites can be pulled from the box and played within minutes of removing the packaging.
Available in a number of finishes, the Elites can be colored and embellished to match the ensemble’s existing palette.
Another notable feature of Dynasty’s offering is its intrinsic durability. A Dynasty if purchased for the battery, iis a durable selection and it will last.
Yamaha Tenor Sets, called multi-toms in Yamaha nomenclature, provide two excellent options for the outdoor groups.
The Yamaha MQ-6300 Power-Lite is crafted of birch to reduce the instrument’s weight. Ideal for non-competitive ensembles, the 6300 offers a vibration reducing design, zinc lug casings and a computer designed cut at the base of its tom to insure deft projection and tone.
The Power-Lite’s optional stand and carrier provide much needed relief to the performer who may be fatigued by rigorous rehearsal and performance schedules.
On the professional side of the fence, Yamaha offers its highly regarded MQ-8300 Field-Corps Series. The MQ-8300 is crafted of hand-selected maple wood that has been deeply cut to insure magnificent projection and a tight sound.
The 8300 comes equipped with Yamaha’s patented Air-Seal System, which safeguards the structural integrity of the individual tom ensuring that round shells stay round. Inevitably, the rounder the shell the better the tom’s tone production and ability to be tuned.
The 8300’s are available in a plethora of configurations with the sextet grouping the most popular. The fantastic spacing in all configurations enables the percussionist’s rapid attack of drumheads while rehearsing or performing his or her portion of the score.
Similar to its offerings in the snare line, Pearl markets two bread-and-butter tenor sets to the discerning consumer. Perhaps more so than any other brand, Pearl’s marching percussion line is recognized as a significant favorite with the elite units in the marching arts.
Pearl’s PMTCC Tenor stands at the nexus of innovation and old school quality and reliability.
While the exterior of each tom is crafted in maple, the interior of the tom is adorned in carbon laminate. The carbon feature of the PMTCC strengthens the tom, amplifies its projection capabilities, helps to create and support a warm tone.
Available in quad, quint, and sextet configurations, the PMTCC can be matched with prospective batteries from throughout the marching arts family.
Pearl’s Competition Maple tenors are widely used by drum corps. Made of sturdy maple, the Competition’s produce amazing sound in a package that can withstand the rigorous demand needed by drum corps and other highly competitive ensembles.
Also notable, the Competition Maples come with cast aluminum tension rings that don a sleek appearance, a manageable weight and the potential for years of hassle-free service.
Available in over 50 specialty lacquer finishes, the Competition Maples are customizable to the color requirements of just about every ensemble in the activity.
Everyone loves tenor sets for their beauty and music. Under the sticks of the top performers in the percussive section of the ensemble, tenors offer unmatched color and texture to the percussion score.
Purchasing tenors, more so than other member of the percussion family, is a deliberate and delicate process. Before the checkbook is opened, the director of the full band ensemble or his or her designee from the percussion section, must seriously consider the need of the whole ensemble and the aptitude of the musician(s) assigned to the tenor set(s).
Only with this information in hand is the purchaser equipped to select and buy new tenor sets. Ah, but when the boxes are opened and the beauties are unfurled… Watch out! Good things are bound to happen.