The latest addition to Yamaha’s acoustic drum catalog pays homage to the popular Tour Custom series that was released in the mid-’80s. But instead of featuring punchy, dark-sounding birch/mahogany shells, the new version is built from more popular and all-purpose maple. (Birch shells are still used for the high-end Recording Custom line and the competitively priced Stage Custom series.) The new Tour Custom kits are targeted towards drummers who need reliable, great-sounding drums that can be used for a variety of genres but aren’t priced beyond the average budget. We received the TMP2F4 four-piece shell pack to review, which included 7×10 and 8×12 toms, a 15×16 floor tom, and a 16×22 bass drum. Let’s check it out.
Tour Custom drums feature 6-ply/5.6mm maple shells with choice American veneer used for the inside and outside plies. The bearing edges are cut to forty-five degrees, and five satin lacquer finishes are available. We checked out the dark-brown Chocolate Satin. The other options are Caramel (honey), Licorice (black), Butterscotch (natural), and Candy Apple (red). Although the finishes are limited, Yamaha made a smart move in choosing these particular colors; there are enough options to appeal to different aesthetics, yet none of them look so extreme that they would be out of place in certain environments. The beautiful grain of the maple peeks through the satin lacquer just enough to give the shells a sophisticated, high-end appearance.
The rack toms feature Yamaha’s slick, single-screw Absolute lugs and super-discreet Y.E.S.S. mounts, which are strategically bolted to the shell at null points so that the drums produce full, unencumbered sustain. The toms are mounted directly to the bass drum via a sturdy, easily adjustable double-tom holder that has a third slot for an additional cymbal arm. The floor toms have basic brackets and knurled legs, which feature retractable/removable rubber feet and spiked tips for extra stability. The toms have steel rims with an inward flange, which is a throwback to the type of hoops used by some manufacturers—including Yamaha—in the 1960s and ’70s. These rims are said to help control overtones to make the fundamental note more focused. The bass drum has matching maple hoops.
The toms came with Remo Clear Ambassadors on top and bottom and the bass drum had a Clear Powerstroke 3 batter and a Smooth White P3 front with a Yamaha logo.
Yamaha drums are revered by touring drummers and backline companies because they’re simply designed, durable, and easy to tune. The Tour Custom kit fell right in line with that reputation. They’re also lightweight, which is another plus for drummers who cart their own gear.
The bass drum had a big but not overly boomy tone when tuned low and left unmuffled. Medium tuning produced a more focused note with a crisp attack, and high tunings had a rounder attack and a tighter, tom-like tone. You could utilize any of those sounds if you favor a more ambient bass drum sound, especially when playing in unmiked situations. But in most cases you’ll want to swap out the solid front head with a ported version or cut a hole in it to increase the punch and to allow for more muffling and miking options. Tossing a towel or pillow inside the shell removed most of the reflective overtones, tightened up the resonance, and emphasized the meaty and useful low-end that was easy to mix. The attack was clean and snappy, and the punch hit hard and then got right out of the way, which left plenty of sonic space for the bass guitar and other low-end instruments.
The Tour Custom toms had a wide tuning range that extended from high, bright, and cutting to low, fat, and thumpy. The clear single-ply heads gave the most resonant and pure sound possible, but they were more sensitive to tuning discrepancies. With these heads, I found that the Tour Custom toms had a sweet spot in the medium range that produced a full, resonant tone with a clean attack and long sustain. Higher tunings had shorter resonance and a brighter attack, while lower tunings had a more papery punch and a rumbling sustain that may need to be controlled with a little muffling to keep it focused. I understand why clear single-ply heads were included on these toms; they provided a wide range of sounds based on how they were tuned and dampened. But for most gigging situations, you’ll likely want to swap them out for a set of Coated Ambassadors or 2-ply Emperors to control the overtones and fatten up the low end. Thicker heads will also increase durability, so you’ll get more mileage out of them.
Through experimenting with different batter heads, I discovered how versatile Tour Custom drums are. You can get a wide range of useful and musical sounds from them solely dependent on the heads you choose, making them an ideal choice for gigging drummers who need a single set of drums for different situations. In an era that’s flush with overly customized drumsets, it’s nice to see Yamaha continuing to focus on producing professional-sounding, versatile instruments that don’t cost an arm and a leg and will maintain relevance as musical trends change. Both Tour Custom four-piece shell packs, including the smaller version with a 20″ bass drum and a 14″ floor tom, sell for about $1,300.