Tama Drums, (from Japanese 多満 (Kanji) タマ (Kana), read tama) is a brand of drum kits and hardware manufactured and marketed by the Japanese musical instrument company, Hoshino Gakki. Tama's research and development of products, along with production of its professional and most expensive drums, is done in Seto, Japan, while its hardware and less expensive drums are manufactured in Guangzhou, China. Hoshino has several offices around the world for marketing and wholesale distribution. Drums destined for the U.S. market are assembled and stocked at Hoshino (U.S.A.) in Bensalem, Pennsylvania. The U.S. subsidiary also contributes to Tama's market research and development.
Hoshino Gakki began manufacturing drums in 1965 under the name "Star Drums". Hoshino, the family name of the founder, translates to "star field," thus the selection of the "Star Drums" brand name. The drums were manufactured at Hoshino's subsidiary, Tama Seisakusho, which had opened in 1962 to manufacture Ibanez guitars and amplifiers. While the production of guitars and amps was moved out of the factory by 1966, the production of drums there continued to grow. The two higher lines of drum models, Imperial Star and Royal Star, were introduced to the American market and were successful lower-cost drums competing against more expensive American-made drums offered by Rogers, Ludwig, and Slingerland at the time.
By 1974, Hoshino decided to make a concerted effort to make high-quality drums and hardware and start marketing its drums under the Tama brand. Tama was the name of the owner's wife, and is also a homophone with the Japanese word meaning "jewel". "Star" continues to be used in the names of Tama's drum models to this day.
Tama and Drum Workshop (DW) jointly bought the bankrupt Camco Drum Company. As part of the deal, DW received the Camco tooling and manufacturing equipment while Tama received the Camco name, designs, engineering and patent rights.
At the time, Camco was producing what was thought to be the best drum pedal on the market. DW continued production of the pedal using the original tooling, rebadging it as the DW5000. Tama began production of the same pedal under the Camco name. The Tama version of the Camco pedal is commonly referred to as the Tamco pedal to distinguish it from an original Camco pedal. Tama integrated all the engineering from Camco into their production process and the overall level of quality of their drums increased virtually overnight. The original plan was to market the low-end Tama drums to beginners and use the Camco brand to sell high-end drums to professional musicians. However, even the professionals were starting to use the Tama drums because of the low cost of the Asian-made drums with the (now) high quality of hardware.
Tama was one of the first companies to offer super heavy-duty hardware, and drum mounting systems that did not intrude into the shell like most brands in the 1970s. They also invented unique tubular drums called Octobans. Octobans are 6-inches in diameter and are manufactured in eight different lengths (hence the prefix "octo-") up to 600mm (23.5 in). They vary in pitch by using different shell lengths, rather than widths.
Starclassic Bubinga logo
Starclassic Performer B/B badge, lacquered white oyster finish
Side View of a Speed Cobra single pedal
Beginner and professional kits
- Imperialstar – Tama's mid-range entry-level drum kit named after the previous Imperial Star line. Like their less expensive Swingstar counterparts, these drums are made with poplar shells in a wrap finish and feature Accu-Tune bass drum hoops. These drums include Meinl HCS brass cymbals as standard equipment.
- Superstar Classic – Although originally discontinued, Tama has brought back the Superstar series to their lineup in 2015. The original Superstar and Superstar Excel were made up of Birch shells. Currently, the Superstar Classic series is made of all maple shells. The Toms and Snare are made of six ply of 5 mm maple while the bass is eight ply of 7 mm.
The Starclassic series is one of Tama's high-end line of drums. Originally hand-crafted in Japan until late 2009, most of the Starclassic lines are now made in TAMA's Chinese factory. A notable difference is that pre 2009 Japanese production Starclassics have their badges painted on the drum's shell, while Chinese-made Starclassics feature badges fitted onto the shell with screws. Pre 2010 Japanese production Starclassics have a mix of paint-on and screw-on badges depending on the model. Performer Birch have metal badges while Starclassic Maple and Bubinga lines have decal badges. All Starclassic series drums come with a more streamlined version of Tama's Star-Cast mounting system made from aluminum, air-cushioned floor tom legs, "Hold Tight" washers which keeps the tension rods in place (Starclassic Maple to Starclassic Bubinga Elite), die-cast hoops, and Evans drumheads as standard equipment. The drums are also available in a Hyper-Drive configuration, with individual snare drums also available.
- Starclassic Maple – Drums made from 6 ply-maple shells (7 on bassdrums) and come in lacquer and Duracover wrap finishes.
- Starclassic Walnut/Birch – Drums made from hybrid walnut/birch shells and come in lacquer and Duracover wrap finishes.
Since 2013, it is Tama's flagship line, and are available in bubinga, walnut, and maple shells. New features for the STAR line include "Super Resonant Mounting System", unique shell construction, and the Quick-Lock Tom Bracket. Bubinga shell drums are made with 5 plies of bubinga plus one inner ply of Cordia and have 9mm Sound Focus Rings. Maple shell drums are made with 5 plies of maple and have 5mm Sound Focus Rings. Walnut shell drums are made with 6 plies of walnut on the rack toms, floor toms, and snare drum, and 7 plies on the bass drum.
- Fibrestar – The "forgotten" series. They were produced for only a short time in the late 1970s to early 1980s. The shells of these drums have been made from fibreglass and were covered with one ply plastic-foil, available in various colors. A notable user of the Fibrestar series was Simon Phillips. Phillips played a large silver drumset at that time with prototype drumshells. These were deeper than the standard shells at the time. The series did not perform well commercially and was discontinued after three years, leaving few still in current use.
- Royalstar – Introduced in 1975 with different lugs and lower quality hardware than Superstar of the same era.
- Granstar – Drums made from 100% birch 7-ply shells.
- Starworks – Introduced in 2009, Starworks is Tama's mid-range line of drums aimed for rockers. These drums are made from birch and comes in two different configurations: a rock kit with a 20" deep bass drum, and a fusion kit, both included with black hardware, a unique bass drum head, and four unique finishes. Due to slow sales, however, the Starworks line was discontinued the following year.
Camco by Tama: Camco sets were re-introduced in the late 1970's. They were made of Asian Mahogany with 9 ply shells. These were released in a very limited supply for a 2 year run.
- Rockstar – Drums made from Philippine mahogany shells. Later models made exclusively for Guitar Center had birch/basswood shells.
- Artstar – Drums made from birch wood sandwiched between two plys of South American Cordia wood. They had 9mm bass drum shell and 6mm snare, floor tom and tom tom shells.
- Artstar II – Drums made from 100% Canadian maple 9-ply shells.
- Artstar Custom – Similar shell construction to the Artstar II series, but with updated hardware including die-cast hoops.
- Stagestar – Drums made from Philippine Mahogany.
- Crestar – Drums made from 100% Japanese birch 8-ply shells.
- Techstar – Electronic drums.
- Rhythm Mate – Beginner series.
- Starclassic Performer Birch – Made from 100% Birch. Made from 1999 to 2007.
- Starclassic Performer EFX Birch – Same as Starclassic Performer Birch, but with wraps such as Liquid Metal.
- Starclassic Birch – Made from 100% Birch. Made from 1994 to 1996.
- Swingstar – Drums made from Philippine mahogany (aka Luan) 9-ply shells with additional Inner shell Zola coating.
- Imperialstar – First introduced in 1970 with concert toms, by the late 1970s the shells were 5 ply Philippine mahogany with Zola coat interior and reinforcement rings. Later shells (early 1980s) were 9 ply and had no reinforcement rings.
- Starclassic Warlord Exotix Spartan – Drums made from stainless steel shells with "Warlord Collection" lugs & emblems with black diamond Swarovski crystals. It was the most expensive kit in Tama's lineup, with limited worldwide production to 50 kits in a 7-piece Accel Driver configuration.
- Superstar – Early shells (mid-1970s) were 5 ply birch with reinforcement rings. Later shells (early 1980s) were 6 ply birch (no reinforcement rings) and came in standard sizes (non-power depths) until Tama recognized the trend for power toms with the influence of hair rock and metal in the early 1980s. Billy Cobham and Elvin Jones were early adopters of the Superstar.
- Superstar (X-tras) – [1980s] With an extended depth, these drums were referred to as the original "power toms" with 6-ply 100% birch shell construction and a natural/lacquer finish. The shells produced extended overtones which many found cumbersome but adept professionals quickly tuned-in to the full potential of the drum—and amazing tone. The earliest endorsers represented a spectrum of originality and innovation in styles and genres: Art Blakely, Bill Bruford, Billy Cobham, Stewart Copeland, Neil Peart, Simon Phillips and many others. Offering a full array of sizes, including pioneering concepts such as the gong drum, the original Superstar line is now considered a "vintage/classic" Tama product and continues to generate aftermarket demand.
- Superstar Hyper-Drive (100% birch) – Tama's high-end line of semi-professional drums. These drums were made from 100% Birch shells (originally made from birch and basswood) and featured die-cast hoops in a black nickel finish. As the name implies, these drums were available in TAMA's trademark "Hyper-Drive" configuration, which consists of shorter tom depths and a longer bass drum depth (20 inches, also known as their "Ultra-Deep" depth) for optimum sound quality. These drums came in either a wrap or lacquer finish. Discontinued and replaced with the Superstar Hyper-Drive Maple kits.
- Silverstar/Silverstar Custom – Introduced in 2011, the Silverstar series replaced Tama's Superstar Accel Driver line. Like their Superstar counterparts, these drums were made from 100% birch shells and were available in either lacquer or wrap finishes. Silverstar drums featured a more streamlined version of their Star-Cast tom mounts (later done in chrome to match the hardware), "Powercraft II" heads with a white resonant head for the bass drum, low-mass lugs, triple-flanged hoops, and a slideable tom holder, which was usually found on the more expensive Starclassic line.
- Starclassic Performer B/B – Drums made from a mix of 4 outer plies birch (5 on bassdrums) and 3 inner plies of African bubinga shells and came in either a wrap or lacquer finish.
- Starclassic Bubinga/Starclassic Bubinga Elite – Drums made from 9 plies of African bubinga, with the Elite series made of either quilted bubinga or 8-ply bubinga shells with an outer ply of either maple or cordia. Starclassic Bubinga drums came in a lacquer finish, while Starclassic Bubinga Elite drums came in an exotic lacquer finish.
- Starclassic Bubinga Omni-Tune – Drums made from 100% bubinga shells. As the name implies, these drums featured Omni-Tune lugs, which were invented in the 1930s by drum designer William David Gladstone. These lugs allow the player to tune both drumheads at the same time using a special drum key, and minimizes the time spent on drumhead changes.
- Starphonic – Snare drums are made from maple, brass, bell brass, stainless steel, steel, bubinga, aluminum, or copper. Starphonic drums feature Tama's patented "Groove Hoops" and "Freedom Lugs" for quick head changes and increased sound quality. These drums also feature a Linear Drive strainer system which allow for quieter snare deployments. Drums are available in a 6" × 14" size, with a steel version in a 7" x 13" size, and the copper version only in a 7" x 14" size.
- Metalworks – Snares made with a 1.2mm steel shell. They come with Evans heads and black nickel-plated hardware, and are available in 5.5" x 14", and 6.5" x 14" sizes, with the addition of a 5.5" x 10" size.
- Starclassic – This line includes maple and walnut/birch shell snare drums.
- STAR – Tama's STAR line of snare drums are available in bubinga, maple, and walnut standard shells, along with solid zebrawood, mahogany, and maple shells, and stave walnut and ash shells.
- Signature – Snare drums made for Tama's endorsed artists. As of 2019, the following artists have snare drums in this line: Mike Portnoy, Lars Ulrich, Simon Phillips, Peter Erskine, Stewart Copeland, Kenny Arnoff, Charlie Benante, and John Tempesta.
- Sound Lab Project – The S.L.P. line of snare drums are made with various shell materials, shell thicknesses and parts. As of 2019, the following models are in the S.L.P. line: Studio Maple, Classic Maple, G-Maple, Vintage Poplar Maple, G-Walnut, Vintage Hammered Steel, Black Brass, Dynamic Bronze, Big Black Steel, Classic Dry Aluminum, Fat Spruce, Duo Birch, and Dynamic Kapur.
In addition to manufacturing drums, Tama also offers a variety of stands, pedals, thrones and multi-clamps as well as a rack system.
- Tama's top-of-the-line series of stands aimed at traveling musicians, as RoadPro stands for "Road-Proven". It features double-braced legs, die-cast joints, a reversible cymbal sleeve, and Tama's patented Cymbal Mate. RoadPro cymbal stands also feature TAMA's Quick-Set Tilter for adjusting the cymbal to any angle.
- Stage Master
- Tama's bottom-line series of hardware with single and double-braced versions available.
- PowerTower Rack
- Tama's rack system featuring a variety of pipes, clamps, and accessories for a custom drum rack.
- 1st Chair Throne systems
- Tama's top-of-the-line thrones with possible options of a hydraulic lift and back rest.
- Round Rider – round-type throne
- Ergo-Rider – hybrid round and saddle-type throne
- Glide Rider – saddle-type throne
- Speed Cobra
- Introduced in 2010, the Speed Cobra line features double and single pedal versions that are designed to be lighter, more responsive and have more power than the Iron Cobra series. The Speed Cobra pedals include new features as well as many similar features to the Iron Cobra series.
- Iron Cobra
- Introduced in 1992 the Iron Cobra line features a selection of Tama's top-of-the-line pedals double pedals and hi-hat stands.
- Bass drum pedals:
- Power Glide – Features an offset cam for increased power and speed
- Rolling Glide – Features a rounded cam for uniform response
- Flexi Glide – Features a traditional strap (made of Kevlar) drive cam
- Hi-hat stands:
- Lever-Glide Hi-hat stand – Features a lever pull system
- Velo-Glide Hi-hat stand – Features a traditional pull-action chain
- Cobra Clutch – Attaches to the side of a hi-hat stand to allow the cymbals to be closed or open; a foot-controlled version of the drop-clutch
- Rhythm Watch – Metronome and practice tool.
- Tension Watch – Drum head tuning tool.
- Adrian Erlandsson - At the Gates, The Haunted, ex-Cradle of Filth, ex-Brujeria, ex-Paradise Lost
- James Cassells - Asking Alexandria
- Nameless Ghoul - Ghost
- Billy Cobham
- Peter Erskine
- Kenny Aronoff
- Tim Alexander - Primus
- Chad Szeliga - Black Star Riders, ex-Breaking Benjamin ex-Switched ex-Black Label Society
- John Dolmayan - System of a Down
- Chad Butler - Switchfoot
- Dave Lombardo - ex-Slayer
- Joey Castillo - The Bronx, ex-Wasted Youth, ex-Danzig, ex-Queens Of The Stone Age, ex-Eagles Of Death Metal
- Pat Torpey - Mr. Big (band)
- John Stanier - Battles, Helmet
- Bill Ward - Black Sabbath
- Roger Taylor - Duran Duran
- Lars Ulrich - Metallica
- Charlie Benante - Anthrax
- Troy Luccketta - Tesla
- Randy Castillo - Ozzy Osbourne
- Jack Bevan- Foals
- Abe Cunningham - Deftones
- Stewart Copeland - The Police
- Jukka Nevalainen - Nightwish
- Mika Karppinen - HIM
- Yoshiki - X Japan
- Dave Mackintosh - Dragonforce
- Peter Wildoer - Darkane
- Paul Mazurkiewicz - Cannibal Corpse
- Mike Portnoy - The Winery Dogs, ex-Adrenaline Mob, ex-Dream Theater, ex-Avenged Sevenfold
- Richard J. Massey
- Jason Rullo - Symphony X
- Brann Dailor - Mastodon
- Blake Richardson - Between the Buried and Me
- Simon Phillips - Toto, Hiromi and The Trio Project, Protocol
- Brandon Barnes - Rise Against
- Jason Costa - All That Remains
- Nick Oshiro- ex-Static-X, ex-Seether
- Shannon Lucas - The Black Dahlia Murder
- Jackie Barnes - Jimmy Barnes, The Lachy Doley Group
- Dean Butterworth - Good Charlotte
- Scott Travis - Judas Priest, Racer X
- Longineu W. Parsons III
- Mario Duplantier - Gojira
- Matt Garstka - Animals as Leaders
- Steve Jansen of Japan