Tam Tam

The Tam tam (tam-tam) is a very large metal percussion instrument known for its loud, booming sound that is awash with harmonic notes. The tam tam does not have a dome, boss or nipple at the centre and has no distinguishable, definite pitch. This is unlike a gong that can be tuned to a specific note such as E. The tam-tam's sound builds in volume when struck.
History of the Tam Tam
The tam tam (sometimes spelt tam-tam) can be dated back to the 7th century in ancient China. This huge metallic disc is a member of the gong family which have been depicted on temple ruins in Asia for millenia. This historial instrument has undergone many proliferations in its long history but remains most popular in its native Asia. Centuries later, the tam tam became popular in Western classical music and was soon adopted into classical compositions from the 19th century onwards. In the present day, it is an essential instrument for any percussionist to be proficient in. The tam tam is a staple of symphony orchestras and appears often in many Western Film scores, such as those by John Williams.
Inventor: Unknown

Where to Buy

£250 to £6,000

How to Play

Each tam tam can differ greatly, but it's almost never played by tapping the centre, instead choosing a spot above or below it. Players use the weight of a felt or leather beater to tap the metal and allow the instrument to ring before muting it with the hands or body. A roll can be created with two beaters. Players will often give the tam tam an inaudible tap to begin playing and allow the instrument to start vibrating.

In Popular Music

Star Wars: A tam tam can be heard in 'Main title/Rebel Blockade Runner' by composer John Williams. In the opening of Star Wars IV: A New Hope, a tam-tam is struck just as the starships come into view.

Famous Players

Christoph Sietzen, Evelyn Glennie, Jonathan Haas

Close Relations

Video Credit: knockingonwood
Understanding the Tam Tam
Large - Very large


South East Asia


6th Century






Instruments of Music

Copyright © 2023 Instruments of Music. All Rights Reserved.