Replacing your worn out drum heads will restore the sound of drums that have lost their punch. How to Choose Drum Heads is your expert guide to finding the right replacement drum heads to match your music and budget.
By Mike Fitch
Musician's Friend Senior Staff Writer
Improving your drums' sound is often as simple as replacing your old, worn out drum heads. Even if you have just purchased a new drum set, the preinstalled heads are often of inferior quality, and a set of high-quality heads will ensure that your drums sound their best.
The Remo 5-Piece Rock ProPack offers a wallet-friendly way to upgrade the typical low-quality drum heads found on many starter drum kits.
The heads that go on the top of your drums, the side that you hit, are called batter heads, and the bottom heads are called resonant heads. Drum heads come in single- or two-ply construction. Generally, jazz, light rock, and acoustic players prefer the increased resonance and sustain of one-ply heads, while heavy hitters playing louder rock, funk, or R&B usually prefer the focused sound and durability of heavier double-ply heads.
The drum head's thickness is also important: thinner, single-ply (ply means layer) heads have a sensitive response, with bright, resonant sound and complex overtones. Thicker single-ply heads are more durable and have a higher tuning range with less sustain and more attack than thinner heads. Two-ply heads have a less pronounced attack and quicker decay. Some examples of single-ply heads are Remo Ambassador, Evans G Plus, and Aquarian Studio-X. A few examples of double-ply heads include Evans EC2, Remo Pinstripes, and Aquarian Response 2. Evans' unique two-ply hydraulic drum heads have oil sandwiched between the plies for an extremely dry sound with quick attack and short sustain.
Some batter heads have a black or clear dot affixed to either the top or bottom of the head to muffle excess ring for a more focused, drier sound—an improvement upon the old-school technique of applying a piece of duct tape to dampen the head. Drummers who use brushes will want to stick with heads using dots on the head's underside to avoid snagging the brushes on the dot.
Many drum heads are offered in clear or with a white or black coating that gives a subtle muffling effect. Some heads, such as Remo Pinstripes, have internal sound rings embedded around their outer perimeter to control excess ring for deep, wet tone with minimal resonance. Often, jazz drummers put clear heads on the toms and a classic white-coated head on the snare drum, as the texture of a coated snare head sounds better with brushes. The bottom head on the snare drum is known as the snare-side head, a transparent, extrathin head that maximizes response to the snare wires.
Bass drum heads often include some kind of internal dampening system on the batter head to provide a more controlled sound. Some resonant heads, especially those for bass drums, have a ported hole. A ported resonant head is essential when you need to mic your drum in a live or recording environment. The Gibraltar Bass Drum Head Port Hole Cutter allows you to cut a perfect port. Port hole protector rings are also available to prevent your drumhead from ripping.
Shop the complete Musician’s Friend selection of Drum Heads.
Drumhead technology has evolved tremendously over the years and we are standing by, ready to discuss all your drum gear needs. If you need more advice on what drum heads may be right for you, we encourage you to call our friendly, knowledgeable Gear Heads at (800) 449-9128.