How to choose drum heads that dampen excessive ring and overtones in your drum kit
In Part 1 we addressed techniques for taming excessive resonance using internal and external mufflers, muffling rings and gels. But what about the drum heads themselves? By choosing the right replacement drum heads, you can damp down overtones that muddy your drum sound both in live performance and recording.
Most new drum sets ship with thin one-ply heads that are very resonant, often giving the set's sound excessive ring and overtones. In this week's tech tip we're going to check out some of the many available drum heads that muffle or dampen the sound to different degrees. They have the advantage of controlling over-ring without adding tape or anything else to your drum heads.
For decades the most popular drumheads were single-ply coated heads such as the Remo Ambassador or Evans G1. While the sound is lively, the coating gives them a slightly mellower tone than clear one-ply heads. Many drummers still prefer a coated head on the snare drum as the coating is necessary when playing with brushes.
Two-ply heads have a slightly more dampened tone with quicker decay than single-ply heads. Examples of coated two-ply heads include the Remo Pinstripe, Aquarian Performance II or Response II, and Evans G2 series. Evans Hydraulic heads, two-ply heads with oil embedded between the plies, have an extremely muffled, dry sound that became very popular in the '80s.
Power Dot heads, produced by both Aquarian and Evans, are single-ply with a small Mylar dot, and offer a focused sound that's somewhere between single and two-ply. Reverse dot heads made by Remo and Evans have a dot on the bottom side of the head. Heads with dots on either the playing surface or the underside offer the advantage of two types of response depending on where you strike them. Some heads come with muffling rings around the perimeter of the head, including the Aquarian Studio-X and Focus-X.
Drummers use a variety of specialized heads on the bass drum, which out of the box tends to have enormous resonance and over-ring. Popular muffling bass drum heads that drummers use to attenuate the bass drum's sound include the Remo Powerstroke 3, Aquarian Superkick II, plus Evans EQ4 and EMAD heads. Many drummers also use a resonant front bass drumhead with its own muffling ring and a pre-cut hole for microphone placement. The hole also allows placement of a small pillow or blanket against the head for additional muffling if desired. Examples of these kinds of heads include the Aquarian Black Regulator available in 20” and 22” diameters, and the Evans EQ3.