Ever noticed how when you buy a new drumkit you never actually KNOW what heads it comes with?
And it doesn’t matter how expensive your kit is, you’ll always get random, low-end heads labeled with the drum company logo, without further details.
That’s why most drummers proceed to change their heads right off the bat when they acquire a new drumset.
You probably already know drumheads aren’t all the same, but do you know EXACTLY what sets one apart from the other?
And which one you need for your playing?
Well if you’re looking for answers to these questions, you’ve come to the right place as I have in today’s post everything you need to know about drumheads.
There are two categories of drum heads:
Keep in mind that, technically, you CAN use any type of drumhead as either batteror resonant…
But since batter heads influence the overall sound the most, as well as have the most variations, that’s where you’ll probably want to focus your choice.
Now let’s see what the key features of a drumhead are:
Before we look into each of these categories with more details, let’s keep in mind that ALL these added features have one common goal:
Dampening the sound. Got it?
Heads can either have:
With single-ply heads you get:
With double-ply heads you get:
Another factor to take into consideration is the thickness of the plies — the thicker the ply, the more muffled the sound.
Most heads thickness range from 7 to 10 mil (1 mil = 0.001 inch) but some single-ply ones have a 5 or even 3 mil thick plies for added sensitivity.
Here is an excellent video comparing about 20 different snare heads:
Batter heads can either be uncoated(commonly refered to as “clear”), or coated.
Clear heads offer:
Coated heads on the other hand offer:
Remo’s Suede drumheads series have a textured top and bottom that provide increased mid range and a warm tone.
They are said to “produce a cross between the brightness and resonance of Clear and the warmth of Coated drumheads.”, according to the brand itself.
Check out this video to see how they’re made:
There are other types of coating such as rawhide imitation or black suede but the difference in terms of sound is negligible, compared to the one between clearand coated heads.
As for the facts, many drummers choose clear heads for the toms and a coatedhead for the snare.
Check out this video that compares various coated and clear tom heads:
All drum heads companies basically offer the same technologies and features, labeled under different names, but all with one common goal: reducing unwanted overtones.
These features can be:
On the image below, you can see the different brands and names given to the same techniques used.
You’ll notice that some models combine various features:
For some reason, kick drum heads are often overlooked…
Maybe because drummers don’t think they make such a big difference anyway… or maybe because they’re just too lazy to change them.
But whatever that reason is, the truth is that the influence kick drum heads have on the sound is just as important as any other element of the kit.
So the process for selecting a drumhead for your kick drum is really no different than for the rest of your drum set: you’ll have to choose between coated, clear, frosted or pre-dampened heads.
There is one difference though: your resonant head can have a hole – called porthole – or not.
With a port hole you get:
Without a hole, you essentially get a more “boomy”, more resonating sound.
To get a better idea of the sound differences, check out this video, which also covers different mic positions as well as a device called KickPort, which we’ll cover next:
If your drumhead doesn’t come with a pre-cut port hole already, you can absolutely cut one yourself. You can use DYI techniques, or a purposed device called the Port Hole Cutter made by the brand Gibraltar.
But you’re probably wondering:
Why would I cut a hole myself if some heads already come pre-cut?
Well, the main reason is customization. By cutting a hole yourself you can choose all the parameters, such as the diameter of the hole, its position on the head and even the amount of holes you want.
Watch this video to see how to do it yourself:
To protect and reinforce the holes you cut, you can use a port hole protector such as these ones:
Now here’s a device that was created with the goal of enhancing the low-end “thump” of the kick drum.
The KickPort modifies the way air goes out of the kick drum by essentially slowing its exit down, just like a trumpet mute.
And this creates a “fatter” sound.
Here’s a helpful video that compares the sound of the kick drum without a hole, with a hole and with the KickPort installed:
It’s hard to know for sure which brand came up with that idea first, but the fact is that all 3 of them offer at least one model of pre-dampened kick drum head.
So what does that mean?
Pre-dampened basically means that a separate piece comes with these specific models, which goal is to dampen even more the sound.
It’s usually adjustable so you can control the level of dampening, and ultimately reach your desired sound.
It also means you might be able to avoid filling your kickdrum with towels/clothes or whatever you’re used to shoving in there to muffle your sound.
Now, for Evans and Aquarian these separate pieces are 2 foam rings that you can mount on the head.
For Remo, it’s 2 foam rings plus another piece of foam locked to the lower part of the head, adding even more muffling.
Check them out:
The three brands I included in this list are the three most popular ones, and they have become so by continuously delivering quality and consistency:
Since each brand offers several dozens of different types of drumheads, I chose to start from least muffled to more muffled and each category will feature at least one model per brand.
2 plies with dampening agent
So there you go guys, The Ultimate Guide to Drumheads. Hopefully with all this information you can now buy the perfect drumhead for you!
‘Til next time.