Without a doubt, the most important aspect of better sounding drums is you. Great drummers can make anything sound good. That being said, there are still many different ways to bring your drum set to life. When asking any good drummer, studio engineer or fellow musician what’s the first thing you should do to get better sounding drums, the answer is typically: Replace the Heads.
While I would whole-heartily agree that changing out your drum heads is extremely important, one of the most frequently asked questions is WHEN?
Well, the first obvious sign is if there is a hole in the head. Outside of that, all heads will still produce a tone or a sound of some sort. In the end, YOU are the deciding factor. However, there are still a variety of signs to look for. The batter head is the fundamental aspect of your playing and the overall sound of the drum.
Let’s take a quick look at a couple of tips on when you should be replacing those batter heads.
● Difficult to tune: Just like guitar strings, drum heads simply become compromised. If they are worn, abused or old they lose their tone and ability to tune. If you’re shooting for a nice low end thud out of your toms, it won’t happen with old heads. When you can only find a sustainable tone out of a higher pitch, it’s time for new heads.
● Heads have dents or are dished out in the center: If you’re a heavy hitter, you may need to replace your heads more often. However, no matter the player, heads will eventually have small dents or have a dished out center. In fact, the better player you become the more consistent you will be with your stick markings. If you always hit right in the center of the head, the head itself will start to stretch. If this happens, the head isn’t doing its job anymore while sitting on that bearing edge.
● Coated heads: If you’re a fan of coated heads, take a good look at the coating. If the coating is worn off at all, it’s time for new heads. The coating is the main ingredient giving these heads that nice, warm sound. If the coating is gone then the whole point is also gone.
● New gig or session: Another important reason to replace your drum heads is the type of gig or session you have coming up. Hopefully an obvious example, but if you’re headed to the studio with your band or have a new session, replace the heads! Also, perhaps you’ve got a new gig coming up that is in a different room or venue than you’re used to. This is another great time to freshen up those heads.
● Churches or Worship Gatherings: This tip is specifically for churches. First off, you probably have more than one drummer. You have rehearsals at least once a week, if not more. You have two or three services on Sunday, plus extracurricular services. The point? Those heads will need to be replaced. I know churches have budgets. If you have drums in your church and care at all about the sound of the music then put drum heads in the budget.
Use your brain: Obviously, most of us don’t have a drum head endorsement. Frankly, heads can be expensive. Don’t get too overwhelmed with the cost here. Generally speaking, use some common sense as well as your ears. You should know when it’s time.
That being said, a good rule of thumb is change things out every 5-7 gigs. If you’re practicing every single day for hours, perhaps try every 3-6 months. Again, this is just an estimate. In the end, YOU have to decide.