We should all know that changing out drum heads is the number one way to bring a drum kit back to life. However, the number one question that comes up is…What kind of head should I use?
Choosing your tom heads can actually be a painful, confusing and often frustrating experience. There seems to be a zillion different types, with each one producing a completely different tone.
Before running out and buying brand new heads, define your sound. What sounds good to your ears? What kind of bearing edges do your shells have? What kind of tone works best for the style of music you’re playing?
Once you’ve answered these questions, choosing your drum heads will be a much easier decision to make. I’ve provided a few of the most popular types of batter heads as well as my favorites below. My hope is that this will give you a sense of direction when you’re ready to replace those heads.
Coated or Clear?
First, let’s discuss the differences between coated and clear. There are many variations of both, but let’s narrow it down some right off the bat. In general, coated heads are warmer in tone. Coated heads are my personal favorite. Not only do they have a nice warm sound, they seem to tune a lot easier.
Coated heads also allow for the stick to have a very bright slap aspect. In short, it almost seems like my sticks just bounce and handle better on coated heads. If you’re doing any sort of jazzy brush work, coated heads should be your final answer.
On the other hand, clear heads have a very bright tone and seem to really cut through the mix in a studio or live setting nicely. The tones are a bit higher in pitch, yet lack the stick slap that I prefer. My recommendation here is to pick one or the other and move on. Once you’ve decided on coated vs. clear, the real fun begins.
Every single brand, model and variation will yield to a wide array of sound differences. Personally, I think this is the beauty of new drum heads. They can take ANY drum set and change the sound dramatically!
Let’s take a look at some of the models and how to apply the best drum head to your application and needs.
Single Ply, Lighter Weight
If you like getting that open, singing sustain out of your toms, single ply heads are a great choice. The thinner ply allows for nice resonance and really great stick feel. Some examples of single ply are:
● Remo Ambassador
● Evans G1
● Aquarian Classic Clear
● Aquarian Hi-Frequency Series
2-Ply, Medium Weight
2-Ply heads with medium to heavy weight are thicker than single ply heads which allows for a more focused attack. The toms won’t sing as much as a thinner ply, but they will still produce a nice, full bodied, rounded tone. A few examples of this type of head are:
● Remo Emperor
● Evans G2
● Remo Powerstroke 3
● Aquarian Studio X
Heavier weight heads are minimal in selection, yet perhaps a great decision for heavy hitters. These types of heads are also a good choice for situations where there are a lot of drummers using the same drum kit. Heavier weight heads are not going to give you much sustain or resonance, but they will out last any of the other heads. These types of heads will give you a nice, full, dark thud with little sing. Some examples in this category are:
● Remo Pinstripe
● Remo Controlled Sound
● Evans Power Center
● Evans Hydraulic
What am I missing? What drum heads have you found that work for you? Leave your comments below.