For obvious reasons, a drum set isn’t worth much without drum heads. Many drummers do not give much thought to the heads they put on their drum set; this is a shame as the choice of drum head is one of the most important factors in achieving the sound you want. When it comes to making drum heads, the brand, Remo, is clearly the front runner. They are the world’s largest manufacturer of drum heads.Drum heads on Amazon
On this page you will get an in-depth review of drum heads, and I will enable you to choose the drum head that is best for you as a drummer. In addition, I will show you the drum heads I like best.
Top 5 Best Drum Heads
Below, you will see my picks of the market’s best drum heads. These include batter drum heads, resonant heads, bass drum heads and snare drum heads. If you’re not sure what to buy, please read the buying guide below.
Best snare drum heads
Best bass drum heads
Best drum heads for toms
Best drum heads for rock
Clear vs. coated drum head
The immediate difference you’ll notice in drum head is their texture. Some heads are smooth and transparent, while others are white and rough. The transparent heads are called clear and the white heads are called coated. In the past, coated heads were the undisputed standard, but as the music evolved over time, the supply of drum heads grew to meet the needs of the new genres.
Coated heads are characterized by generally having a warmer, more dry sound than clear heads. Many associate these characteristics with the classic drum sound, which is often heard in jazz, funk and rock ‘n’ roll. Clear heads, on the other hand, have a more focused sound, which is characterized by the head giving a stronger impact. Clear heads are mainly used by drummers who want a more punchy, powerful sound rather than a warmer, clearer tone with weaker impacts.
The amount of plies
Drum heads are available with different amounts of layers. Double ply drum heads are primarily used as beating/tophead, while single ply heads are used as both batter and resonant/bottom heads. The number depends on which genres are played and which drummer is playing. Double ply drum heads have a longer durability and the sound is characterized by a lower pitch, longer sustain and slower response. These heads are therefore often used by drummers who want a deep, rich sound with lots of low end. This explains why the vast majority of rock drummers use double ply heads as a beating head. Double ply heads can in, some cases, also be used as resonant heads, if you have a particularly large floor frame or if the sound is difficult to control.
Single ply heads generally have a higher pitch, slightly shorter sustain and a faster response, as the head is lighter. Virtually all drummers agree that clear single ply drum heads are the ideal resonant head, and Remo Ambassador heads are the most common here. However, these heads are also the stalwarts of drummers who do not hit the heads very hard, or playing more soft genres like jazz, blues, folk and, in some cases, pop.
Reducing unwanted overtones
Some heads have inlay rings, which are intended to reduce the head’s resonance and thus stop some of the overtones. You can also find something called a dampening agent, for example in Remo Powerstroke drumheads, and this type of head is often used for bass drums. Most drummers seek a more controlled sound with few overtones from their kick drum. Many drummers try to achieve this effect when they don’t have heads with internal damping; they fill the bass drum with either pillows or blankets. However, if you put too much damping into the bass drum, you end up with a “suffocating” sound.
Many drummers, especially in harder genres such as hard-rock and heavy metal, have tried to reproduce this effect on snare drums and tom-toms in the hope of making them sound like smaller bass drums and thus gaining more control – a short and clean sound. However, this rarely succeeds, since internal dampening cannot be adjusted. Heads with internal cushioning can be used on snare drums, in some cases, but they still have the weakness that the amount of cushioning cannot be adjusted. This type of snare drum head is often used in the studio, where many sound engineers find it easier to work with a more muted sound with few overtones.
Batter heads and resonant drum heads
Many drummers and sound engineers believe that the batting tension determines how high or deep the drum’s tone is and that the resonant head determines how long this tone should be. However, this is not true, as both heads help determine both the pitch of the tone and the amount of sustain. If you want a deeper sound, you should loosen both heads. However, not so much that they no longer give a clear tone. If you want a higher tone, you should tighten the heads. However, not so much that the heads are “suffocated” and can no longer resonate and produce a clear tone.
The relationship between batter heads and resonant heads is one of the most important factors for the sound of the drum. If the heads are tuned to the same tone, the drum will resonate for as long as the drum allows, as the sound wave will thus move between the two heads at the same frequency. If you want a sound with more sustain, you can then tune the resonant head higher than the beating head. In this way, the sound returns faster to the beating head, and the drum will resonate longer. If, on the other hand, you want a more short and punchy sound, you can tune the resonant head deeper than the batter head.
Selecting drum heads
The choice of drum head is an essential part of the quest for the perfect drum sound. Below you will find a list of the types of heads that drummers of different genres use.
Jazz, Folk and Blues: Most drummers in these genres make use of single ply drum heads as both batter heads and resonant heads. They often seek a warm and dry sound, and often tune the drums to a higher pitch. Therefore, it is very widespread to use a coated single ply batter head and a clear single ply resonant head.
Rock and metal: Within these genres, and all other genres that are heavier, it is often necessary to use double-layered heads as batter heads as they have longer durability and can withstand heavier hits. Both coated and clear batter heads are very common and the choice depends very much on what kind of sound you are looking for. Most drummers who play metal, however, make use of clear heads, as these can be tuned to give a deeper sound with more bottom and power. In addition, they can often cut through the overall sound image better, so that the tom-toms do not drown in the guitar and bass. The vast majority of drummers within these genres make use of clear single ply drum heads as resonant heads, as they allow the shells to have a more open and full sound. In some cases, however, double ply heads can be used as resonant heads for example, as the sound of these can be difficult to control.