How Do I Choose A Drumhead?

Asking yourself “how do I choose a drumhead”?

On the Drumhead Selector page, choose drumheads from the options  on the right to narrow down the sound you’re looking for. Choose as few or as many options as you like.
You can click Compare to add a drumhead to your list of comparisons – you’ll see your list of comparisons at the top right of the page.

If you want more information on what the options mean and how they contribute to your drum sound, go to the Drum Sound FAQ page.

Tips on how to choose the best drumhead for you:

If you’re unsure of what drumhead you need, go for something slightly thinner with less or no dampening – this will give you a wider range of sound options… you can apply dampening later to control things, but you can’t remove it if it’s built into the drumhead.

If you’re a very heavy hitter, go with a more durable drumhead (thicker, 2-ply).

1-ply drumheads have more colour and character, and will be great for quieter or medium volume music… tune them well and they will contribute a lot to your sound. They’re also more responsive to lighter touches.

2-ply drumheads are better suited to louder types of music – they will give you better attack and will cut through in loud environments.

Clear drumheads will be slightly brighter and have slightly more sustain and attack than coated drumheads.

Coated drumheads are dampened very slightly by the coating, making them a little warmer and controlling overtones slightly more than clear heads. On snare drums, coated drumheads are used more often than clear heads.

If you plan on using brushes, you’ll need to choose a coated, etched, frosted, or calf skin / synthetic skin drumhead (especially for the snare). If you choose a drumhead with a control dot, make sure it’s on the underside of the drumhead so brushes can move freely. Clear heads are too smooth to respond to brushes.

A lot of the drumhead variables are relative: “low” durability drumheads won’t break the first time you hit them, and they’ll last a long time if you treat them right… Don’t avoid these drumheads because you think they’re poor quality. However if you’re a very heavy hitter, they obviously won’t last as long as the thicker options. Keep this in mind when choosing a drumhead.

The way you set up your drum kit can affect things: For example, huge angles on your toms can shorten the life of your drumheads (putting deep pits in them because you’re hitting them at an angle).

Tuning will have a HUGE effect on your drum sound: drum ringing, sustain, overtones, brightness, warmth, fatness… as well as coming from the drumhead itself (and any dampening), all of these things will change dramatically depending on the tension of the drumhead, and the evenness of the tension between each lug. Drumheads can sound very different depending on whether they’re tuned low or high – think about how you plan to tune when choosing a drumhead.

Beyond changing drumheads, there are other options to change or improve your sound for little cost: You can modify your drums, especially the snare drum (for example changing snare wires or upgrading your snare throw-off). Add dampening or sound control devices, use different sticks/brushes/rods/beaters, or tuning tools if you’re struggling to get the sound you want. There are a lot of ways to change your drum sound without needing to buy a whole new drum set.

Most importantly: Don’t follow the rules too much – there’s never just one way to tune, play, or sound. Experiment with different drumheads and different tuning to find something interesting and different that suites you. The most important thing is to make an informed and educated choice so you can  have the sound that you want – that’s why Drumhead Authority was created.

Click here for more drum tuning tips