Choosing a Drumhead: Everything You Need To Know

Asking yourself “how do I choose a drumhead”? Wondering which drumhead is best for a certain style of music? Read on!





So you have old, worn out, crappy drumheads on your drum kit. Changing drumheads is the quickest way to improve your sound.
Old drumheads? Take those dented, worn out heads off your kit!
New drum kit? Heads that come with a new kit are usually lower quality (but still usable if tuned well!). These heads may not last as long, and might not hold their tuning.
Note this is even true for drumheads like the Remo UT or UX (made in a cheaper factory using a different technique to the rest of the Remo line).

Here’s how to choose the best drumhead for your kit.

The Sound?

If you’re unsure of what drumhead to choose, 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.
The Remo Ambassador is a perfect drumhead choice here – one of the world’s most popular drumheads.

Hate your drums ringing out? Choose a drumhead with built-in sound control. Center dots (on the topside or underside of the drumhead) control some of the ringing. Inlay rings and control rings reduce overtones, giving more focus to the sound. Some drumheads have removable dampening, giving your more versatility with your drum sound. Evans Dry drumheads have small holes drilled around the edge, which cuts out a lot of the ringing. Some bass drumheads have felt strips attached to the inside, reducing overtones and making the sound fatter.
To really cut the ringing, Evans Hydraulic drumheads have a layer of oil inside, producing a nice deep thud without the overtones.

If you’re a heavy hitter (or use very thick drumsticks), choose a more durable drumhead (thicker, and 2-ply). Thicker drumheads are perfect for rock, metal, and anything that requires hard and loud drumming.
A great choice here is the Aquarian Hi-Impact: these drumheads are extremely durable.


Ply?

1-ply drumheads have more colour and character, and will be great for quieter or medium volume music. They’ll contribute a lot to your sound, and they’re responsive to lighter touches. These drumheads a great choice for jazz, acoustic rock, church, or any low to moderate playing situation.
The Evans G1 is a great 1-ply drumhead, and is an extremely popular choice for many drummers.

2-ply drumheads are a better choice for louder types of music. These will give you better attack, and will cut through in loud environments like rock, metal, or punk music. 2-ply drumheads can handle heavier hitting, especially the thicker varieties.
For a loud sound that will stand out, the clear Remo Powerstroke P4 is a great drumhead choice.

Clear or Coated?

Clear drumheads will be slightly brighter, with slightly more sustain and attack than coated drumheads. See the huge range of clear Aquarian, Evans, and Remo drumheads here. Since clear drumheads stand out more, they’re a great choice for louder situations (rock, metal, punk music).
The Remo Emperor or Aquarian Response 2 are two excellent clear drumhead choices.

Coated drumheads, like the name implies, have a thin coating applied to the top of the head. These drumheads are dampened very slightly by the coating, making them a little warmer, with slightly less overtones than clear heads. Click here to search through the huge range of Aquarian, Evans, and Remo coated drumheads. On snare drums, coated drumheads are used more often than clear heads (see the next point to find out why!).
The coated Remo Ambassador is one of the most popular snare drumhead choices in the world.
For less ringing and sustain, choose the Evans HD Dry coated drumhead.

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). Clear heads are too smooth to respond to the brush strokes. If you choose a drumhead with a control dot, make sure it’s on the underside of the drumhead so brushes can move freely.
The Aquarian Modern Vintage is an excellent drumhead choice for brush work.

Drumstick - DrumheadAuthority.com


A few things to remember when choosing a drumhead.

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 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. Huge angles on your toms can shorten a drumhead’s life (putting deep pits in them from hitting 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), your sound will change dramatically depending on drumhead tension and the evenness of that tension across each lug. Sustain will increase or decrease depending on whether the batter and resonant head are tuned to the same pitch. Heads can sound different depending on whether they’re tuned low or high – think about your tuning when choosing a drumhead.
If you’re having a hard time tuning your drums, try a drum tuning tool. The Tune-bot is an excellent choice if you’re really struggling to tune.

Want to try a different brand’s version of a drumhead? Check out the ultimate drumhead comparison chart. You can even search to filter through the huge list, and see where your drumhead fits into the bigger picture.

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, or use different sticks/brushes/rods/beaters. 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. There’s no single absolute best drumhead to choose. Experiment with different drumheads and different tuning to find something interesting and different that suits you. Make an informed and educated choice, to get the sound you want – that’s why Drumhead Authority was created.

 

Okay – Ready to choose a drumhead?

Go to the Drumhead Selector, the best drumhead search engine available.
Use the options to search through drumheads based on thickness, ply, attack, durability, sound, special features, and more.
Narrow down the sound you’re looking for, and click compare to see your drumhead choices side-by-side.

 


Not sure what something means on this page? Check out the Drum Sound FAQ – all of the important stuff on one page. Understand all of the variables and options, how they contribute to your drum sound.

Need help tuning? See the tuning guide, or click here for extra drum tuning tips.