New heads for your kit can drastically change the sound you are getting from your drums. Let us examine a few different types of heads out on the market and what they can do for your sound.
Remo, Evans, Attack, and Aquarian are the main head manufacturers in existence. They, for the most part, have heads that are equivalent to one another. Let’s take the single ply head (Ambassador, Classic Clear, G1, etc.) A single ply head is going to give you a longer sustain and allow more of the sound of the drum to come through. Now if you need something a little more durable for your toms, take a look at a double ply head. A double ply head used on the top with single ply on the bottom will still give you a decent amount of sustain. The drum is a little more controlled and may not be the best choice head for low volume gigs. There are, of course, heads available with a reinforcement dot in the center. These heads come in single and double ply variations. They give you almost the same type of sound as their partner with no reinforcement dot but a tiny bit more control and slight bit less sustain. They just give you longevity. After those heads you would be looking at a double ply with a ring built into the head. You could look at the ever popular Pinstripe head for example. These heads have the muffle ring in between the two plies and gives you way less sustain. The heads are durable but don’t give you much of a “voice” from your toms. If you want little sustain and hit hard you might like these heads. They produce a thick, short, dry sound. The most durable of the drum set heads for toms would be the hydraulic heads that Evans makes. The hydraulic heads are two plies with oil in between the plies. One may think that the pinstripe has oil in between but it is just air that is in between the two plies because of the space the muffle ring takes up. The only head on the market with oil in between the plies is the Evans hydraulic. This head produces very, very little sustain. The sound is thick, wet, and short. The heads will last longer but are not a very versatile head. One should first decide what type of sound is wanted from the drums as well as taking into consideration the style/ styles that are being played on the set.
There are other heads out on the market that fall in between some of the heads discussed but this gives a brief overview on heads in general. The best way to decide what you need for your own sound and drum set is by starting with a general idea of what you are going for and then experimenting. The best lessons are learned through experience. Choose your head and then make sure that you use the same type of single ply head on the bottom and use the same tuning relationship (batter head lower than resonant head). This way you are really testing each type of head.
Good luck and have fun!
– Meg Thomas
Meg Thomas Bio
Drummer and percussionist Meg Thomas has performed in musical realms that range from rock to calypso, avant-garde to spoken word, Latin-jazz to punk, and dance ensembles to percussion ensembles. Her drum and percussion set-ups range from the traditional ideas to unique set-ups that incorporate a vast range of percussion instruments. She received her degree in Music from Millikin University and she founded and runs the Chicago Women’s Drumming Group. Meg is a Vic Firth Private Drum and Percussion Teacher and teaches lessons out of her studio in Chicago. She plays recording sessions, performs with an array of bands and ensembles, and has toured the U.S. and Europe. Meg won a Drummie in Drum! Magazine’s 2010 Drummie Awards as runner-up “Rising Star Percussionist,” was named “Musician of the Month” for January 2013 by the Chicago Music Guide, and is endorsed by Sabian Cymbals, Vic Firth Sticks and Mallets, Evans Drumheads, LP Percussion, PureSound Percussion, and Humes & Berg Cases.
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