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L.A. Beat

Drum Beat #15— All you ever wanted to know about drum heads, and more

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This column I am going to discuss drum heads. I will look at the different types, the sounds they make, different manufacturers  and price point. It has been said that a solid relationship with your drums is like a solid relationship with your spouse or partner. It starts with good quality heads. Good heads that are made for the sound your are trying to achieve make all of the difference.

There are many different manufactures of Drum Heads. Some of the more common are, Remo, Evans,  Aquarian and Hart.



Every manufacturer of drums issue their own heads on their drums when they ship them. Generally as a rule, all of the heads from a drum set manufacturer are worthless. The manufacturers heads are cheap and I believe are made so that the drums do not come without heads when sold. I would think this help sales. My favorite manufacturer of heads is Remo. They have

been making quality heads for a long time. They have great quality control. They manufacture all sizes and kinds for every type of drum. Of all of the heads out there, Remo seem to tune up nicely, wear evenly, keep their tone the longest and are generally priced so they are affordable. I have noticed many drummers use Evans heads. They are a close second to Remo. Actually, I prefer their bass drum heads because of selection and types. Aquarian and Hart are other players in the market. 

It seems Aquarian are a cheaper head, trying to take some of the market from Remo. Hart is an electronic drum company who is making heads and they seem to be pretty good from what I hear but I do not have any actual playing experience with  them. I do know that Hart makes quality products when they decide to make something. They call their heads the next generation of drum head for what that is worth. 

There are many different types of heads and they each make different sounds. They come coated, oil filled and are made of animal  skin. They come synthetically made, one ply, two ply, three ply, with muffles and without muffles. The list goes on and on. Basically animal skin heads are for conga and similar drums. (There are heads made synthetically that give the same look and feel of animal skin heads on the market. Remo make one called the Fyberskyn). Each drummer has their own preference as to the type of head they use. As a note: There are many different heads for concert drums, tympani, etc. but I will focus on heads that are made for drum sets and the styles of music that is being performed. 

Here is a basic list of drum set head types and the style of music they could be used for.


This head is an all purpose head that seems to be the most common. Many manufacturers make these. They come in many sizes and thickness. They can be used in all styles of music and are very durable. I like to use them for Jazz and Rock styles.


This head combines coated and clear heads with mid range tones, resonance and sustain. These heads seem to be good for additional tom-toms and bass drums. They are versatile for all styles but I do not use them very often.


These heads come with a layer of oil between two heads. These are great for dark metal music. They also seem to work well for Latin sounds as well as deep sounds. They tend to muffle the sound. I like to use these to record but not as a rule.

They have great durability. They provide a good tone and can be very useful for different sounds. I like to tune them tightly on a drum as to achieve a higher tone so it resonates longer. 


These heads are great for all styles except some jazz. They are very adaptable to electric fusion jazz but for straight ahead Jazz they just do not work. I especially use them for the bass drum. There are many brands of these as well as names.  They are usually a pretty thick head that makes for a thicker tone.


These heads can be used for all styles depending on the amount of plys. As a rule the thinner the head the better it is for  light acoustic based styles of playing with the thicker heads being for heavier darker styles of music. 


I could go on and on and categorize heads in a thousand ways. The fact is there are many brands, names and styles of drum  heads that are on the market to use. Experiment to find out what works best for you to get the sound you want. Coated heads are good for open tones and lighter sounding music. Oil filled and Black Heads are good for dark tones and heavier sounds.

The different ply heads provide different levels of overtones. The more plys equals fewer overtones and ring. 

As a tip, most big drum stores have old heads laying around the shop that are just slightly used. It can be very expensive to change  the heads on your drums and play them until you find the type that are for you. Ask around and buy these heads to try them out. If you like them,  then go buy new ones as you should avoid using used heads whenever possible. This tip will save a ton of cash. It is rather hard to return a drum head once you have tried them.

Drum heads are important to drumming. Without the head it would not be a drum it would just be something to hit the sides of. Your heads contribute greatly to your overall sound. Do not get lost in the myriad of marketing and styles of heads that are on the  market. For me, White Coated and the standard Black Head are all you need. Again, try them all to find your preference

and sound. (Click on the Long and McQuade ad on the L.A. Beat site and check out their heads if you are in Canada. Go to if you are in the United States) 

Lastly, let’s look at price point. Let's face it, heads are expensive which is why they do not get replaced as often as they should. The cost of them is relative to how much you are playing though. If you are gigging and making money then the cost is a business expense. If you just play for fun then changing your heads every once in awhile is simply a hobby expense. 

With this in mind do not hesitate to change the heads when they need it. It might seem like a ton of money to replace all of your heads and it is. Again, it is all relative though, to how much you are playing. So please, if you want a good sound do not be concerned about price point. Cheap heads are cheap heads. They do not work or produce good sounds. Go buy good heads, you will be glad you did. Keep an eye out for two for one sales on heads. When this happens, buy two complete set changes. 

This should last you until the next sale. If you are a pro, establish a relationship with one store. It is common practice to give working pros two for one heads anytime they buy heads. 

One last note on heads: I have found that putting a head that is thinner on the bottom of your drums really helps tone and crispness. For the top head I like to use a medium thickness. I recommend the Remo Ambassador for the top head of your drums and the Remo Diplomat or similar on the bottom. For your bottom snare drum head use a clear head instead of a coated or smooth head. Remo has a bottom snare head for sale. 

Until next time, take it easy.

— By Stanley Jackson, Special To L.A. Beat

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