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Drums

Best Drumheads

Snare drums, bass drums, and toms all have heads designed specifically for great sound so it's important to choose heads matching your kits individual elements. Before purchasing a head, the diameter of the actual shell needs to be accurately measured and may require removing the rim or old drumhead. Once you’ve determined the head type and size, there are many options to choose from among various brands and specific models. Our buyer’s guide below will help you navigate through the sea of choices and ultimately help you select the drumheads best suited for your needs. 

Evans ST Dry Drum Head

Evans’ ST Dry snare drumhead is a very small batter head featuring precisely drilled holes around the edges of the head to give it a very dry and crisp sound; it’s surprising how little the holes interfere with brush playing. It performs much like a single ply head in that it has a lot of tone that’s dry without sounding clipped or cheated. The textured white coating creates the ideal sound which works great in all genres of music along with a nice pop for rim-shots.

I often play a different head for Jazz gigs using a lot of brushwork, but I’m usually pretty comfortable playing with brushes on this head if an alternative is not convenient. It has two layers of 7.5 mil film that are very strong and durable; the ST in the product name stands for “Super Tough”, meaning these drums rarely break. I’ve never broken a ST Dry snare head and I use them on almost every gig that I play.

Evans Clear 300 Snare Side Drum Head

The 300 by Evans is an extremely thin snare side head that’s very responsive with a tone that’s not too dark or too bright. I love the 300 because I put it on once and never have to think about it unless something breaks; fortunately, this drumhead doesn’t break during tuning as often as other snare side heads. It’s versatile enough for all genres of music because it allows my snares to speak at any snare tension. It also reacts well to tuning changes and to batter head changes while allowing the snares to be crisp, but lets the tone of the drum speak.

Remo Ambassador Coated Drum Head

Remo’s Ambassador head is the most versatile head available because of its warm tone and crisp attack while being responsive enough for orchestral playing, but durable enough for rock. I feel comfortable using this head for any genre of music because it has a sound which adapts to almost any audible setting. The head has a white-textured, durable coating which allows brushes to speak.

While it’s a single-ply head, it can still feel like a double ply head when pushed to the limits. The Ambassador truly allows the snare drum's natural tone to come through and sing, providing nice overtones without requiring a lot of muting. My only complaint about this head is sometimes the manufacturing quality isn’t consistent from head to another.

Remo Clear Ambassador Snare Drumhead

The Remo Clear Snare Side drumhead is more commonly known as the Snare-side Ambassador. It’s just as popular as the Coated Ambassador batter head and features a single 3-mil ply to let the drum sing. This is a clear head that really allows the snares to speak and show off their personality so if you’re a beginning drummer, this is the head you should have on the bottom. I like that the snares seem to “settle” into a sweet spot on this head and really interact well with each other.

Because of its popularity, this head is almost always in stock in any store or online retailer. This is one of two heads I always have in the back of my car in case a head is broken during a gig, because its sound is appropriate for any genre.

Evans Heads B12HW Heavyweight Snare Drum Head

The Heavyweight snare head by Evans is the best snare head for heavy-hitters and metal drummers. It has two extremely durable 10 mil plies as well as a reverse dot for even more strength in the playing spot.  I usually don’t like power center or dot heads but the Evans Heavyweight is truly exceptional.

Evans Drumheads fit snuggly around the rim thanks to their 360-degree technology which creates evenness across the entire ridge of the shell. The head has a deep sound that is still very crisp and will cut through louder genres of music. It has an overall thick sound that is not appropriate for lighter styles of music but works great for rock and metal.

Evans EMAD2 Bass Drumhead

Evans’ EMAD2 Bass drumheads have quickly risen to the top of the list of best Bass drumheads. They have a built in dampening system called Externally Mounted Adjustable Dampening (EMAD). The dampening pads can easily be adjusted for more or less of a muted sound; this very helpful for drummers switching between rock and jazz gigs with the same kit.

The EMAD2 batter head is very durable because of an outer 6.5mil ply and an inner 10mil ply. These heads can be adjusted to produce any kind of sound that will fit whatever genre you choose. Most heads that use a lot of dampening sound very dead, but the EMAD2 produces a nice tone even when fully dampened. This head have the perfect combination of great tone and punchy thud.

Evans REMAD Resonant Bass Drum Head

Evans’ EMAD Reso Bass drumheads are often sold in a set with the EMAD Batter head, because the EMAD Reso works in perfect harmony with the EMAD2 batter head to create the ideal Bass Drum sound; this head controls the tone and creates a nice punch The EMAD Reso is a smooth black resonant head with a 4 inch hole allowing  for easy microphone placement. The mic hole is surrounded by a noise-free plastic sleeve holding a foam dampening ring in place. A bonus is the head’s black color and black sleeve which gives it a very professional look.

Aquarian Super-kick II clear (Batter) 2-Ply Bass Drum Batter Head

The Aquarian Super-kick II is a clear 2-ply head with a very pointed sound and features two 7mil layers which are extremely durable and produce a slightly dampened sound. Aquarian’s drumheads have some exclusive features which create a pure sound such as the Sound Curve collar design for a flush fit and fewer wrinkles even at loose tensions. The Safe-T-Lock hoops and Triple Locking System control the tension and prevents the head from losing pitch. This head has a very focused punch that sounds great in a variety of different genres.

Remo Powerstroke 3 Clear Bass Drum Batter Head

Drummers have trusted Remo’s Powerstroke 3 for many years. This head features a thin underlay which dampens the head and helps to control overtones. This versatile head is very responsive at all dynamic levels and sounds great when played in all genres of music. Many jazz drummers prefer the coated Powerstroke 3 but I prefer the clear Powerstroke 3 for general playing. This is one of the most durable bass drumheads available as it can withstand a lot of heavy stomping and will still sound great.

Remo Ambassador Coated Drum Head

Remo’s Ambassador head is the most versatile head available because of its warm tone and crisp attack while being responsive enough for orchestral playing, but durable enough for rock. I feel comfortable using this head for any genre of music because it has a sound which adapts to almost any audible setting. The head has a white-textured, durable coating which allows brushes to speak.

While it’s a single-ply head, it can still feel like a double ply head when pushed to the limits. The Ambassador truly allows the snare drum's natural tone to come through and sing, providing nice overtones without requiring a lot of muting. My only complaint about this head is sometimes the manufacturing quality isn’t consistent from head to another.

EC2 SST Clear Batter Drumhead

Evans’ EC2S drumheads have become the standard for superior sounding tom heads. They produce a very pure tone that blends well with the other drums in the kit. They also have a pre EQ’d sound control ring mounted on the underside of the head that is called Sound Shaping Technology. The SST rings control the vibrations of the head and help create a focused sound.

These heads are very durable because they have two layers of 7mil film, as well as having a very strong attack and controlled decay that sounds great on fills. These drumheads sound appropriate with any genre of music and have an overall sound that blends well with other instruments. These are my favorite tom heads for just about any setting.

Evans Genera Resonant Drum Head

Evans’ Genera Resonant heads produce a very full sound that interacts well with almost any batter head. The Genera Resonant tom head is a clear head which enhances the sound of your drum, adding controlled sustain to 2-ply batter heads and giving the whole drum more life. Since these heads are never struck with a stick, durability isn’t really a concern. Resonant drumheads generally only break during tuning and these heads hold up to tuning changes better than other resonant heads.

These tom heads also hold their tension very well between practice sessions or between gigs. I usually don’t have to do a lot of tuning in order to make them sound good. These are some of the best resonant tom heads on the market and will last you a very long time.

Evans G1 Coated Batter Drumhead

Evans G1 Coated heads have a textured white coating giving the tom-toms a very unique sound that blends well with certain genres; these heads produce a classic, coated tom sound while maintaining a focused tone. These heads produce a very warm sound that blends well certain lighter styles of music; I usually prefer coated heads for jazz because of the character created by the heads.  The G1s have a single, durable ply of 10mil film but the one downside to these heads I’ve experienced is fading of the white coating in the playing spot; however, this is something fairly common with coated heads and I usually replace these head types more frequently than clear versions.

Evans Resonant Glass Drum Head

The Resonant Glass tom heads by Evans are the thinnest resonant heads this company makes. When paired with G1 coated heads, these heads allow the true character of the coated head to speak without being imposing in any way. These heads are a bit brighter and lighter sounding than thicker resonant heads; I usually recommend thicker heads for rock or metal, but these heads sound great for jazz.

These heads can be an effective tool for creating a lighter sound from heavy-handed players. Durability isn’t really a concern with these heads since they’re resonant heads and aren’t struck with a stick. However, since they’re so thin, special care must be taken when tuning to prevent them from snapping.

TT 10 Genera G1 Clear

Evans’ G1 Clear heads are the best heads for drummers who prefer single-ply heads as they can give the kit more life and openness. Many drummers prefer to play single-ply tom heads because they have a bit more ring than 2-ply heads. G1 clear tom heads feature a single ply of clear, 10mil film that sounds open and lively with a bright sound to cut through the texture for fills while interacting well with your other drums in the kit. In fact, I often even combine these heads with other toms mounted with 2-ply heads. I’ll usually mount a G1 on my smaller toms (10 inches or smaller), because they seem to give these drums some life. These heads will react well with a number of different resonant heads and can create some very unique sounds when paired with non-clear resonant heads.

Some players are concerned single-ply tom heads will break easily because they’re too thin. However, when you take into consideration tom heads are actually played less frequently than snare and bass heads and actually take less abuse than the other heads. You can easily finish a gig without playing the tom with a broken head, because most drummers have multiple toms which allow alternate playing options. Having said all that, I can tell you from experience that G1 tom heads are some of the most durable single-ply heads available.

Buyer's Guide

 

Drumhead Buying Guide

In truth, nothing affects the kits sound more than a proper drumhead, and many inexperienced drummers buy cheap heads because they’re not aware of this simple fact. There are certain drumheads which will help a drum sound more genre specific if that’s your preference. Conversely, there are also specific drumheads allowing a kit to produce a more versatile sound so you can blend in with multiple musical genres. Drumheads can also assist a drummer in creating a signature sound by controlling the amount of resonance generated as well as molding the character of your kit.

Calfskin vs. Plastic

Drumheads were originally made from thinly stretched animal skin but in the 1950’s, plastic drumheads debuted. Plastic quickly became the preferred head among drummers because they’re inexpensive and require less maintenance.

Although calfskin heads are still made today, they’re extremely expensive and require constant attention. These heads react to the environment around them so if you’re gigging in a very humid climate, the head will be become floppy and need constant tightening.

Modern calfskin drumheads are mainly used by a small percentage of orchestral percussionists. The other material used to make drumheads is Kevlar which is extremely thick and usually only found on marching drums.

Thickness

Drumheads come in an almost limitless range of thickness. Thicker ply plastic is often more durable but can sound “choked”. Thinner heads usually have an open sound with a lot of ring but aren’t durable enough for styles such as rock or metal. Drumheads will either have one or two layers of plastic and are labeled single or 2-ply. 2-ply heads are extremely durable but some can sound short and choppy.

Drumhead Use

All drumheads are either batter heads or resonant heads.

Batter Drumheads
Batter drumheads are mounted on the playing side of the drum and the heads actually struck by the stick. These are often thicker because they need to stand up to consistent drum playing. 

Resonant Drumheads
Sometimes called snare-side heads, resonant drumheads are never struck with the stick and are mounted on the non-playing side of the drum. These heads are often quite thin for resonance.

Coatings

Clear
Clear drumheads don’t have a coating and deliver a very pure tone. These are commonly used for bass drum and tom heads.

Coated
Coated heads have a white-textured surface to give them a bit more articulation and character. Snare heads are almost always coated to produce a crisp sound; jazz drummers frequently use these heads on their toms and bass drums as well.

Hazy/Frosted
Frosted or “hazy” heads have a light, airy quality. They have a very light coating which doesn’t have as much personality as a coated head.

Smooth White
These are white heads without a textured coating and have a slightly warmer sound than clear heads.

Ebony
Ebony drumheads are black in color and usually darker in sound. These heads don’t have a coating and are often used for the front of the bass drum.

Fake Calfskin
There are types of drumheads made to sound and look like calfskin. The most popular of these are Remo’s Fibreskyn which are mainly used for concert bass drums.

Kevlar
These heads are very thick and should only be used on marching snare drums.

Renaissance
Made by Remo, these heads are often used for orchestral snare drums and timpani. They are similar to hazy heads but have a more refined look and sound.

Drumhead Types

It’s important to note each drum type uses a different type of head. Snare heads are very distinct from bass drumheads and both of these are different from tom heads. It’s important to measure the diameter of your drum shells to determine what size drumhead is needed. Also, drums will require both a batter and resonant drumhead.

Snare Batter
Most snare batter heads have a 14 inch diameter and are coated to produce a crisp sound. Some have a reinforced center dot which will bolster the impact location on the head which is why they’re often called “power dot” drumheads.

You also need to consider whether or not you use brushes when choosing a snare head. Jazz drummers who frequently use brushes will want a heavily coated head with no obstructions for a nice sound. Even single-ply snare heads are designed to be very durable so you don’t necessarily need to have a 2-ply head. However, it’s a good idea for heavy hitters or metal drummers.

Snare Resonant (Snare Side Heads)
The resonant drumhead of the snare drum is very important because it interacts with the actual wire or cable snare to create the snare sound. These are usually the thinnest heads in a kit as they need to produce a lot of vibrations to activate the snares; they’re usually clear to allow the snares personality to speak freely. These heads are the most complicated to change if they break, so use caution when tuning and never set your snare down on top of anything other than a snare stand.

Tom Batter
Tom-Tom batter heads give a drum set its overall tone and pitch. These heads are typically clear for rock and coated for jazz. Single-ply heads have a bit more tone but manufacturers are constantly improving 2-ply heads which produce nice tone. Some tom batter heads have muting devices built right into the head, saving the drummer from having to use tape or gel muting.

Tom Resonant
Tom resonant heads are very thin, offering an extremely pure sound. They’re almost always clear and usually labeled “resonant heads.”

Bass Drum Batter
Bass heads are often sold as a system or package with appropriately matching front and batter heads. The bass drum batter head is often the thickest head in the entire kit and delivers a thick, punchy bass sound. Jazz drummers will usually use a coated head thin enough to create an open sound while rock drummers often use a thick head with built-in muting and sometimes a power dot or double-braced impact zone.

Bass Drum Resonant (Front)
Front bass heads are situated at the kits front and center. This is the head facing the audience and usually where the band’s name or the kits brand is written. Front bass heads are thinner than batter heads and usually have a small or large hole to allow for adjustment of any internal muting device such as a pillow. Many studio engineers prefer a small hole in the front head for microphone placement.

Drumhead Features

There are many newer drumheads offering features which limit the amount of extra work and maintenance required to create the sound you want.

Muting
Some bass and tom heads have built-in muting so there’s no need for external muting with tape or gel.

Power Dot
This is a reinforced area on certain drumheads which prevents breakage due to repeated playing in the same spot.

Reverse Dot
These heads have the reinforced dot on the underside of the head so it doesn’t interfere with the heads playing surface.

Vent Holes
Drumheads labeled “dry” will often have precisely drilled venting holes in the head which create a very dry sound. Some bass resonant drumheads also have a pre-drilled microphone hole.

Colors
Some drumheads are available in different colors and this is usually for aesthetic purposes only. I myself have a set of bright red drumheads that I keep around for playing Halloween gigs.

Brand Name

The three main companies making quality drumheads are Aquarian, Evans, and Remo. These companies all make several different models of heads which vary in features and thickness. For some specific recommendations please refer to my list of best drumheads.

Price/Value

Drumheads are relatively inexpensive as opposed to other components like cymbals and hardware. The heads with extra features often cost a little more but worth the price if they capture the sound you want. Compared to cheaply made options, quality drumheads won’t break as often. It’s best to pay a little more to purchase a quality drumhead made by Aquarian, Evans, or Remo.

Rick Urban
Rick began playing drums at the age of 10. In 2003, He received Bachelor's Degrees in Percussion Performance and Music Composition from the DePaul University School of Music in Chicago. While at DePaul, Rick studied with Ted Atkatz (Principal Percussionist - Chicago Symphony Orchestra / Also founder of the band NYCO), Mike Green (Principal Percussionist - Lyric Opera of Chicago), Al Payson (Percussionist - Chicago Symphony Orchestra), Fred Selvaggio (Drumset and Marimba Artist) and Ed Harrison (Principal Timpani - Lyric Opera of Chicago) In 2005, Rick received a Master's Degree of Music from the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston where he studied with Will Hudgins (Percussionist - Boston Symphony Orchestra), and Fred Buda (Drummer - Boston Pops). While in graduate school, Rick performed with the Boston Philharmonic, including performances at Carnegie Hall and Symphony Hall in Boston.  

As a performer, Rick has performed with orchestras all over the world. He has also played drums for several groups in everything from rock bands to musical theater. He has worked with such world-renowned conductors as Bernard Haitink, Christoph Eschenbach, Valery Gergiev, and Michael Tilson Thomas. He has performed with the New World Symphony, the Grand Rapids Symphony, the National Reperatory Orchestra, and the Schlesvig Holstein Festival Orchestra in Germany. Rick is also the drummer for the band Standby Radio. In 2010 they recorded their first album entitled When Signals Cross, and they released Awake at Midnight in 2012.

In the summer of 2005, Rick moved to Chicago and became Music Director of the A.A. Stagg Percussion Ensemble. He also created and served as the resident conductor for the "Bad Vibes" new music ensemble. In the fall of 2005, rick became a percussionist with the West Michigan Symphony under the direction of Scott Speck. In 2009 He became the resident conductor of the Lincoln Park Percussion Ensemble. In 2011 they premiered his latest percussion ensemble work entitled Over 4. In the Fall of 2010, Rick enrolled in the "Music Composition for the Screen" program at Columbia College under the direction of Andy Hill and David McHugh. While studying with Mr. Hill and Mr. McHugh at Columbia, Rick also studied Film Composition with Gary Chang and Hummie Mann. He also studied conducting with Alan Tinkham.

In the Spring of 2012, Rick received his Master's of Music from Columbia College and moved to Los Angeles. Since moving to Southern California, Rick has played with the San Diego Symphony and the Santa Barbara Symphony. He is currently the Percussion Ensemble Director of the Open Academy of Los Angeles.
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