Drumheads, Drum Skins, Vellums
19 March 2019
WRITTEN BY: Erwin Bodenstein
Choosing the right drumheads for your kit
Drumheads, Drum Skins, Vellums (sounds a little like “Venom”). It doesn’t really matter what you call them, but one thing is for sure, they are one of, if not the most underrated pieces of gear when it comes to the resulting tone you will eventually get out of your kit. Sadly, this is very often overlooked by a lot of drummers… Let’s be honest, how many drummers out there are more than likely STILL playing on the stock heads that shipped with the kit the day you bought it?
I mean just think about it, when a guitarist buys a new guitar, I am willing to bet good money that one of the very first things they do is change the strings… and for good reason. Drummers, you are no exception, believe it or not, much of the tone you will generate out of your kit is at first contact, where the stick actually makes contact with the drum, the Drumhead. So, with that said, let’s take a closer look at the different types of drumheads and what they can offer in terms of your sound.
A well-tuned drum kit is what makes the difference between hearing your drums sing or literally just enabling them to make a sound… Whether you are a stage and studio performer or just a weekend worrier, the right heads on your kit will elevate your sound and as a result, you will find yourself spending more time behind your kit just because it sounds so incredible.
Whether you are a seasoned pro or just starting out, it is not too difficult to get lost in all the options that are available these days. Single Ply or Double Ply, Clear or Coated, thick or thin not to mention that practically any combination of these can be found on many of today modern drummer’s kits which just adds to the mystery. So today we answer a very common question: Which drumheads are right for you and your kit.
Drumheads of the past
Single Ply, Double Ply, Clear or Coated I know I may sound as though I am repeating myself by the truth is that we are very lucky in today’s day and age when it comes to drumhead options. Not too long-ago drumheads were made from calfskin (not to be confused with Calftone by Evans, today’s synthetic alternative to pre 50’s traditional calfskin, although for something different, be sure to check these out as well) calfskin drumheads were literally dried round discs that had to be soaked in water first in order to make them malleable enough to be stretched over the drum. They would then have to be manually fastened to the hoop so that they could be tuned…
I know right, how lucky are we to live in the ages of meticulously manufactured, readily available plastic drumheads. Not to mention that on a hot day the heads would expand and on a cold day, contract. I’m sure you see where I am going with this? These bad boys were not easy to keep in tune. Can you imagine having to change a snare head during a gig? Lucky for us, the technology of today has made changing drumheads a snap with the advent of Mylar polyester heads. So, with that history lesson over, let’s get stuck into the fun stuff.
Types of Drumheads
Single ply drumheads are the most basic, and usually, the thinnest, types of drumheads available today, commonly crafted from a single layer (ply) of ~10 mil Mylar (let’s clear up a common misconception: a “mil” refers to one one-thousandth of an inch, not a millimeter.) You’ll find other thicknesses in the single ply category, such as 3 mil snare-side heads or 6 mil and 7 mil specialty resonant heads. But typically, the 10 mil variation is the most commonly used.
So why should you consider single-ply heads? Well, as a resonant head, there is no denying that they resonate better than their double ply counterparts. As a batter head though, they really do “shine” as they tend to be a little brighter and help bring out the overtones of your drum. They are great for Jazz and musical styles that don’t require you to beat the hell out of them simply because they are not typically not as durable as 2-ply heads. That said though if you like the tone these heads produce and you are a rock or metal drummer, just be prepared to change heads fairly often.
A few notable mentions include:
- Evans G1
- Remo Ambassador
Not only are these heads more durable than their single ply counterparts, but double ply heads tend to display more aggressive attack with substantially reduced overtones, and a shorter sustain. So, if you are a heavy hitter this may be your first port of call. These heads tend to be great for the Rock Drummer who needs a little more lifespan out of his/her drum heads. A few of the show stoppers in this category that stand out are the Evans G2 and the Remo Emperor each made from two plies of 7-mil Mylar. Sidenote, Many 2-ply heads feature more than just the two main plies.
Some variations come with a ring on the outer edge to help control overtones, case in point being the Evans EC2 and the Remo Pinstripe. Remo has even employed an extra inlay ring of Mylar underneath their Powerstroke 4 head. Truth is, as, with any head, experimentation is key to understanding which double-ply heads work best for your kit and playing style.
A few notable mentions include:
- Evans EC2
- Remo Pinstripe
Specialty heads can get, well, rather specific. Made to produce a very specific tone and feel. So if you decide to add something fancy to your mix keep in mind that these types of heads are best paired with a standard clear single-ply reso head.
A few notable mentions include:
- Evans Hydraulic Glass
- Evans Onyx
- Remo Vintage Emperor
- Aquarian Reflector
Caution [Steer clear of using a Kevlar woven snare head on a “normal” snare drum. The results can be very detrimental to your snare as it can implode the snare’s shell.] Caution
I’ll use the same “Guitarist – Strings” selection analogy again in closing by saying that like strings, finding the right drumhead for you is a matter of personal preference and taste. Knowing the ins and outs can be helpful but never be afraid to experiment with something new. You may find that a particular combination works better for you in a Pop/Rock situation and an entirely different combination to be the answer for Latin or Jazz. With the many options out there today and a little trial and error, you will find your signature sound in no time.
These days you really are spoiled for choice as a drummer so don’t hesitate to contact a MiTech Direct support specialist via email, live chat or call on: (087) 551 123 for more information as they are always happy to help you find YOUR sound. Also, click here to check out our selection online now.