How to Tell If You Need New Drum Heads

Five New Year’s Resolutions for Music Educators

Knowing how and when you should be maintaining your instrument is important for every musician. After all, only proper care and maintenance will keep your instrument sounding the way it needs to sound so you can learn, play, and perform. For drummers, this is no different. If you want to keep your drum set sounding great, you must learn how to tell when it’s time to replace your drum heads. Because the drum head is the main striking point on the drum set, the quality of the drum heads determine the quality of sound the instrument is able to produce. As time goes on, all drum heads will weaken where you’re hitting them the most. As drum heads get weaker, they can dent or even break (if you strike them hard enough). To help you avoid this, we’ve created this helpful guide.

Drum Heads – What You Need to Know

Drum heads perform best when they’re uniformly tight. This means the tension on the whole drum head is even. As time goes on, with regular practicing and playing, the drum head will weaken. As has been previously mentioned, a weakened drum head could potentially break during play. Before this happens, you’ll be sure to get a poorer quality of sound from the drums, as the weak drum head won’t have as much of an ability to rebound for your drum sticks.

Remo Emperor Coated White Bass Drum Head
Coated Emperor heads are warm and more durable than Remo’s Clear Emperors. They’re made with two free floating plies of 7mil Mylar film, which gives consistent open warm tones which accounts for their popularity among many of today’s studio, pop, R & B, and rock drummers. Learn More

When Should You Change Your Drum Heads

Unfortunately, there’s no established rule for when a drummer should replace his or her drum heads. There are several reasons for this. The most important reason is that different drummers obviously play differently. If you play very often, or hit your drums harder, then you’ll definitely need to change the heads out more often.

Still, the subject of when to change drum heads is widely considered to be a matter of preference for drummers. Some drummers like to play with beat-up drum heads because they offer a drier, deader, worn-in feel and sound which is appropriate and sought after for some genres and bands. Other drummers want their drums to sound as fresh as possible, especially if they’re recording. Depending on your specific needs and wants, you may find that you prefer to change your drum heads often, but maybe not. Over time, you’ll come to learn specifically what works for you.

Experts do offer several useful rules of thumb for beginners, or anyone who doesn’t yet have a preference for changing their drum heads. They recommend always changing your drum heads before you start recording. Otherwise, if you’re just practicing and playing normally, you should find yourself replacing heads every six months or so. Six months isn’t a hard rule, and for some could be a risky amount of time to wait. If your drum head has indents, bumps, or cracks, your set is likely going to be out of tune. On the bass drum, be sure to check that your beater isn’t digging a hole in the drum head as it can be a sign of an imminent puncture. When you notice that your head is really beat up and you can tell that the set’s sound is being affected, you know it’s time to replace; even if you’re not at that six-month mark.

Another important factor to consider is that different drum heads will wear out at different rates.  For example, many drummers play the snare harder and more often than the toms. For this reason, you’ll probably find that you’re replacing snare drum heads twice as often as you replace tom heads. With drums, it isn’t necessary to replace all of the heads at once every time. Drum heads can be replaced on an as-needed basis. Replacing all of the heads every time would be unnecessarily costly and wasteful.

Remo Black Max Crimped Marching Snare Drum Head
Combining an extremely durable Technora Aramid Fiber weave with a reinforced counterhoop featuring Remo’s DuraLock technology, this is one of the most popular marching heads in the world. Learn More

Some experts recommend switching out the bottom drum heads, the ones which aren’t struck, either every third time you replace the top heads or, alternatively, once a year. Some drummers don’t think this is necessary since they aren’t struck and don’t undergo as much direct damage from practicing and playing. Switching out the bottom heads does liven up your sound, so if that’s what you’re looking to do, it’s one place to start.

Choosing Drum Heads

There are a wide variety of different drum head options to choose from, when you find that it is time to replace the ones on your set. Some common types of drum heads include two-ply, one-ply, coated, or non-coated. What you choose depends on the style of music you play. Jazz drummers tend to prefer a warmer sound so they often choose two-ply drum heads. Rock drummers, on the other hand, looking for a brighter, louder sound will often pick one-ply. The difference between coated and non-coated drum heads is that coated heads provide a warm, focused sound. Non-coated heads offer a bright, clear sound and tend to be the most common drum heads used by drummers. If you’re just starting to learn to play the drums, you should consult with your music teacher to see which variety of drum heads best suits your style of play.

Evans Hybrid Coated Snare Drum Batter Head
The Evans Hybrid Coated Snare Drum Batter Head, originally baptized on the football field, is a drumhead that is durable to the extreme, yet does not sacrifice sensitivity. This is a result of the use of 2 unique high-tensile fibers, one chosen for flexibility and the other for durability. Learn More

Taking care of your drums is incredibly important if you want to continue to learn and become successful at drumming. Knowing when it’s time to replace your drum heads is the most important part of drum maintenance, but don’t worry, over time you’ll develop your own schedule and preferences about when you want to do it. When it’s time to replace yours, be sure to stop by Music & Arts for the best prices on some of the best drum heads available.
Need sticks and mallets, too? Here’s Everything You Need to Know About Drum Sticks.

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