You’ve had the time of your life beating 7-shades of blue out of your drums lately, your family have invested in industrial hearing protection and you’ve already upset half of your neighbours, but alas, your drums don’t quite sing like they used did a few months back? No, your ears aren’t deceiving you, it’s time to change your drumheads!

You jump online to order new heads, but you’re stopped in your tracks by what feels like a thousand options, how can this possibly be so complicated?! The truth is, it’s not. You don’t need a PhD in drum maintenance to make an informed choice; a little background info in these 3 areas will see you making an informed choice in no time…

Ply Count

Ever since drumheads starting moving away from using calfskin in the 50’s they have been manufactured out of a plastic sheet called Mylar. One of the biggest differences in a drumheads sound is a result of the number of Mylar layers (or plies) the head is made of.

While a ‘single ply’ head will resonate freely, a ‘twin ply’ head will have more definition and a slightly more controlled resonance. Put in layman’s terms: want your drums to go ping? Go single ply. Want your drums to thud? Go twin ply.

Because of the nature of their construction, twin-ply heads will also be a bit more resilient to the over-enthusiastic players out there, but luckily most hard-hitters are looking for the more defined tone that two plies offer anyway.

Worth noting, not all plies are the same, thickness of Mylar plies are measured in ‘Mil’ (2/1000ths of an inch), the thicker the ply, the more controlled and resilient the head. That said, numbers of plies will make a much more dramatic difference than ply thickness.



One of the more obvious differences in drumheads is between ‘clear’ heads, and white ‘coated’ heads. More often than not drums will come fitted with a coated head on the snare and clear heads on the kick and toms, but this isn’t a hard and fast rule! Coated heads can sound killer on the toms and kick, as can a clear head bring a lovely crispness out of a snare.

A clear drumhead will generally bring a bright and defined tone from a drum, a modern ‘plasticky’ attack with a clean resonance. A coated head will be a more controlled sound due to the coating subduing its resonance. A warmer attack will be produced, with an ever so slightly darker and shorter sustain.



Our final focus is on drumhead dampening; a feature that can take many forms! Simply put, drum dampening is the act of adding an additional mass to a drumhead to reduce its resonance. Ever heard a drum that had a really annoying ringing noise or whine? That’s why dampening exists, to take out any unwanted sounds after the initial attack of a drum.

There are numerous seperate products out there to dampen heads (moongel, drum dots, o-rings, snare weights, big fat snare drum), but if it’s that dampened sound you’re looking for, why not consider a pre-dampened drumhead? Every head company has experimented with their own methods of dampening, from Remo’s Black Dot heads (an additional Mylar dot at the centre on the reverse of the head) to Evans EMAD (a removable felt strip attached to the circumference of the head) and even Hydraulic heads (a layer of oil trapped between two plies).

While there may be countless different approaches at the task of head dampening, they all achieve a very similar result. Simply put, if you’re looking for punchy and short sounding drums, try a head with pre-fitted dampening! Not sure if it’s for you? Get a plain head and experiment with separate dampening products.

It can seem like a daunting decision when choosing heads for the first time, but with these few pointers fresh in your mind the decision should be that bit easier. Always remember, there is no wrong choice, don’t be afraid to experiment! Worst-case scenario, it’s not quite the sound you were after, best-case scenario, you strike drum-tone gold!