Figuring out what drum head is best for you doesn’t need to be a long-drawn struggle. As a beginner, you can opt for well-known brands like Remo, Evans, and Aquarian because they have been tried and tested by countless drummers.
I’ll share a brief overview of the big three drum head manufacturers along with some handy drum head recommendations for each of them for you to try out. Alternatively, check out some of the best drum heads available today.
Remo Drum Heads
The Remo ‘crown’ is everywhere. If you are a drummer, chances are that you’ve heard about Remo drum heads and seen them in your local store. They’ve been in the business for 60 years and they have perfected the art of making impeccable drum heads.
Remo is a consistent contender for top-shelf drum heads in most drum head discussions and an unvarying name among best-sellers on e-commerce platforms. They are available in a lot of size options between 6 to 30 inches and are best known for their punchy attack and balanced overtones.
Remo’s Coated Emperor heads are considered to be the standard for rock drummers. The Remo Pinstripe series is a versatile offering for drummers who want a more controlled sound.
The Ambassador series, like the Emperor, has an equally formidable following among rock drummers who prefer more brightness and resonance.
Daniel Adair (Nickelback), Rick Allen (Def Leppard), Carter Beauford (Dave Matthew’s Band), Michael Barker (John Butler Trio), Frank Beard (ZZ Top), Chris Allison (Plini), and many other great drummers are on the Remo roster.
Remo Drum Head Recommendations:
Evans Drum Heads
Chick Evans is a truly historic name in the history and origins of drum heads. Until the 1950s, drum heads were made from cow skin. Cow skin was unreliable and even a mild variation in the temperature could detune them. It was Mr. Evans, along with Robert Beals, who came up with the concept of a synthetic drum head and the first mylar prototype.
They started Evan’s company and took the drumming world by storm. In 1995, Evans was acquired by the music giant D’addario who now produces their complete lines.
The Evans G Plus stands out among the single-ply options in the market as a thicker option with a deep and punchy low-end.
Their coated heads have a warmer tone than the clear or non-coated heads which are better suited for a punchy, well-defined attack. The G12s (snare top and bottom) are often recommended for jazz if you are looking for a rich and round tone that doesn’t require too much dampening.
Today, Evans continues to innovate and launch new products alongside the older and well-acclaimed ones. They have big names like Nate Smith, Jojo Mayer, Sarah Thawer, and Dennis Chambers endorsing their products.
Evans Drum Head Recommendations:
Aquarian Drum Heads
Aquarian entered the field almost thirty years after Remo and Evans. But that didn’t stop it from being a serious contender for one of the best drum head manufacturers in the world. Maybe this has to do with the fact that it is the brainchild of Roy Burns, the legendary American drummer, and educator.
Though not quite in the league of Evans/Remo yet, Aquarian has carved its own niche among drummers. They offer fresh, innovative, and distinctive sounds for drummers who want to try something outside mainstream brands.
Built using Multi-ply vacuum tuning, Aquarian drum heads are responsive and resonant. They produce a clear fundamental tone that is warm while playing soft and crisp/articulate when you play hard. Many drummers prefer Aquarian drum heads because of the proprietary coating which is thicker than Evans and Remo and dire hard fans claim it is a lot more durable.
The Aquarian Triple Threat is a big hit among hard rock and metal drummers. Their DeJohnette pack and Deep Vintage II (with a Felt Strip) are great for jazz or a vintage sound in general. They also have a unique New Orleans series that deserves a mention.
Aquarian drumheads are endorsed by Chris Adler, Jim Bogios (Counting Crows), Tim Alexander (Primus), Tommy Clufetos (Black Sabbath), Felix Pollard (Everlast), and the legendary Jack DeJohnette.
Aquarian Drum Head Recommendations:
The Importance of Investing in Quality Drum Heads
If you don’t change your drum heads frequently you will eventually puncture the skin. A ripped drum head can set you back a few days of practice if you can’t quickly get a replacement. It can be rather embarrassing if it happens right at the start of a gig/jam or during a sound check.
Drum heads are to a drum set what strings are to a guitar. They play a vital and inescapable part in the tone of the kit. As musicians, we all know that a good instrument can elevate our playing and feel. In that sense, getting the ‘right’ drum head will undoubtedly revolutionize your playing/practice.
But, there can never be a generic ‘best drum head’ title handed out because each brand and unit caters to a different sonic palette. At the end of the day, your choice will boil down to what tone you prefer and how to find the best value for money when you buy it. All three brands offer maximum variety, durability, and high-quality construction.
Why do you need to change drum heads?
- Regular maintenance: If you are using your drum set regularly, you should opt for the habit of changing your drum heads once every 3 months. Use this opportunity to clean your entire kit, tune it meticulously and service the hardware in case anything has come loose.
- Damaged or punctured drum head: As you play frequently, you will notice cracks, indents, or little bumps (from all the strokes of your drumstick) on the skins or drum heads on your kit.
- Old/flat drum heads: Each drum head has a lifespan or time frame in which it sounds fresh and crisp. With wear and tear, depending on the coating and the quality, all drum heads will eventually lose flavor and sound flat.
- Replace stock drum heads: Starter drum drum sets are equipped with stock drum heads. Unless they are good quality heads, you would benefit from replacing them, particularly if you prefer a different tone from that of the stock brand.
- Experimenting with brands/lines to find ideal tones: Every good drummer has to try out new drum heads until they find the style of drum head that they love. This process is largely just trial and error and lots of experimentation.
How to Tune Drums and Why is it Important?
The internet will forever argue over the ‘right pitch’ to tune the drums. But the one thing they will never argue about is the importance of tuning your drums. Unlike the guitar that is tuned to EADGBE (standard tuning), the drums aren’t tuned to fixed notes. The pitch is determined by the tonal quality you want i.e. – sharp and high pitched like the reggae snare or the meaty thud of 70s rock.
The idea of tuning drums is to ensure that they are all tuned to a relative pitch and to eliminate any unwarranted overtones. For example – if your high tom and floor tom are tuned to the same pitch, can you imagine how strange this would sound?
Stick to pure pitches when tuning the drums. The human ear likes familiar tones (i.e. notes it can sing) – don’t settle for something in between as it can sound dissonant and unpleasant.
The quality of components like drum shells, heads, and hardware determines how easily drums can be turned and how well they stay in tune. However, drum tuners and high-quality drum heads will play an equally important role in the tones you can dial in to suit your taste/genre.
As a beginner, tuning the drums can be a daunting task. It is a task you keep putting off until your drums sound like trash cans rattling in the wind. We’ve all been there. Even the pros struggle to get consistent tuning without some extra help. But you can invest in a reliable drum tuner and/or a tuning table to avoid these problems.
All of the ‘big 3’ manufacturers produce great quality drum heads, but which one you should go for is mainly down to your individual preferences. I’ve also recommended a few drumheads of each brand that are battle-tested and proven to offer great value. Of course, it is not a definitive list of recommendations.