“Drumheads isn’t going to turn a junkyard drum set into a holy grail” or will it?

When it comes to our drum kits sound we all want the best, but what sounds “the best” is subjective.  What sounds perfect to one drummer could sound mediocre to another.  Nevertheless, the unsung hero that is sometimes overlooked when it comes to drum sound is none other than the drumheads we use.

Of course, drumheads aside, a beginner level kit will not offer the mature and pure tone that a top of the line drum set provides.  A drumhead isn’t going to turn a junkyard drum set into a holy grail one, but drumheads can go a long way to changing the tone of your drums to get the sound you want, or at the very least come closer to it.  The following will define the terms used to describe drum sounds, breakdown the different types of drumheads in the market, and indicate what the popular choices out there are that you can start off with if you are unsure where to begin in your drumhead quest.

When shopping around for drumheads it’s important to understand the terminology that is used in the drum world to describe sounds.  Attack/Decay: This is the amount of sound that you initially get upon striking something.  The decay refers to the sound after the initial attack sound is over.  Warm/Bright:  Tones are generally referred to as varying degrees of warmth and brightness.  A bright tone represents something that is sharper in its pitch and has a shinier sound.  A warm tone is lower in pitch, more subtle, and deeper.  Batter Head/Resonant Head: the “batter” head side is the side that you hit and is facing you, and the “resonant” head is the side that is on the bottom of the drum and that you don’t hit.

There are two main types of drumheads, clear and coated.  Clear drumheads are usually brighter and have more attack while coated drumheads are warmer with less attack.  You can see the difference as one is literally clear and you can see through it, while coated drumheads have a white or black coating and the surface is not as smooth to the touch as a clear drumhead.  There are many variations of clear and coated drumheads so note that these are general statements and there are some exceptions to these sound associations.  There are three main drumhead companies that each offer different lines of clear and coated drums, these companies are Remo, Evans, and Aquarian.  What you use is up to you, all three have excellent drumheads and it’s a matter of trial and error until you find what works for you.

CLEAR DRUMHEADS – Completely clear drumheads are a safe approach and offer a medium amount of warmth and attack.  The all clear drumheads are made with one layer of film, labeled “single ply” or “1 ply” head.  Sometimes there is a clear head with an added layer of film in the form of a big black dot in the middle of the clear drumhead.  This extra layer adds more durability and more attack.  There are also many clear drumheads that have some sort of design or circular layer around like a ring around the outside of the drumhead.  These add more dampening and often have an extra layer of film also known as “2 ply” or “double ply”.  The extra layer of film makes the sound a little warmer with slightly less attack but maintains the all around brightness of the tone.  With 2 ply heads there is more of a thuddy sound, with single ply you get a boingier sound.  Keep in mind that the added dot or layer of film also adds to the durability of the drumhead and makes it last longer.

All companies have their version of clear drumheads.  Examples of a single ply all clear head include the Remo Ambassador and Evans G1.  The added dot can be found on a Remo Controlled Sound, and the circular pattern around the edge of the clear heads can be found on Remo pinstripe, some Remo powerstroke heads, as well as Evans EC2.

COATED DRUMHEADS – Similarly, there are coated drumheads that are single ply and double ply.  Snare drums almost always use coated drum heads but sometimes they can sound good with clear drumheads too, although the sound will be a lot brighter.  Coated drumheads don’t usually have the circular design around the rim of the drumhead, rather, you see them with the added dots, or they look the same but some are thicker than others.  Coated heads can have the typical white coated finish which is very standard, but there are also black finishes that are either suede or ebony.  The black suede finish is double ply and can be found on Remo black suede emperors.  These have a very warm sound and deep tone.  Ebony heads are often used as the resonant side of the bass drum.  They recently became developed for toms and have a very punchy sound with lots of attack.  The ebony heads are an exception to the general rule that coated drumheads tend to be warm.  Ebony heads have a lot of brightness and offer a very unique sound that can work well for recording.  Remo emperors or Evans G2’s are great examples of double ply coated drumheads.

There is so much more to know and learn about the world of drumheads but hopefully this gives you a solid foundation of what to look for and what to expect from drumheads you find and purchase.  You may notice that you can’t hear any difference in sounds between drumheads but that’s because sometimes our ears don’t pick up the difference.  To hear the difference between drumheads try recording the sound of each one on your phone and playing it back.  Below I will provide some combinations of drumheads you can use on your drum set.  These are setups that I have found work really well but even I haven’t tried all the heads in the market.  Again, what I find works may not be something you like, but these combinations seem to be used very often among professional drummers and they will be a good place to start to figure out what sound you want out of your drum kit.

(Clear demo) Drumheads for Kit 1:

Batter Bass Drum:  Superkick 2 Aquarian/Evans EMAD 2/Remo Powerstroke 3

Resonant Drum: Any company Ebony Drumhead

Snare Drum:  Evans heavyweight coated

Toms:  Evans EC2’s

(Coated Demo) Drumheads for Kit 2:Resonant Bass Drum:  Any company ebony head

Snare:  Evans Hyrbid/Remo powerstroke 77

Toms: Remo Coated emperor/Evans G2 coated

Mahru Madjid

What is Chinaberry?.. See what’s wrong with this bird!

What is Chinaberry?…

Although the scientific name of this tree is Melia Azedarach, it is commonly known by a few names such as White cedar, Bead-tree, Cape lilac, Persian lilac, and Chinaberry. There are also many other names used for this type of tree and it is within the Mahogany family.DSC_6267

This type of tree is mostly referred to as a nuisance or weed tree and has been categorized as invasive. While it’s roots are native to Asia, it has been introduced to a wide population of North America and the islands that surround it. This wood is not commonly used in wood-working, and therefor is not commercially available as lumber.

How this wood sounds in relation to common wood drums…

Although Chinaberry is within the Mahogany family, but the design of the wood somewhat combines a mixture of Oak and Cherry in a sense that the grain patterns are more of an Oak style, while the color of the wood tends to resemble Cherry. The porous nature of the Chinaberry wood gives the overall sound more of a low-end “punch” similar to that of Red Oak.DSC_6269

The standard wood used in the drum building industry is Maple and Birch, also a common alternative is Mahogany and Beech. These are great for mass production because these types of wood are common to find and easy to work with. In the drum building industry, Chinaberry on the other hand is more rare to find…

While researching different drum manufacturers I found virtually nothing on a drum created from Chinaberry wood. It seems as though a drum of this type has either never been produced, or was never thought to be mentioned on the internet.

The tree that this snare drum was derived from was actually growing right outside of the Outlaw Drums assembly room. These trees tend to grow fast and even after it was cut down the stump is still growing more trees from it. When it was decided that the tree had to go, an idea transpired that begged the question “What would that tree sound like as a snare drum?” Check the video below to hear this drum being played, as well as a bit of the process turning it from a tree to a snare drum.

The drum in the pictures below is the first Chinaberry Snare to be created by Outlaw Drums (and to our knowledge anyone else). The shell thickness is 1/2″ and the diameter is 7×14. While this type of wood is rare in the manufacturing of drums (and any other wood related products for that matter) it has it’s own unique characteristics that make it a great addition to the Outlaw Drums family, finding one of these may be difficult but with this wood having great sound properties, odd’s are it’s here to stay.

Check out our store to see if this type of drum is available.

Once again I want to thank You the reader for taking the time to check out this blog post, if you have any questions or comments, or may have even found any inconsistencies in this blog post be sure to let us know. All feedback is encouraged and we will try to respond as quickly as possible…

Also on a side note,I figured it’s worth a mention that the fruit of the Chinaberry tree can be toxic to humans if eaten in a certain quantity, so please don’t eat from that tree.Birds tend to eat often from the tree and can gorge to the point of a “drunken state” which is kind of funny…