The Drums – How to Choose a Drum Head

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 20,788
    Professional drummer Wes Crawford discusses how to choose a drum head.

    Wes Crawford

    Wes began his professional music career after graduating with a B.S. in Psychology at Virginia Tech. Soon thereafter, he began performing drumset with the extraordinary Jazz/R&B singer Jane L. Powell, a musical association that lasted eleven years and continues as a managerial relationship. The group toured throughout North America and the Caribbean performing at festivals, universities, resorts, nightclubs, and cruise ships. They opened for such acts as Ray Charles, Melba Moore, Freddie Jackson, Lou Rawls, The Crusaders, Joan Jett, Ernie Watts, and Paula Poundstone, and occasionally performed alongside artists such as Tony Bennett, O.C. Smith, and Dorothy Moore. The 1,300 colleges and universities comprising the National Association for Campus Activities voted the group Entertainer of the Year in 1990, their highest honor, and Jazz Artist of the Year for 1990-1992. During these years of touring, Wes also recorded two albums with Ms. Powell as well as for several outside artists. Wes also conducted electronic percussion seminars at VA Tech and at the Virginia Governor’s School for the Gifted. In 1992, Wes settled with his family in the Washington, DC area as an independent artist on drumset and percussion where he currently performs and records with acts such as Shahin & Sepehr (Higher Octave/Narada world music recording artists), Cocktail Nuts (aka “C-NUTS”- Jazz versions of rock classics, on Wildchild/Mapleshade Records), mrudangam virtuoso Umayalpuram K. Shivaraman (including a clinic at PASIC 2000 and a featured performance at Baltimore Drum Day 2000), Squeeze Bayou (1998 winners of the “Best Non-Louisiana-Based Cajun Band Recording” awarded by the Cajun French Music Association), and Night Life (high-energy show band). Wes has also regularly performed and/or recorded with Aisha Kahlil (of Sweet Honey in the Rock), Eva Cassidy, Catalyst Events’ “Beatswork!,” Zydeco Crayz, Mary Ann Borelli, “Oh Susannah!”, Sugar Jones, and Armadillo recording artist Daryl Davis. His other noteworthy performances and recordings include those with the David Bach Consort (2nd place winner in the 1998 BET unsigned band video contest), Hennesy Jazz Search regional winner Jerry Gordon, and performances with Milestone recording artist Ron Holloway. Wes considers education to be an important link to the future of the percussive arts and teaches drumset privately and at Goucher College in Baltimore, MD. He also performs in public school assemblies with Mosaic, which provided the musical instruction and curriculum for the 2000 Maryland Artist/Teacher Institute. Wes serves as the Director of the annual Drumset And Percussion Camp of the Goucher Summer Arts Institute and as Vice-President of the MD/DE chapter of the Percussive Arts Society. In 2000, Wes started, a site to feature his interactive educational media such as his popular “Drumset Play-Along DVD.” His latest “A Rhythmic Murder Mystery” interactive DVD features a solo electronic drumset concert, which he also performs live. Wes holds Associate Artist relationships with Maryland Drum Company and with Trueline Drumsticks, and he occasionally works as Music Consultant for the not-for-profit Sustainable Environments for Health + Shelter.

    Hi! I am Wes Crawford and now were going to talk about the varieties of drumheads you might want to put on your drum set. This is just a typical white coated head, most of the drumheads we use now are made out of Mylar or different kinds of plastic and still there are many varieties of heads available to us to get different kinds of sounds. A typical snare drumhead will be 14 inches in diameter, most snare drums are, there are smaller ones and bigger ones too, but the standard is 14 inch, so if you go purchase a head, make sure you know the diameter across, the measurement across the center of the drum, so that you need to know the size and you can tell them at the store what size of a head you want. I like coated medium thick drum heads for my snare drum and there are all kinds of specialty heads, all kinds of varieties, but basically drumheads come in thin, medium thickness and thicker and thats for single ply head, single ply means there is only one coat of plastic and I like the white coated texture on it so that you can get a sound out of brushes.

    If you use the clear smooth heads on a snare drum and if you play brushes you are not going to get any sound as you switch them. So, other types of heads are two ply heads, so called hydraulic heads. I say so called because some of the companies actually put a liquid in between the two plies and some models of heads dont have that, I believe that most dont and you will see a little light refraction still the head and it looks like may be there is a liquid in there, but the two ply heads and the thicker heads are going to be more centered on the tone of the drum, you will tone out of them and less of the ring and less of the attack sound of the stick on it.

    The thinner the head, you are going to get more of a higher pitched ring generally speaking all things equal on the same drum and all heads can get pitted. Once they start getting pitted by hitting on them that is little dense in the drumhead, they are loosing their life very quickly. A tightly tuned drumhead will become pitted less readily then a lightly or loosely tuned drumhead and thats pretty much an explanation of the basic varieties of drumhead. There are many, many good companies that make drumheads right now and it's up to you to try to find out a little bit about each one and the head models they offer and how they will differ, thats a starting point.