A title slide with a picture of a drummer playing drums. The text says "The best drum heads for the working drummer".

My Drum Head Recipe – The Best Drum Heads for The Working Drummer

In Drum Building 101, Drum Building Resources, Drummer resources, Drums by Philip2 Comments

Choosing Drum Heads

Over the years I have gone through hundreds (if not thousands) of drum heads between replacing them on my personal kits, and installing them on the custom drum sets that I build. Some drum heads have impressed me over and over and stayed on my kit for weeks, but other drum heads have come off my drum set after a few hours of playing them. This post will show you what drum heads I’ve generally trusted over the years to provide me with a sound that makes the engineers go wild. I’ll also tell you the pros and cons of each drum head, and my preference in how to tune each drum.

My current preference in drum heads for my kit:

Keep in mind I play mostly rock/pop/funk.

Snare Drum:

Remo Ambassador Coated Drum Head + Remo Ambassador Snare Head, Hazy

  • Pros: Fairly cheap, almost always in stock at any music store, sounds great tuned low and tuned high, very articulate even for ghost notes.
  • Cons: 1 ply drum head can dent easily for heavy hitters and may need to be replaced more often.
  • My Tuning: I tune both batter and resonant heads to the same pitch, I try to tune them high enough to give me a mid-range “crack”, as well as giving me a good stick response. On the resonant head I tune the lugs closest to the snare wires about 2 turns tighter than the rest of the head. This allows the snare wires to have a more crisp and clean snap as well as picking up more snare snap when playing ghost notes.


Remo Emperor Tom Drumheads (batter side) + Remo Ambassador Tom Drumheads (resonant side)

  • Pros: Fairly cheap, almost always available at any more store, the simplicity in the construction of the clear drum heads allow characteristics of the bearing edge and wood type to come through unobstructed by sound rings or power dots on other drum heads, sound great tuned high and low, the clear heads adds a brightness to make your toms cut through the mix.
  • Cons: I don’t use brushes very often, but obviously you would want to have coated heads for any brush work.
  • My Tuning: Each tom has it’s own sweet spot that the drum will resonate at best. I try to find this sweet spot and tune both drum heads to this pitch. What I mean by “sweet spot” is, the tuning that produces the most full sound without any buzzing/flabbiness (caused from being too loose) or choked off tintiness (caused from being too tight). For my toms, they generally find that sweet spot at a “just above finger tight” tuning.

Bass / Kick Drum:

Evans EMAD2 Clear Bass Drum Head with the larger external muffling ring (batter side) + Remo Fiberskyn with 6″ sound hole (resonant side) Evans Pillow inside the drum only touching the front bass head.

  • Pros: Tons of attack as well as low end, extremely easy to EQ when mic’ed up.
  • Cons: The Emad’s plastic ring that holds the external dampening ALWAYS cracks and ends up rattling, and eventually you’ll either need to tape the dampening ring on, or replace the drum head completely. You’ll have to cut your own sound hole in the Remo Fiberskyn (if you choose to cut a hole), which can be a little difficult if your not used to doing this. The Fiberskyn is a little more difficult to find in stock at music stores.
  • My Tuning: I tune the front head to where there are no wrinkles, with a moderately tight tuning across the head. I tune the Emad finger tight and try to keep the wrinkles out (but sometimes it’s ok to still have a slight wrinkle, you be the judge depending on how it sounds) I place the Emad Pillow (or a towel or small blanket) on the inside of the drum where it is only touching the front resonate head. Without the pillow touching the front head you’ll have a ringy sound, the pillow dampens it just enough to let the kick punch you in the chest the way it should.

I know someone of you reading this will disagree with me when it comes to drum head selection, and I welcome your comments and rebukes. I would love to know what your favorite drum heads are and why. Feel free to discuss by leaving a comment below!


  1. Great post! Finding the 'perfect' drum head for your own sound and style can be tricky and frustrating. Great info here. I'm providing 31 tips to better sounding drums over on my studio blog: http://silverlakestudio.com/blog/  –
    Picking the right drum heads is one of the most overlooked aspects… Good stuff!

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