Drumheads are typically constructed from either one or two plies, or individual sheets, of material. A single-ply drumhead, while less durable than a two-ply head, will respond quickly at a wide range of dynamics and resonate freely. A two-ply drumhead will typically be more durable than a single-ply head. In addition to greater durability, two-ply heads offer an increase in the amount of audible attack and often a shorter sustain.
The finish of the drumhead is most often thought of purely from an aesthetic point of view, though there are often sonic characteristics that go hand-in-hand with specific finishes. Coated or Frosted finishes are said to add warmth to the tone of the heads, whereas uncoated heads tend to have more definition or attack. Coated batter heads also offer a texture that is ideal for brushes. Though most people use clear reso-side (bottom side) heads, the use of a head with some form of coating will further reduce overtones and result in a warmer sound.
Tips for Achieving a Great Sound
Choosing the right head is the first step to achieving a great sound with your drums. Rather than choosing whatever drumhead is available and then adding duct tape, gels or stickers to modify the sound, explore the options for drumheads that have overtone control built in. If you’re a heavy hitter, explore the two-ply options available. If aesthetics are important, be sure to research the variety of finishes available.
Before playing your drums, in practice or in performance, be sure to make sure that your drums are all in tune. When making adjustments to the tension of a head, be sure always to tune up to the desired tension, rather than tuning down. If you wish to lower the tension of a head, de-tension the rods below the desired amount, and then tune up to pitch.
Most drumheads have three similar design features regardless of size, construction or intended use;
The aluminum channel that holds the film and comes in direct contact with the counter hoop of the drum. The channel is filled with a durable epoxy to hold the film securely in place.
The portion of the drumhead between the flesh hoop and the playing surface. The collar is easily identified by the slope at the edge of the playing surface.
The contact area of the drumhead. This space is where sticks/brushes/alternative sound sources will come in contact with the head. This is also the portion of the head that resonates when struck.