Jump straight to the differences

Did this happened to you to?

After happily purchasing your first drum set, you’d get around to setting it up.

Setting up a drum kit is pretty logical and easy until…

You realised that something feels off.

“The logo on the drum head is supposed to face up right?”
“But wait, both ends of the drums have logos!?”

OR worse.

You’ve set up everything. Logos facing the right way, tuning done as per the manual or the youtube videos.

But your drum kit still sounds off.

It’s getting frustrating.

Well guys, I have a confession to make. I’ve been through both of those situations.

Later, I learnt that there were 2 heads on a drum..

And they were not made for the same purpose. Ha!

Yes, there are differences between the batter and resonant drum heads…

facepalm

So!

Here’s what I’ve learnt since those awkward mistakes (click to skip to the sections below):

 

The Two Sides to a Drum

The drumming world have gave each of the heads on your drums names.

batter head vs resonant head

They are known as the:

  • Batter drum head
  • Resonant drum head

 

What is a Batter Drum head?

The Batter Drum Head is the top surface of the drum. You hit this drumhead or skin when you play the drum kit.

remo batter head
Source: Pixabay

How to recognise the batter drum head:

  •  This is the side that usually has a logo, if you purchase a complete drum kit.
  •  this is the side that provides the rebound when you play.
  •  this is also the side that wears out faster.

Click to browse Batter drum heads on Amazon now

 

What is a Resonant Drum Head?

The Resonant drum head is the drum head that is at the bottom of the drum.

It is also dearly called the ‘reso’ drum head.

It does what it’s name suggests, it resonates sounds created from the batter skin.

evans resonant head
It’s really difficult to differentiate between batter and resonant drum heads when they all look the same…

If you buy a economic (aka cheap) drum kit, the resonant drum head would be the side without the logo.

The resonant skin resonates sound vibrations at selected frequencies by producing more overtones.

Of course the extend of the resonant drum head’s effect depend on the head you’re using as well as how it is tuned.

This creates a better sounding kit in general.

*Warning! Music speak coming up…

The resonant drum head adds depth, reverb and sustain to the sound of your drum kit. Plus, it also affects the resultant tone of your drum.

Depending on the thickness of your resonant drum head, you can get lower or brighter tones.

 

Here are quick videos that shows you the effect of having a resonant head.

How a drum sounds without Resonant Head vs with Resonant Head

Without Resonant HeadWith Resonant Head

Click to browse Resonant drum heads on Amazon now

Some drummers do away with the resonant head to attain thinner sounding drums, or for recording purposes.

However, if you are working with your first drum kit, i think its advisable to stick with having a resonant drum head.

And…if you want the geeky explanation of ‘What is Resonance’, watch this >D

 

What’s the Difference Between Batter and Resonant Drum Heads?

Now that we know what they are, here are the differences between batter and resonant drum heads:

 Batter Drum HeadResonant Drum Head
PositionTopBottom
PurposeCreates drum soundsResonates drum sounds, highlights overtones,
adds sustain
What to note when selecting?
  • Thicker or Thinner heads: for deeper or brighter sounds, and sensitivity
  • Single or double ply: for amount of sustain and resonance
  • Clear heads or Coated head: for how muffled you want the sound to be
  • Dampened or Undampened heads: to control the amount of overtones and sustain

(more details in the section below)
Pretty much similar to batter drum head
Quick summary of key differences between these drum heads

 

How to choose drum heads?

Be it customising your drum head, or switching out your stock drum heads for something better, this section is for you.

If you are shopping for drum heads, you’d noticed that the big brands now have specific ranges for resonant drum heads.

But, you are smarter than that.

You know the function of each of those heads after reading this article.

So…

Let’s talk briefly about how you should choose your drum heads.

Firstly, do remember that there is no “1 size fits all” solution when it comes to drum heads.

The drum head you choose should be based on the type of music you play and the type of sound you are looking for.

Also remember that each drum (snare, tom, bass) have their own range of drum heads to select from.

And also make sure you know the diameter of your drum shell when you are purchasing brand new drum heads!

 

4 considerations when choosing batter drum heads

There are several things to look out for if you are replacing your batter drum heads.

1) Thicker or Thinner heads

Thicker drum heads tend to:

  • has less sustain
  • provides lower tones
  • be more suitable for heavy hitting, and hence ‘heavier’ music

Comparatively, thinner drum heads:

  • provide more sustain
  • highlights overtones
  • produces brighter notes
  • are more sensitive, hence are suitable for light playing (eg, jazz)

2) Single or double ply

Drum heads can come in single layer or double layers.

The 2 ply drum heads are simply two single ply drum heads usually sealed at the edge.

The drumming community continues to debate about the sound and sustain of these drum heads, it would be best to test it out for yourself.

In short, most drummers tend to agree that a single ply drum head:

  • produces more sustain
  • creates brighter tones
  • highlights overtones
  • tends to create the ringing or bouncy sound effect (get those with rings or coated drum heads to reduce this)

On the other hand, 2 ply drum head generally

  • has less sustain
  • creates lower tones
  • produces less overtones
  • adds depth to the sound produced

3) Clear heads or Coated heads

If you shop around for drum heads, you’d noticed that some are translucent (clear) and others are white (coated).

Clear heads tend:

  • produce more sustain
  • highlights more overtones
  • be characterised by brighter tones

Coated heads tend to:

  • produce less sustain
  • highlights less overtones
  • be characterised by a more muffled sound

4) Dampened or Undampened heads

You may have also noticed that some drum heads have rings or dots on them. Those are not random designs, they are used for dampening:

Un-dampened heads tend to:

  • be characterised by brighter tones
  • have a ‘ringing’ effect
  • be more flexible: you can choose to add dampening tools to tweak for your desired sounds

Dampened heads tend to:

  • have less sustain
  • less ‘ringing’ effect
  • and generally have warmer tones

All these variables will affect your drumkit’s sound. Of course, you’ll need to tune your batter drumhead for the optimal sound as well.

You would need to choose the drum head based on the genre of music you play.

The quickest (may not be the best) way to research for a suitable drum head is: head to Youtube to listen to a few demos.

*Remember to take into consideration that some of the videos you find on Youtube may not be recorded well, so allow a little buffer to the actual sound.

If there’s a music store near you, head over to test the drumheads. Plus, they usually have knowledgable staff who can help you narrow the range of drumheads suitable for you.

Of course, if you are already familar with batter drumheads and know what you exactly you want, a convenient way to purchase it is through Amazon or Sweetwater.

Click to browse Batter drum heads on Amazon now

 

Quick intro to choosing resonant drum heads

The considerations when choosing a resonant drum head is similar to that of the batter drum head. You have to decide on:
1) Thickness of the head
2) Single or double ply
3) Clear heads or Coated heads
4) Dampened or Undampened heads

Of course, these will also be affected by how you tune your resonant drum head.

You would need to choose the drum head based on the genre of music you play.

Click to browse Resonant drum heads on Amazon now

Due to budget constrains, I don’t usually test a wide range of drum heads for my kit. You can do that at the music store, if you have made friends with the right staff~

Otherwise, I tend to stick to a single brand and series.

Conclusion

In short, you’ve been introduced to the 2 types drum heads you’ll find on a drum; the Batter drum head and the Resonant drum head.

Plus!

You would have learnt that the Batter drum head is used to create the sound of your kit. Whereas, the Resonant drum head is used to resonate your drum sounds.

This creates sounds that have more depth, as well as sustain.

You would have also learnt the basics of choosing your own drum heads…in case you’d want to chuck the stock drum heads and improve the sound of your (first) drum kit~

Did I miss anything? Don’t agree with something? Or just have something to say?

Let me know in the comments section below!

 

Additional Reading:

Hungry for more? Here are 3 other resources about drum heads that we think you should read:

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