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Whenever someone mentions putting new heads on their drums they’re usually talking about the top heads. Changing the top head on a drum (also called the “batter” head) is a great way to turn a crappy sounding drum into a much better sounding drum. When I was a kid I changed the batter heads on my toms once every two years, but these days I change them once a month. The same goes for snares.
But drums have heads on both the top AND the bottom.
The bottom heads (called “resonant” heads… or just reso for short) play a huge role in the tone of the instrument. How they’re tuned and what type of head is used makes a big difference, especially on toms. This is apparently not common knowledge, as almost every backline kit I’ve ever played has had reso heads that are at least 5 years old. I’ve even seen kits at churches with what appear to be the ORIGINAL reso heads still on them, upwards of 20 years old.
It’s true that the reso heads don’t need to be changed as often as the batter heads, but they shouldn’t be completely ignored. And as long as you’re taking the time to change them, try a few options and you’ll notice that not all reso heads are created equal. For example, the traditional wisdom is to have resonant heads be as thin as possible. That’s a good strategy for snares (where the sympathetic vibration from the batter head dramatically affects the snare wire buzz), but my experience has been that ultra thin reso heads on toms just leave me fighting with more overtones than I want. Lately I’ve been using Remo coated Ambassadors as resos, and they RULE. I’ve also always loved the way larger floor toms like 16’s and 18’s sound with two-ply heads on the bottom.
So, if your kit has reso heads that are more than 3 years old, consider shelling out the $40 or so to get new ones. You won’t regret it.
PS. This doesn’t really apply to kick drums. Kicks are so heavily dampened and muffled that “old” heads don’t hamper a good sound. I’ve had the same heads (both batter and reso) on one of my studio kicks for 12 years, and I get compliments on how great it sounds all the time.
For a while there, I was only using Aquarian drum heads. But lately I’ve been coming back around to Evans. You just can’t deny the coated G2 sound (especially on snares), and I’ve really been digging the newer EC2 model. I’ve got a set of clear EC2’s on my birch drums and they’re basically the perfect blend of attack and tone. Booya.
This is the Risen kit I’m rolling with these days for my “all purpose” gigs (and the black brass snare I’ve had for a while). Some of you might have seen this kit on the main stage at Sonshine last month. I’ve generally used Aquarian Response-2 heads on maple Risens but this time I threw some coated Evans G2’s on the kit and they sound killer.
In other news, the Bill Mike Band plays another free gig in a park tonight, this time in Mears Park (downtown St. Paul, 6pm). It’s part of their summer concert series and should be fun (except Mike has a cold right now so tonight’s gig might not deliver the songbird vocal performance that our band is known for).