Drumheads are a part of drum sets that many people don’t realize the importance of. Your selection of drumheads on your kit has the potential to make your drums sound incredible.
While shell construction and wood choice form most of the tone of the drums, the drumheads that are placed on the drums finish off the sound, providing different qualities depending on which heads you choose.
Certain drumheads work better for different styles of music. This article is for all the rock drummers out there. I’m going to talk you through some of the best drumhead options for rock music and explain why they work so well.
What to Look for in Rock Drumheads
To answer this question, you need to think about what rock drumming is like. Typically, a rock drummer will play the drums with intensity and energy. Rock drumming is hard, fast, and often quite rowdy.
You need to get a set of drumheads that can handle that while sounding great at the same time. So, the two key factors you’re looking for are tone and durability.
If a drumhead is too durable, it may not have the best tone. If it has all tone, it may not be durable. It should be your goal to find drumheads that fit nicely in the middle.
Most drumheads will do the trick as all the drumhead companies go through vigorous production processes. However, some drumheads work better for rock music than others, especially when hearing how they sound within a rock band.
Coated vs Clear Drumheads
The last thing to mention before we move onto the heads is that you have two clear options – coated or clear drumheads. Each type of head has distinct qualities.
Clear heads have a transparent appearance. You can look through them and see the inside of the drum shell when they’re on the drum. Typically, clear heads will have a warm sound and be very durable.
Coated heads have a layer of white film on the surface that covers the drum. It gives the drum a white appearance at the surface. Coated heads give you more stick articulation and less warmth, meaning you hear your stick shots much clearer than with clear heads.
Both types of heads have their place in rock music. It mostly comes down to personal preference when choosing them. Snare drums usually need a coated head, though.
Criteria for the Best Drumheads
Before we get into the head choices, here is a list of the criteria that I’ve used to judge them. Each head fits these things ideally, making them great heads for rock music.
- Tone Quality
- Appropriateness for the Sub-Genre
- Clear vs Coated
Best Snare Drumheads for Rock
Remo Ambassador Coated
The Remo Ambassador is one of the workhorse drumheads in the drumming world. It’s incredibly popular amongst drummers of all types. While it’s only a single-ply drumhead, it tends to work well in rock settings as it brings out a beautiful open tone from your snare drum.
You’ll hear snare drums having wide and open tones in classic rock settings. This head is perfect for that. It has a fairly large tuning range as well, being able to sound low and bellowing as well as tight and short.
The big downside of the Ambassador is that it’s not as durable as some of the other options that I’m going to mention on this list. That’s the trade-off with single-ply heads, though. If you love this head, you’ll need to replace it fairly often after heavy playing.
- Industry-standard snare drumhead
- Brings out a nice open tone from the snare
- Very sensitive
- Not the most durable drumhead, especially in rock settings
Remo Powerstroke 77 Coated
The Powerstroke 77 is the other snare drumhead option that I’m going to suggest from Remo. This head is fantastic if you’re looking for a bit more crack from the snare with added depth. It makes your snare sound quite big with a cracking whack.
It’s a 2-ply head. However, it has a center dot as well that controls the tone inside of it. So, you should aim to hit that center dot whenever you play the snare. Hitting outside of it will make a different sound that isn’t as focused. This head will teach you to be accurate!
This head is very durable and will last you much longer than the previous Remo head. However, the center dot may be a bit of an issue for new drummers who haven’t mastered accuracy yet. You also don’t get as much tone out of your snare as you do from the Ambassador.
- Very durable
- Produces a big and tight whacking sound
- Doesn’t need much muffling
- Not a great head for drummers who aren’t accurate
Evans EC Reverse Dot
The Evans EC Reverse Dot is a fairly unique head in that it’s a clear head with a textured surface. The textured surface allows you to give the head a beating, but no flaking occurs as you’d have with a coated drumhead.
The biggest reason this head is great for rock is the volume it has. It’s one of the loudest drumheads on the list, producing a popping crack on any snare you place it on.
Similar to the Remo Powerstroke, it has an added dot in the center. You’ll get the most volume when you strike that dot directly in the middle.
The volume of this head generally works well in most rock settings. However, it may be too loud if you’re playing quite a few ballads with your band. So, decide whether it will be appropriate in terms of volume before getting it.
- Durable textured surface that doesn’t flake
- Very loud
- Internal muffling built-in
- It may be too loud for certain settings
Evans Genera HD Dry Coated
The Evans Genera Dry is a highly popular head from Evans thanks to its focused sound and controlled overtones. I’ve put the HD version of the head on this list as it’s a 2-ply alternative that is a lot stronger and more durable. Perfect for rock.
One of the best things about this head is the powerful rimshot sound that it gives your snare. It’s one of my favorite drumheads as I play rimshots all the time, and they’re always music to my ears.
The reason the head sounds so controlled is that it has small air vents around the perimeter. These vents cut out most of the overtones from the snare drum. In turn, the controlled sound also lends incredibly well to busy snare playing. Ghost notes come out very nicely with this head.
I know some drummers who don’t like the HD Dry because it cuts out too much of the snare drum’s tone. The standard version would be the better choice if you’re in that camp.
- Excellent rimshot sound
- Controlled overtones
- Very responsive
- Great choice if you have a busy snare drum hand
- May muffle the snare too much for certain drummers
Aquarian Triple Threat
The final snare drumhead I’m going to suggest is the Aquarian Triple Threat. I love this head for two reasons. The first is that it’s from Aquarian, giving you a bit of brand variety. Secondly, it’s a 3-ply drumhead.
You don’t find 3-ply drumheads all that often. It’s the thickest drumhead on this list, making it the most durable. So, this head can take a real beating for months before it shows any sign of wearing out.
In terms of sound, this head gives your snare drum a tone that sounds like it’s been triggered. Perfect for rock and metal drummers.
Although the head is thick, it has the response of a thin head, somehow feeling very versatile and reactive.
- Incredibly durable
- Sounds like it’s been triggered
- Surprisingly responsive
- Not every drummer will like the triggered tone
Best Tom Drumheads for Rock
Remo Coated Ambassadors
Getting back to the Remo Coated Ambassador, this head also works excellently on all of your toms. There’s a very good reason why these are some of the most sold drumheads in the world.
If you’re looking for that wide-open tone, these thinner heads will do the trick. I always think of the drum sounds of drummers like John Bonham and Simon Phillips when I think of these heads.
The attack is quite warm, and the overtones of the toms are slightly controlled. However, you need to be on you’re A-game when tuning the drums with these heads. Since they’re thin heads, it’s a bit more difficult to tune the drums to get a great sound. Once you get to a good tuning point, your toms will sound incredible.
- Some of the most sold heads of all time
- Great for a wide-open tom sound
- Warm attacking tones
- Thin heads aren’t easy to tune
The Remo Pinstripes are amazing drumheads if you’re looking for low punching tones from your toms. The lower you tune your drums, the better these tend to sound. So, they’re perfect for rock drumming.
Each Pinstripe head is distinguishable by the pinstripe circles surrounding the border. These circles provide built-in dampening that controls the unwanted overtones from your toms. They cut out all the high frequencies from the drums, accenting the lower tones.
I used Pinstripes on one of my drum kits for the longest time. I always got several compliments about my booming toms after every gig I played.
Just note that these heads aren’t ideal if you like to tune your toms high and resonate.
- Built-in muffling
- Excellent for low tom tones
- Very durable
- Not great for higher tuning
Evans EC2 Clear
The Evans EC2 Clears is the direct competitor to the Remo Pinstripes. These heads essentially have the same design as a surface ring that provides internal dampening. However, the EC2s have varying sound qualities.
The main thing that these heads bring out from your drums is attack. I’ve seen so many metal drummers using these heads because of that. They react very well to fast and intricate playing. That means they work well for certain types of rock drumming as well. These heads also have a wider tuning range than the Pinstripes.
One thing that I’ve realized with them is that although they have built-in muffling, I’ve always added more on the surface to counter the paper-like feel that they have.
- Enhances attack of your toms
- Great for fast drumming
- Wide tuning range
- They have a paper-like feel when no muffling is applied
Evans UV2 Coated
The UV2s are some of the latest drumheads from Evans. These heads show how Evans has kept innovating with the designs as these heads are perfectly suited for rock drummers thanks to their design qualities.
While the heads are coated, they have a UV-cured treatment that stops the coating from wearing thin. No matter how hard you play, the coating will stay there for quite a long time.
The heads give your toms a pre-EQed attacking sound which is perfect for playing live gigs. This sound is very easy to work with when mixing.
- UV-cured treatment stops coating from wearing thin
- Pre-EQed tones
- Easy to tune
- Slightly more expensive than other drumheads
Best Bass Drumhead for Rock
The Evans EMAD2 is a widely popular bass drumhead, especially amongst rock drummers. It’s my only bass drumhead recommendation as it’s one of the best-suited heads for rock on the market.
The head gives your bass drum a great balance of attack, power, and low-end. This head will allow your bass drum to be heard clearly in any mix of loud instruments. You get a short kick drum tone that is very punchy.
The EMAD2 has interchangeable control rings that allow you to dampen the head from the outside. I’ve always found these to be very useful as they stop you from having to put too much dampening inside the bass drum shell.
You just need to make sure that you put a kick drum patch on the head otherwise it’s not going to last long.
- External dampening rings are amazing
- Very punchy sound
- Popular choice for rock drummers
- Won’t last long without a kick drum patch
Answer: There isn’t a distinct top choice. However, the most well-known brands are Remo, Evans, and Aquarian. All three of these brands make incredible drumheads that drummers from all over the world love.
Aquarian isn’t quite as popular as Evans and Remo, though. Those two brands have a strong rivalry that has divided many drummers over the years.
Ideally, you should test out the heads from every brand to see which one you like the most. There’s also nothing wrong with mixing drumheads around your kit. You could have an Evans head on the snare with Remo heads on the toms.
Answer: While all the heads I’ve mentioned above work incredibly well for rock music, they aren’t exclusively intended for rock music. Most of them will work well for different styles of music. The biggest factor in how good a drumhead sound is how well you tune it.
There are a few things you should avoid with different styles, though. For example, you’ll need single-ply heads for jazz drumming. Double-ply heads will kill those overtones that are loved in jazz music, especially on a small jazz drum set.
Answer: This varies depending on how often you play. Drummers who play for world-famous artists will change their drumheads after every show. Drummers who play as a hobby may end up never changing their drumheads. Both of those examples are quite extreme.
You should change your heads when you start to see that they’re wearing out. Some clear signs of that would be dents on the heads and a noticeable loss of tone.
Changing a full set of drumheads can get quite expensive. So, make sure that they need to be changed when you’re thinking of changing them.
Answer: This also depends on how often you play. It also depends on what environment your drum set is in. Certain weather conditions cause the drums to go out of tune a lot quicker.
A good rule of thumb is to give the drums a quick tune once a week. It doesn’t have to be in-depth. Just check to see if any lugs are loose and tighten them to make the drum sound better.
You should aim to do a big tune of your whole drum set every few months if you want it to sound the best it can. This involves carefully tuning each drum and making sure all the tension rods are evenly tight. Using a tuning device will help with that.
Answer: When looking for drumheads, try to get 2-ply ones if you want the most durable options. 2-ply heads are thicker than single-ply heads, meaning they’re much better at taking hard hits for long durations.
You can even find 3-ply heads from some companies. They’re the most durable, but they bring out the least tone from your drums. That’s why 2-ply heads are the best option for durability.
As drummers, we’re spoiled for options when it comes to drumheads. The great thing about them is that most of them cost the same, so you get to take your pick of any drumhead you have available to you.
This can often be overwhelming, though. So, choose any of the drumheads from the list above if you’re looking for ones suitable for rock drumming.
If you want wide-open tones, aim to get Remo Ambassadors on all your drums. The Remo Powerstroke 77, Evans EC Reverse Dot, and Evans HD Dry Coated are all excellent snare heads for heavy hitters.
For your toms, the Pinstripes and EC2s are some of the best choices for warm and attacking sounds. The Evans UV2s are also great if you’re looking for a coated option.
Finally, the Evans EMAD2 is the king of bass drumheads when it comes to rock drumming.
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