What Are Drum Heads Made Of? A Comprehensive Guide

Drumheads, whether they’re on hand drums, metal drums, or electronic drums, are the unsung heroes of any drum kit. They’re the key players responsible for producing those captivating beats that make your heart race and your feet tap. But have you ever wondered what drumheads are made of? Well, wonder no more!

These essential drum components, including drumheads and cymbals, come in various sizes and are typically crafted from metal or synthetic materials. These main parts ensure durability and consistent sound quality for bass drums, snare drums, hand drums, and electronic drums.

The material and construction of drumheads greatly influence the tone and resonance of hand drums. From ply heads to bottom heads, understanding these main parts is crucial for any drummer looking to fine-tune their instrument’s sound, whether they are playing acoustic or electronic drums. Additionally, hardware components play a vital role in ensuring the stability and functionality of the drums.

So let’s dive into the world of drumheads, exploring their impact on different types of drums like metal and snare, and how they interact with other elements like drum hardware and acoustic environments. Get ready to discover how these seemingly simple circles, also known as pads, play a vital role in creating music that moves us all!

Table of Contents

Drum Head: What Are They Made Of?

Drum heads are the membranes that cover the open ends of drums and produce sound when struck. They are usually made of plastic, such as polyethylene terephthalate, which is a type of polyester. Plastic drum heads replaced animal skins, which were the original material used for drum heads. Plastic drum heads are more durable, consistent, and versatile than animal skins.

The most common material used today is polyester (also known as Mylar), which is resistant to moisture, heat, and sunlight. Drum heads can also vary in their thickness (or ply), coating (or finish), texture (or surface), and sound (or tone), which affect their durability, sensitivity, sustain, volume, warmth, attack, resonance, and projection.

What Are Drum Heads Made Of

Mylar: The Synthetic Wonder

One of the most popular materials for drum heads is Mylar, a type of plastic known for its durability and versatility. Mylar drum heads, made of metal, come in two variations: coated and clear. Coated Mylar drumheads have a thin layer added to the surface, which modifies their tonal qualities.

On the other hand, clear Mylar drumheads provide a bright and open sound. These drumheads are essential parts of a snare drum.

Mylar drum heads, made of metal or plastic, offer consistent performance across various playing styles and environments. These durable drum heads are ideal for heavy hitters or those who play frequently.

They are resistant to changes in humidity or temperature, ensuring reliable performance under different conditions.

Natural Animal Skins: Warmth with Maintenance

For those seeking a vintage sound with warm tones, natural animal skin drum heads made of calfskin or goatskin can be an excellent choice.

These traditional materials, along with metal and plastic, produce rich harmonics and complex overtones that evoke a classic vibe. Whether you’re playing jazz, rock, or any other genre, the mil drum heads will enhance your sound and give it a unique character.

However, it’s important to note that natural drum shells require more maintenance compared to plastic options. They are sensitive to changes in temperature and humidity, requiring regular tuning adjustments.

Natural skin heads on the snare drum may need occasional treatments with oils or conditioners to keep them in optimal condition.

Plastic Fantastic: Acrylic Drum Heads

While not as common as Mylar or natural skins, acrylic drum heads made of plastic have gained popularity among certain drummers for their unique characteristics.

Acrylic offers a distinct tonal quality that sits between synthetic metal and natural options. It provides warmth similar to animal skins but with enhanced projection and clarity.

Acrylic drum heads tend to be less common in the metal drumming community due to their specialized sound and the fact that they are not as widely available as other materials.

However, for those looking for a unique sonic signature in metal drumming, acrylic heads can be an exciting choice.

The Composition of Drum Heads: Unraveling the Mystery

best drum heads for deep sound

A drum head consists of three main layers: the top ply, bottom ply, and sometimes an additional dot or patch for reinforcement.

Understanding the composition of resonant heads is key to achieving the desired metal sound. A typical drum head consists of three essential layers: the top ply, bottom ply, and occasionally an extra dot or patch made of kevlar for reinforcement.

These layers work together harmoniously to produce the perfect tone and resonance.

The top ply is crucial as it directly affects the attack and tone of the drum. It is commonly made from materials such as coated Mylar heads or clear plastic.

Coated heads provide a warmer sound with reduced overtones, while clear heads offer brighter tones with enhanced sustain. The choice between these options depends on personal preference and the desired sound characteristics.

On the other hand, the bottom ply influences sustain and resonance. It plays a vital role in shaping how long each note rings out after being struck.

Similar to top plies, bottom plies can be made from various materials like Mylar or other synthetic fibers, including resonant heads, batter heads, and kevlar heads.

Different compositions will yield different sustain qualities, allowing drummers to customize their sound according to genre or personal taste.

In some cases, drummers may opt for an additional dot or patch on their drum head for reinforcement purposes. This small circular piece, commonly made from materials like Kevlar, helps prolong the life of the batter heads by reducing wear and tear caused by repeated striking.

The number of plies affects durability and responsiveness.

Drum heads come in varying numbers of plies, which significantly impact their durability and responsiveness. Ply refers to each individual layer within a drum head’s construction. The more plies a drum head has, the stronger it tends to be due to increased thickness and density.

Single-ply heads are known for their sensitivity and responsiveness since they vibrate more freely. They are commonly used on snare drums, where a crisp and articulate sound is desired.

On the other hand, double-ply heads offer added durability and control by reducing unwanted overtones. Drummers often choose double-ply heads for heavier genres or when a focused sound with controlled resonance is preferred.

Some drummers even opt for specialty heads with three or more plies, which provide unparalleled durability and focused tones. These multi-ply heads excel in situations where extreme volume and heavy hitting are required, such as in metal drumming.

Different compositions offer unique playing experiences based on desired sound qualities.

The composition of drum heads plays a crucial role in determining the overall sound characteristics they produce. Here are some popular compositions and their associated playing experiences:

  • Coated Heads: These drum heads have a thin layer of coating applied to the top ply, resulting in a warmer tone with reduced overtones. They are ideal for genres like jazz or blues where a softer, vintage sound is desired.

  • Clear Heads: Clear drum heads lack any additional coating, providing brighter tones with increased sustain and projection. They suit genres like rock or pop that require cutting through the mix with clarity.

Single Ply vs. Double Ply Drum Heads: Which One is Right for You?

Single-Ply Drum Heads: Sensitivity, Brightness, and Resonance

what are snare drum heads made of

The material they are made of plays a crucial role in determining their sound characteristics. Single-ply drum heads, as the name suggests, consist of a single layer of material. These drum heads are typically made from materials like mylar or polyethylene terephthalate (PET).

One key advantage of single-ply drum heads is their increased sensitivity. Due to their thin construction, they respond effortlessly to even the lightest touch. This makes them ideal for genres that require nuanced playing techniques such as jazz or acoustic settings where subtlety is valued.

In addition to sensitivity, single-ply drum heads also offer brighter tones. The thinner material allows more high frequencies to resonate, resulting in a crisp and cutting sound. This brightness can be particularly desirable in genres like pop or rock where clarity and projection are essential.

Furthermore, single-ply drum heads excel in producing enhanced resonance. The thin construction allows the shell of the drum to vibrate more freely, creating a fuller and more open sound that resonates throughout the entire kit. This characteristic can add depth and warmth to your overall sound.

Double-Ply Drum Heads: Durability, Reduced Overtones, and Focused Tones

On the other hand, double-ply drum heads consist of two layers of material fused together. These layers are often made from mylar or PET as well but provide added thickness and strength compared to single-ply options.

The primary advantage of double-ply drum heads lies in their durability. The extra layer adds toughness and longevity to withstand heavy hitting without breaking easily.

If you’re an aggressive player who enjoys powerful beats or regularly performs high-energy music styles like metal or punk rock, double-ply heads might be your best bet.

Another benefit of double-ply drum heads is their ability to reduce overtones. Overtones are additional frequencies that can muddy up the sound and make it less focused.

The added layer helps dampen these unwanted vibrations, resulting in a more controlled and focused tone. This characteristic makes double-ply heads suitable for genres where precision and tightness are desired, such as funk or R&B.

Choosing the Right Drum Head

When deciding between single-ply and double-ply drum heads, it ultimately boils down to personal preference and musical style. Consider the following factors:

  1. Musical Style: Determine whether you prioritize sensitivity, brightness, and resonance of the acoustic drum sound (single-ply drum shells) or durability, reduced overtones, and focused tones of the drum set (double-ply drum shells).

  2. Playing Technique: Assess your playing style—whether you prefer subtle dynamics or powerful hits—and choose the right drum sound, drum kit, drum shells, and bass drum heads accordingly.

  3. Experimentation: Don’t be afraid to experiment with both types of drum heads to find the perfect balance between tone projection and durability. It’s all about finding what suits your unique sound.

Remember that different drum head manufacturers may offer variations within each category, so explore various brands to discover your preferred sound.

The Importance of Changing Drum Skins: A Guide to Maintenance and Sound Improvement

Regularly changing drum heads ensures optimal sound quality by eliminating wear-related issues like dents or stretched areas.

One crucial aspect is regularly changing the drum heads. Over time, drum heads can develop wear and tear, resulting in a less than desirable sound. Dents, stretched areas, and general wear can all impact the quality of the sound produced by your drums.

By replacing worn-out drum heads with fresh ones, you eliminate these issues and ensure that your drums consistently produce a clear and crisp tone.

Fresh drum heads provide better tuning stability compared to worn-out ones.

Tuning your drums is an essential part of achieving the desired sound. However, if you’re working with old and worn-out drum heads, maintaining consistent tuning can be quite challenging.

As drum heads age, they lose their ability to hold tension evenly across the entire surface. This can lead to uneven tuning and difficulty in finding that sweet spot for each drum.

By regularly changing your drum heads, you’ll experience improved tuning stability as fresh skins allow for more accurate adjustments.

Changing drum heads can inspire creativity and encourage exploration of different tones.

As musicians, we are always seeking new ways to express ourselves through our instruments. One way to explore different tones on your drums is by experimenting with various types of drum heads.

Different materials used in making drum heads have unique characteristics that affect the overall sound produced. By changing your drum skins periodically, you open up opportunities for exploring new sounds and textures that may inspire creativity in your playing style.

Proper maintenance, including cleaning and storing drum heads correctly, prolongs their lifespan.

To get the most out of your investment in new drum skins, proper maintenance is key. Cleaning your drumheads regularly removes dirt buildup that can affect their performance over time.

Use a mild soap or drumhead cleaner and a soft cloth to wipe away any grime or residue. Storing your drum heads correctly can significantly extend their lifespan. Keep them in a dry and temperature-controlled environment, away from direct sunlight and extreme temperatures.

Selecting the Perfect Drum Head: Factors to Consider

Finding Your Sound: Musical Genre, Playing Style, and Desired Tone

There are several factors to consider in order to find the perfect match for your sound goals, including the musical genre you will be playing.

Different genres often require different tonal qualities from the drums. For example, jazz drumming typically calls for a warm and controlled tone, while rock drumming may require a brighter and more aggressive sound.

When selecting drums, it is important to consider how they will contribute to the desired tonal qualities of your music, such as the ply and head choice.

Your playing style also plays a significant role in determining which drum heads are best suited for you. If you’re an aggressive player who hits hard, you’ll want a drum head that can withstand heavy hitting without losing its tone or durability.

On the other hand, if you have a lighter touch or prefer a more nuanced playing style, a thinner and more responsive drum head might be ideal.

Consider the desired tone you want to achieve. Are you looking for deep and resonant tones or crisp and focused sounds? The material composition of drum heads greatly affects their tonal characteristics.

Experimenting with different materials such as coated heads (which produce warmer tones) or clear heads (which offer more attack) can help you find your desired sound.

Exploring Different Drum Head Materials and Compositions

Drum heads are made from various materials that contribute to their overall sound quality. Here are some popular options:

  1. Single-Ply: These thin single-layered heads offer excellent sensitivity and resonance but may lack durability.

  2. Double-Ply: Double-ply heads consist of two layers of material bonded together for increased durability and control.

  3. Coated Heads: Coated drum heads have a layer of coating applied to them, resulting in warmer tones with reduced sustain.

  4. Clear Heads: Clear drum heads provide enhanced attack and brightness while maintaining good sustain.

  5. Hybrid Heads: Hybrid heads combine different materials to offer a blend of characteristics, such as improved durability and tone control.

Remember that the material composition of drum heads interacts with factors like drum size and shell construction, so it’s essential to consider these elements together when selecting your drum heads.

The Importance of Experimentation and Seeking Advice

Selecting the perfect drum head is often a process of trial and error. Every drummer has unique preferences and goals for their sound, so don’t be afraid to experiment with different brands and models.

Trying out various combinations can lead you to discover unexpected tonal possibilities that suit your musical style.

Seeking advice from experienced drummers or professionals can also provide valuable insights during the selection process.

They may have firsthand knowledge about specific drum head characteristics or recommendations based on their own experiences. Don’t hesitate to reach out to them for guidance or attend workshops where you can learn from industry experts.

How to Change a Drum Skin: A Step-by-Step Guide


Loosen the Tension Rods

Start by loosening all tension rods evenly to release pressure on the hoop. This will make it easier to remove the old drum head and replace it with a new one.

Using a drum key, turn each tension rod counterclockwise until you feel the tension decrease. Make sure to loosen them gradually and evenly to avoid any damage to the drum shell.

Remove the Old Drum Head

With all tension rods loosened, you can now remove the old drum head. Carefully lift it off the shell, taking care not to bend or damage it in the process. If there are any clips or hooks holding the drum head in place, gently detach them before lifting.

Clean the Bearing Edge

Before placing the new drum head on top, take a moment to clean the bearing edge of any debris. Use a soft cloth or brush to wipe away dust, dirt, and residue that may have accumulated over time. A clean bearing edge ensures proper contact between the drum head and shell for optimal sound quality.

Place the New Drum Head

Now comes the exciting part – placing your new drum head! Lay it flat on top of your drum shell, ensuring that it is centered properly. Make sure that any logos or markings on the drum head are facing up if desired.

Begin Tightening Tension Rods

With the new drum head in place, start tightening each tension rod gradually in a star pattern. This means moving from one rod across to its opposite counterpart (e.g., top left, bottom right) rather than going around in a circle.

By following this pattern, you ensure even tension distribution across the entire drum head.

Use your drum key to turn each tension rod clockwise by about half a turn at a time. Repeat this process for each rod until you achieve your desired tension level. Remember, it’s important to tighten the rods gradually to avoid any warping or damage to the drum head.

Achieve Desired Tension

As you tighten the tension rods, you’ll notice the drum head starting to resonate and produce sound. This is a good sign! Keep tightening until you achieve your desired tension level.

The exact tension will vary depending on personal preference and the type of sound you want to achieve.

Experiment with Different Drum Skins

Now that you know how to change a drum skin, why not experiment with different types? There are various options available, including calf skin and synthetic materials. Each type of drum skin produces a unique sound, so feel free to explore and find the one that suits your musical style best.

Remember, taking care of your drum heads is crucial for maintaining their longevity and ensuring optimal performance. Regularly inspect them for signs of wear and tear, and replace them as needed. By following this step-by-step guide, you’ll be able to change your drum skins like a pro in no time!


Congratulations! You are now well-versed in the art of drum heads. By understanding the materials used, the composition, and the importance of maintenance, you have gained valuable insights into optimizing your drumming experience.

Drum heads are made from a variety of materials such as Mylar, coated films, and natural skins. Each material offers unique characteristics that can greatly impact the sound produced by your drums.

Whether you prefer the warm tones of calfskin or the durability of synthetic materials like Mylar, selecting the perfect drum head is crucial to achieving your desired sound.

In addition to material selection, understanding the composition of drum heads is key. Single ply and double ply options each have their own advantages and disadvantages.

Single ply drum heads provide more resonance and sensitivity while double ply heads offer increased durability and control. The choice between them ultimately depends on your playing style and preferences.

Maintenance plays a vital role in preserving the quality of your drum heads and enhancing their lifespan. Regularly changing drum skins not only improves sound quality but also prevents damage caused by wear and tear.

By following our step-by-step guide on how to change a drum skin, you can ensure that your drums consistently produce optimal sound.

Consider factors such as musical genre, playing style, desired tone, budget, and drum skins. Experimenting with different combinations of drum skins will allow you to find what works best for you.

To summarize:

  1. Explore various drum head materials to find one that suits your desired sound.

  2. Understand the composition differences between single ply and double ply drum skins options.

  3. Regularly change your drum skins for improved sound quality.

  4. Consider factors such as genre, playing style, tone preference, and budget when selecting a drum head.

Now it’s time to put this knowledge into action! Take what you’ve learned here today and embark on an exciting journey towards mastering your drums.


How often should I change my drum heads?

Changing your drum heads regularly is recommended to maintain optimal sound quality. The frequency of replacement depends on factors such as playing style, intensity, and personal preference. As a general guideline, many drummers change their heads every few months or after a significant amount of use.

Can I mix different types of drum heads on my kit?

Yes, you can mix different types of drum heads on your kit. Many drummers experiment with various combinations to achieve a desired balance of tones across their drums. However, it’s important to consider the compatibility and overall sound you wish to achieve when mixing different types.

Are natural skin drum heads better than synthetic ones?

The choice between natural skin and synthetic drum heads ultimately comes down to personal preference and the sound you’re looking for.

Natural skins offer warmth and organic tones but require more maintenance. Synthetic heads provide durability and consistency but may lack some of the nuances found in natural skins.

Do thicker drum heads produce louder sounds?

Thicker drum heads do not necessarily produce louder sounds by default. While they may offer increased durability and control, the volume primarily depends on factors such as playing technique, stick selection, and tuning.

Can I use the same type of drum head for all my drums?

You can use the same type of drum head for all your drums if that is what suits your desired sound. However, many drummers prefer using different types or combinations to achieve varying tones across their kit. Experimentation is key in finding what works best for you and your musical style.