Choosing drums heads to balance sustain and resonance for varying sizes

Tommy_D

Platinum Member
Wow, that subject line sounds like some music majors title to their Master's Thesis Project, but in essence I'm asking if anyone here has chosen drum heads not only by the sound they are looking for, but also varied their heads on the kit based on the size of the drum the head will be on.

Sure its easy to tell people G2's over G1's, but I don't think that rule works when you have drums that range in size from 8" to 18". In my case (and many others as well) I have 8" to 16" toms and I want to try to balance the attack and sustain of the drums as I move around the kit. I have found in the past that the small drums have a quick "ping" of a sound that cuts, but doesn't do much else. On the other end of the spectrum you have big floor toms that rumble, but sustain for days... I could just buy a matching set of heads for all the drums and use moon gel to cut some of that sustain, but I would like to work with the varying heads that manufactures offer to design a set that balances all the drums. Ideally, I would like to get good tone and sustain out of the drums while cutting out the excessive sustain of the floor toms.

Here is what I'm working with and what I'm trying to achieve:

Kit: Gretsch Catalina Maple kit 30 degree edges (8/10/12/14/16)

Sound: Rounded tone (somewhat fat/wet but not too muffled) with soft stick attack.

I'm thinking a two ply coated head like a G2 would work well. EC2's may be too muffled for what I'm trying to achieve but they may be good for the floor toms? Balanced sustain along the 3 rack toms (8/10/12). Maybe I need a G1 coated on the 8" so it can speak more? The floor toms should have a good bottom end but not ring out for ever. Maybe EC2's for the batter heads is a good idea to control the sustain?

Then what should I do for the resonant heads? Genera Resonant for the rack toms and EC Resonant for floors?

What are your thoughts?
 

BradGunnerSGT

Silver Member
If that is what you are after, then it makes sense to have something like this (coated on batters, maybe?).

8/10/12 - G1 over G1
14/16 - G2 over G1

This would give progressively thicker heads as the drum gets bigger.

8 - G1 over G1
10/12 - G12 over G12
14 - G14 over G14
16 - G2 over G14
 

BradGunnerSGT

Silver Member
One thing to note, the resonant head is just as important for the sustain of the drum as the batter head, if not more. People seem to focus too much on the top head and forget that the bottom head contributes to the tone and timbre of the drum too. Using a progressively thicker resonant head allows you to dial in the sustain on the bigger drums better than using pre-muffled batter heads like EC2 or Pinstripe.
 

Tommy_D

Platinum Member
I have been watching some videos about resonant heads and at first I thought a Resonant Glass head on the floors would be good because it is thin and wont resonate very long. But... because it is thin it tends to accentuate the higher frequencies. After thinking about it I didn't think that would be good for floor toms. That's where I was thinking a pre-muffled head may be good for the floor tom resonants, so I looked at the EC Resonant. It would accentuate the lower frequencies, and hopefully keep the sustain under control but I don't know for sure. Bob Gatzen has a video comparing some different resonant heads and the EC Resonant is one of them.

Would a G1 batter give a fat/wet sound? I tend to see those used for jazzier setups. I'm mostly a rock/progressive music player.
 

ENRICO

Silver Member
If would use the same top heads in all toms to have a similar feel and some kind of unity and mix the reso heads to increase or reduce specific frecuencies or sustain of each drum. For 8-10" remo diplomat/evans resonant , 12-14 ambassador/g1 , 14-16" g12 , 16-18" g14 or g2 if you want to cut the sustain on floor toms. Most peoople would never suggest using a two ply head for reso but most people have never tried it , it really increse the lower frecuencies and cut the sustain
 

Winston_Wolf

Platinum Member
I do this on one of my kits. Modern Vintage medium on the 10", Modern Vintage II on the 12", and Deep Vintage on both the 14" and 16" floor toms. That way the tone essentially matches from drum to drum, but the progressively heavier heads help balance the sustain and highlight the qualities each individual drum has.

If I still used Evans I'd probably try a G1/G12/G14 setup too.
 
D

drumming sort of person

Guest
What are your thoughts?

If you want all of your drums to have a similar attack-to-resonance ratio, play electronic drums. Otherwise, enjoy the variety of sounds your drums offer. It's not a piano where each key has a different pitch but more less similar decay. Your drums vary in size from bongo diameter to bass drum diameter. Ain't gonna happen. Using varying weights of heads will result in a mismatched timbral spectrum.
 

Tommy_D

Platinum Member
If you want all of your drums to have a similar attack-to-resonance ratio, play electronic drums. Otherwise, enjoy the variety of sounds your drums offer. It's not a piano where each key has a different pitch but more less similar decay. Your drums vary in size from bongo diameter to bass drum diameter. Ain't gonna happen. Using varying weights will result in a mismatched timbral spectrum.

I happen to have 2 electronic drum kits: Roland TD-30 and 2Box. But you are missing the point. I dont want all the drums to sound the same. I want the drums to blend well together and perform to the best of their abilities. To me, that means opening up the small drums to sing better and damping the floor toms to control their sustain. I dont believe a single drum head can do that job.

This isnt a crazy concept. Manufacturers go to far greater lengths to get their shells to best maximize their performance at their size. DW varies their ply construction in their Collector kits to get the best performance of each individual drum. Gretsch varied the shell thickness in their New Classic kits to "give a full, balanced tonality across the entire drum set." Pearl varies the mix of different woods, depending on its size, in their Reference series to "respond perfectly within the confines of its respective frequency". Other manufacturers vary the bearing edge profiles for the varying sizes of the drums to help each drum sound its very best within the kit.

So when you have all these different heads out there that are designed to either help a drum open up, dampen overtones, muffle the sustain, provide strong attack, create warm tones, etc. why would you not use different heads for different drums to best optimize their sound?
 

KamaK

Platinum Member
So when you have all these different heads out there that are designed to either help a drum open up, dampen overtones, muffle the sustain, provide strong attack, create warm tones, etc. why would you not use different heads for different drums to best optimize their sound?

I'm a big fan of going open and using stick dynamics to control all of the attributes you mention. I use coated ambassadors, because I don't like the ping of the stick on the mylar. I imagine I'd try a double-ply if I encountered an unruly drum that I couldn't tame. Using a uniform type of head across the toms means I don't have to constantly change my own personal dynamics depending on which drum I'm striking, and the audience doesn't have to deal with strange timbre and volume mismatches.
 
D

drumming sort of person

Guest
Manufacturers go to far greater lengths to get their shells to best maximize their performance at their size.

If you believe that marketing hype, I have some land for sale in Florida you may be interested in. They aren't going to great lengths to maximize anything except for their profits via over-engineered solutions to non-existent problems.

Listen to Phil Collins' drums on "Wind and Wuthering" or "And Then There Were Three". Eight concert toms (8" to 18") with clear Ambassadors. Tell me that they sound "unbalanced".

The only way it would make sense to use different weights of heads would be if heads were offered in incremental thicknesses, like guitar strings.
 

Tommy_D

Platinum Member
If you believe that marketing hype, I have some land for sale in Florida you may be interested in. They aren't going to great lengths to maximize anything except for their profits via over-engineered solutions to non-existent problems.

Listen to Phil Collins' drums on "Wind and Wuthering" or "And Then There Were Three". Eight concert toms (8" to 18") with clear Ambassadors. Tell me that they sound "unbalanced".

The only way it would make sense to use different weights of heads would be if heads were offered in incremental thicknesses, like guitar strings.

Comparing a studio mastered album to an acoustic setting is like comparing a flight simulator to actual flying.

And its really not marketing hype what the manufacturer's are doing. Different shell thickness, shell construction, shell material, bearing edges, etc. all play a factor in the sound the drum makes. Heads play a huge factor in how the drum sounds and speaks. More so than the shell construction. You wouldn't choose a 2 ply pre-muffled head to tune nice and high on a 10" tom. It would choke out. A single ply head would open up its tone and let it sing. That same single ply head on a floor tom may make it sound a bit boingy and jazzy without enough grunt. A 2 ply pre-muffled head may work better to get the sound you are looking for.

Again, this isn't a crazy concept. I'm not trying to find problems where they don't exist. If its something you don't want to do, that's cool. Stick with what you got. I'm looking to try something a bit different and am looking for people opinions on the matter. You have spoken yours, I have spoken mine. Let let some other people talk.
 

GruntersDad

Administrator - Mayor
Staff member
Evans makes an SST line of heads with built in dampening rings and the rings are thinner on the smaller heads and get bigger as the drum diameter gets bigger. Beyond that I havent seen any other heads that are different due to size. As for Phil Collins drums, I'm sure a good engineer could make a cereal box sound good on all of his toms with the right tweaking.

From Evans site:

Evans™ EC2™ series features two plies of 7mil film with optimized attack, tone, length of sustain and ease of tuning for each size head. The Sound Shaping Technology (SST™) Edge Control ring mounted on the underside delivers an extremely well balanced and pre-EQ'd sound across the full kit by varying the size of the ring for each different head size. The Frosted coating increases low-end response and attack.
 

Tommy_D

Platinum Member
Evans makes an SST line of heads with built in dampening rings and the rings are thinner on the smaller heads and get bigger as the drum diameter gets bigger. Beyond that I havent seen any other heads that are different due to size. As for Phil Collins drums, I'm sure a good engineer could make a cereal box sound good on all of his toms with the right tweaking.

From Evans site:

Evans™ EC2™ series features two plies of 7mil film with optimized attack, tone, length of sustain and ease of tuning for each size head. The Sound Shaping Technology (SST™) Edge Control ring mounted on the underside delivers an extremely well balanced and pre-EQ'd sound across the full kit by varying the size of the ring for each different head size. The Frosted coating increases low-end response and attack.

Well, that's an interesting concept. I should look in to their SST offerings. It sounds like what I'm looking for. I was hoping to use a coated head to warm up the drums and soften the attack, but I will take a listen to the EC2 heads and see if its want I'm looking for.
 

zfzgg

Senior Member
That same single ply head on a floor tom may make it sound a bit boingy and jazzy without enough grunt.

I think your problem is due to tuning, and I think that spending a bunch of money on a variety of heads will only make it worse. There is a lot that can be done with a drum key to change the way your toms perform as a set.
 

porter

Platinum Member
I'll make this quick: I tried a G1/GR, G12/GR, G14/G12 setup on my 10-12-15 toms and it was too much variety. However, this idea could work on your larger kit. Evans doesn't make many varying 2-ply heads so this is an interesting quandary. Personally, I'd go with G1 resonants (or Genera Resonants if you prefer) on the rack toms and perhaps the 14" floor tom, and an EC Reso on the remainder. Then I'd get a coated G12 for at least the 8", and then coated G2s for the rest. You could also try some G14s to "bridge the gap" but the shift between one- and two-ply heads is pretty obvious to my ear, so I'm not sure what good it'd do you.

Alternatively, you could use gradated G1s-G14s down the toms, but when I hear "fat sound", I think 2-ply. You're not over-thinking this stuff ;)
 

gyorpb

Junior Member
It used to be that floor toms were considered different instruments from tom toms. Floor toms are deeper (relative to their diameter), and sometimes they are even constructed differently. Some big setups would have large tom toms (14"-16") mounted over similar-sized floor toms.

Nowadays, though, it seems that the term "floor tom" became to mean, "whatever is have mounted low, flat and to the side". This seems to have started with the "hanging floor toms" in the nineties' fusion sets.

There is no shame in using different heads on different drums, most of us do it with snares, toms and basses anyway, why not distinguish between tom toms and floor toms?
 

Csxman

Junior Member
This is actually simple to achieve. Your batter head is mainly for pitch and feel. Your real head for just that... Resonance... That's how I look at it. On my 8" tom, I've always used a coated g1 over clear g1, I tune it up and let it ring, on the rest if the kit I play coated g2 over clear g1. But I control just how much ring or sustain I want from each individual drum by tuning the redo ever so lightly up to control the sustain as the drums get larger. So if you will tune your batter to your "wet" "low" pitch and use your resos to control sustain to what level you like for each particular drum and each drum will have it's own sustain level.
 

Csxman

Junior Member
This is actually simple to achieve. Your batter head is mainly for pitch and feel. Your reso. head for just that... Resonance... That's how I look at it. On my 8" tom, I've always used a coated g1 over clear g1, I tune it up and let it ring, on the rest if the kit I play coated g2 over clear g1. But I control just how much ring or sustain I want from each individual drum by tuning the reso ever so lightly up to control the sustain as the drums get larger. So if you will tune your batter to your "wet" "low" pitch and use your resos to control sustain to what level you like for each particular drum and each drum will have it's own sustain level.
 
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