Replace Your Drum Heads – How To And Why

Maintenance – Everything in life requires it.  Your musical instrument requires it.  Your drum set, unfortunately, requires a whole lot of it.  The drum set is perhaps the most logistically painful instrument to play.  It’s big, it’s loud, it’s got a lot of parts, and it can constantly be updated.  Luckily, it is the most awesome instrument ever and, if you haven’t guessed, it is my instrument of choice! Replace your drum heads?

Replacing Your Drum Heads Regularly

Replace your drum heads
When and how do you replace?

One of the main ways to make sure your drum set stays sounding great is to change the drum heads regularly.  It is recommended to change the drum heads every six months.  Honestly, I change mine about once a year (nobody’s perfect, right?).  I am referring here to the “batter” heads which are the heads you actually hit.  Most drums have resonator heads which are located on the other side of the drum.  These don’t need to be changed or tuned as often, because you never actually hit them.  Bass drum heads also do not need to be changed as often.

The Perfect Fit

Make sure you know the sizes of your drums before going to the store to purchase drum heads.  If you’ve never purchased new heads before, this step is often overlooked.  Drum head sizes are measured by diameter.  Simply take some tape measure and measure the distance across each drum head.  Don’t forget to write them down!

There are all kinds of different drum heads so shopping for them can be a little overwhelming!  Luckily, most of the time, the box will do a good job describing the kind of tone you would get with each kind of head.  In general, you want your toms to all have the same style of drum head.  The snare head can be different depending on your taste and so can the bass drum heads.

Out With The Old

Now that you have all of your new drum heads purchased and ready to go, it’s time to get those old ones off!  Start with one drum at a time.  Simply loosen each lug around the drum with your drum key.  Make sure you keeps the lugs in a safe spot when you take them off.  It’s important to not lose any!  Then, remove the rim and the old drum head.

In With The New

Now, position the new drum head on the drum.  Make sure the logo is facing a way that is not going to make you crazy later!  Place the rim back on the head and place the lugs back onto the rim.  At first, you want to make sure you are only tightening them finger-tight.

Place your hand in the middle of the drum and apply slight pressure to the center.  While maintaining this pressure, start to tighten one of the lugs a few cranks with your drum key.  The next lug you tighten should be the one directly across from the first one.  You need to maintain tightening across the drum to not put too much strain on any one side of the head.

It’s Like A Clock

Let’s say that your drum has eight lugs.  Thinking about a clock as an example, you want to start tightening a couple turns at 12:00.  Then, tighten the same amount of turns at 6:00.  Next, tighten 1:30, then, 7:30.  Move to 3:00, then 9:00.  Lastly, tighten 4:30 and 10:30.  It is now safe to remove your hand from the center.  Go around like this a couple more times.

The desired effect is to achieve equal tightness at every lug.  They actually make drum tuners that will tell you exactly how much pressure is at each lug so you can match each one easily.  If you do not have a drum tuner, you have to use your ear!  I like to use my drum key to tap about an inch away from each lug and hear the different pitches.  If one lug sounds like a lower pitch than the other, tighten it to match.  Continue in this way until all of the pitches sound relatively the same.

Rinse And Repeat

Repeat this process for every drum head that you wish to change.  In the end, you also want the drums to sound great relative to one another.  This may require some more fine-tuning with the drum key.  Every drummer is different and every drummer may want a different sound out of their drums.  Practice with it often and see what you like best.  There are no right or wrong sounds, just sounds!

No Pain No Gain

Phew, that was a lot of work!  The drum set can be a pain but I believe there is nothing better in this world than sitting down in front of a great sounding drum set and do what you love to do the most – play!

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