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Best Drum Heads for Recording

A question for all you Studio Drummers. I run a small studio and record mostly Hard Rock and Metal bands. What are the best heads to suggest for my clients for the recording sessions?


Jbuntz Tue, 07/22/2003 - 10:24

I'm not an expert, but my drummer/engineer friend swears by Remo coated Ambassadors for toms and snare for most stuff. I forget what he said was his favorite Kick Drum head. He mentioned the Powerstroke? maybe? Either way, the thinner heads usually record better. You may want to keep some Moon Gel handy but be careful not to over do it. Use less than you think you need and only use it after you've tuned them the best you can.

Good Texan Tue, 07/22/2003 - 10:34

I agree with Rod. Heads to a drummer are like strings to guitar/bass players. Musicians take their sound personally. Of course, I think it would be okay to ask that the drummer put fresh heads on before the session begins. I would hope that you wouldn't even have to ask, unless that's their sound. I know it's expensive-especially if if they have a monster kit, but it makes a difference.
A drummer uses a particular brand because (a) their favorite drummer uses them, (b) they've tried them all and like the way these sound, or (c) both. Ask the drummer what sound he's going for (recorded examples are helpful) and go from there.


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Rod Gervais Tue, 07/22/2003 - 11:03


If a drummer doesn't know enough to walk into a session with good heads - and be able to tune his cans properly - then probably the least of your worries on the session will be what his drums actually sound like.


chrisperra Tue, 07/22/2003 - 11:28

it's easy to assume that drummers should know and have the right skins for type of music being recorded. but for some it's the last thing they realize and or know about.

i'm a drummer, to me for hard rock and metal stuff i like a 2 ply skin. ie: remo emporer or the equivilent from evans, aquarian. clears have less crack to them, less attack, coated have more crack and attack.

if i need a heavier thicker thump i use pinstipes or evans hydrolics. moon gels go along way for getting just the right amount of tone from the drum. getting the sound right to begin with makes it easier to mix for sure especially for heavier stuff.

usually we get out the gates or tape wallets to the drums to get that thump to cut down the overtones. but if you use a thicker ply skin to begin with you get less overtones and more fundamental.

for kicks i like the powerstoke 3's. for snare i'll use a coated emporer 9 times out of then. the other 2 times a coated ambassoder for brighter more ringy sounds or a coated pinstripe for a more controlled sound.

it's also important to note that you can get most drum sounds from what your drummer has there that day. but it takes time and is way easier if you have the right skins to begin with.

as well, the right style and make of a drumset will be a large factor in tone regardless of the skins. if you are using 1960 something ludwigs, the bearing edges are probably pretty round, that's the main thing that contributes to a drums tone.

so as a result the skin choice will affect the tone, but you won't get the rock tone that a more modern tama, yamaha, pearl, ayotte,ect kit will.

bearing edges that are cut fairly sharp usually give the rock tone we are looking for.

good luck

chris perra

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Rod Gervais Tue, 07/22/2003 - 11:36


you're very knowledgable and also a drummer - and for me - that is (was?) my point.

I don't assume that a drummer should know - I state that a drummer should know.

Any good drummer should care enough about his kit - his sound - his "trade" to make it his business to know.

If he doesn't want to invest that time - then he probably won't impress me in the end as a session drummer.

Happy Hunting and thanks for a different perspective............



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tripnek Tue, 07/22/2003 - 11:57

Thanks Chris. It's refreshing when someone actually posts useful information instead of useless rambling. I would love to have your email address for future reference. If you don't mind, you can send me an email at gmontis @ .
The drummers I have had in the studio so far are clueless. I end up tuning the kit myself most of the time. I need to make these guys sound as good as possible though, so hopefully I can attract the better musicians to the studio.

Thanks out to you also JBuntz.

sosayu2 Tue, 07/22/2003 - 12:19

as an engineer and a drum fanatic but not a drummer, i would never assume to tell a person their craft. i will sit in the room with him and listen to the kit, then place my mics and go into the control room and re-create that sound on the board. in most instances this approach works fine. if i'm dealing with an inexperienced drummer then i will give a few helpful suggestions but always let him/her make the final determination. drum sounds are my specialty and to me the very foundation of any good recording.

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Davedog Tue, 07/22/2003 - 12:47

Peace to all you drummers and this is in no way meant to reflect on the many very professional players out there.

As an engineer, I find for the most part, that drummers, even the most meticulous, do not consider the 'little' things in recording their kit.Are the lugs all tight? Have they been 'treated' ie. cotton balls inside or a spray foam works too...? Are the heads fairly new? Do they have a selection of snares with different tonalities? Does the pedal sqeak? Does the drummer understand tuning to eliminate overtones and tuning to eliminate sympathetic tones in the other drums? Is the drummer willing to be flexible in their setup? By this I mean, how many drums are going to be used on a particular song and do you need all of em?

Theres a vast difference between a live gig and a studio session.I had a band in with a drummer that had a 14 piece set.And he swore he'd use it all.So, at their expense, and my ears, I spent 6 hours tuning and getting the set 'right'...They cut their first 3 songs and in listening back, I noticed that there were 8 tom and cymbals that were not ever used.But they were there adding to the noise floor.I pointed this out and it offended the guy something awful.So it all stayed.and so did the noise floor....small though it was it still added.We later cut the same 3 tracks with the guitarist who wrote the songs.We used a friend of mine who's a studio drummer.He played basically the same beats only on a well-tuned and prepped 4 piece kit.The drums were huge and there was never a noise factor.

oh yeah....when we had a real studio with a real studio drum set, we kept several sets of heads around.And two different snares. I always liked the Evans Hydraulics for rock, the Pinstripes for lighter rock and country,the coated ambassadors for everything else.Right now I'm enamourd with the Evens Gennera Dry head for the snare.

drbam Tue, 07/22/2003 - 14:46

I agree that the drummer should know what heads to use. However, most of the well known drummers state that they use different heads for playing live than in the studio. If a drummer is quite good but has not had much studio experience, a good engineer can go a long way in offering advice as to heads, tuning, etc. I learned more from engineers then I did from other drummers about how to get a good studio sound. After reading more than 2 decades of Modern Drummer interviews, it appears that more studio players use coated ambassadors than any other. My personal favorite is coated emperors on the tom batter heads with clear ambassador bottoms - powerstroke 3 on the kick and either a coated ambassador or emperor on the snare.


chrisperra Tue, 07/22/2003 - 16:24


my comments were not meant to slight you're opinions, at all.

i agree that in a perfect world i wouldn't hire a drummer that didn't know his kit , or how to tune them for the style we are recording.

but the reality is that most drummers don't think about tone, it's somebody else's problem. "i'm worried about my flamawhama lick in the outro." it's the engineers responsibility.

i think tripnet is in this kind of situation, or it wouldn't have come up.

a great video to research construction, head selection, and tuning of drums. is "drum tuning" by bob gatzen. it's a dci release. he covers everything.

chris perra

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Rod Gervais Tue, 07/22/2003 - 16:30

Originally posted by chrisperra:
rod,my comments were not meant to slight you're opinions, at all.


I was not offended nor felt slighted in the least.

I actually backed off because i learned something here.

I still maintain that i am a drummer who has spent his life learning his trade - but as you and others showed me - i am still not too damn old to learn - and if i act like i know everything about anything - that mindset will take away my ability to do just that - learn.

I accept that the "boys" in the room on that board understand more about "sound" than i do - so i suppose if my friend handling that came to me and wanted me to tweak something so there was not a conflict - i would be a moron to say no.

Now i happen to pride myself on being a lot of things.......... but a moron isn't one of them..... :D :D :D

So still i stand - corrected and humbled because of it.........

With admiration,


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Kurt Foster Tue, 07/22/2003 - 16:38

Remo ambassadors, frosted on the snare, pin stripes on the toms and kick.. On the kick, both heads, dead ringers.. That's the ticket! Listen to the samples of my drum kit on the audio projects forum..

Exmun Tue, 07/22/2003 - 17:59

Originally posted by tripnek:A question for all you Studio Drummers. I run a small studio and record mostly Hard Rock and Metal bands. What are the best heads to suggest for my clients for the recording sessions?

New ones!

JeffWebb Tue, 07/22/2003 - 18:19

For heavy rock and heavy metal,then yes, pinstripes on all of the toms. Coated Remo Ambassador on the snare (almost always for every kind of music) For the kick drum, I've recently started using the Evans EMAD with external dampening because you don't need any further dampening and you'll get the resonance of the kick drum shell more.A sound engineer complained that he could hear a slight vibration from the dampening ring, but it never shows up on recording. I'm sold on this head.
For playing jazz, I usually use(tho see below) coated Ambassadors on all of my drums. I will occassionally use rings or moongels to dampen the ringy sound when tuning alone doesn't do it, but I'll often add the gels to the resonator head. (this allows the batter head to move and it cuts down on the sympathetic ringing). I almost always tune the resonator head on the kick a full step lower although the resonators on my snares and toms are always exactly the same (and to a specific note).

I'm also one of those weird drummers that actually likes and prefers the Remo Fibreskins on my toms (2 rack, 2 floor) because it imparts a much warmer tone to the fills and solos when I'm playing a West African influenced pattern. It gives a nice round warm tone for jazz and blues too. Different strokes......

sosayu2 Tue, 07/22/2003 - 21:22

bring on the ring.....i love wide open drums!!!!!
i have a professional tuner come in before sessions to make sure the drums are tuned and ready to go. it's a small fee and saves me and the clients lot's of time. the drummer is usually very receptive to this, just like have the piano tuned before a session. a lot of drummers say they know how to tune a kit, but in reality it's not the case. i don't use dampers, cotton, paper towels or tape....i like the drums to ring out. that's just me, but in 20 years, i've never had any complaints :)

chrisperra Tue, 07/22/2003 - 23:18

i like the fyberskin 3's on toms as well.they have a unique tone and if tuned well, are a breeze to mike.

great for jazz or styles that don't require alot of volume. there not that loud, but you get full tone.

chris perra

Jbuntz Wed, 07/23/2003 - 20:16

When my band went in, our drumer had fyberskins on the bottom tom heads and his front kick head. The engineer fought over drum sounds for about a day and a half because our drummer didn't trust his judgement. Apparently he said that fyberskins are "the worst heads ever"