You Need New Head

This is just a quick piece on home recording, but I guess it really covers anywhere you’re recording drums.  This is something that I was aware of and through doing reinforced my belief.

I watched a video on Lyndia.com (a site I recommend if you want to improve yourself and your skills). The video was on recording drums.

They talked about the basics such as mic placement, tuning, etc. The person they were interviewing was a prominent drum tech from Los Angeles.  He comes into the studio with just about any type of drum kit you can imagine.  He not only rents the kit of your choice for the session but he sets it up and tweaks it so it’s just right.

One of the subjects he discussed  was drum heads and that at a minimum, every day at the start of every session he installs brand new heads on all the drums.

Now when I first heard that I thought well that seems a bit excessive.  I would think you would get at least a couple of day’s worth of session work out of a set of heads.  Remember I’m coming from the perspective of the poor working musician who usually played with the same heads until they broke or were so dimpled in the middle that they lost all their response.

Heads are not cheap, especially for a struggling musician who’s hoping the gig money will be enough to complete what he needs to cover the rent or buy some food.  Depending on your kit and how many drums you have it could run between $100 and $200.  So when you’re a working stiff musician heads and sticks are expensive and you get as much use out of them as possible.

So I watched the video, took away a lot of nuggets and stored that thought about fresh heads at least once a day.

I have a 2011 Pearl kit and my Slingerland kits from the sixties and seventies. I pick from all of them when I record depending on what sound I am looking for.

When I started using my vintage Slingerlands I had to put new heads on all the drums and as usual I  used my old standby, Remo Pinstripes. But instead of my usual choice of clear I went with coated.

On my Pearl kit which I used for live gigs I had Remo Pinstripe Clear heads since I always liked them for live gigs.

The clear heads on the Pearl kit had some use when I started recording with them.  Based on my live gig perspective those clear heads still had a lot of gig life left in them so I recorded with the Pearls and their somewhat used heads.

I could never get the tom sound I was looking for.  I always attributed this to my low end mics and lack of engineering skills which is a contributing factor.

Then I did a song and used my Slingerland toms that had brand new heads on them.

The toms sounded much better.

At first I thought it was because I did a better job of tuning and tweaking using my old school method of duct tape and paper towels.  By the way the tech on the Lyndia.com course still uses duct tape and Kleenex.

But I really hadn’t changed my tuning method or duct tape method; it was done exactly the same on the Pearls and the Slingerlands.

I thought the Slingerlands are older and thinner drums and they shouldn’t sound richer and fuller and fatter than the newer, heavier Pearls.

My engineering skills hadn’t changed, they still sucked.  I was using the same mics and mic placement on both sets.

I came to the conclusion it must be the brand new heads.

I knew new heads sounded better but I didn’t realize they sounded that much better.

Again the heads on the Pearl kit were not even close to being “shot” but then again they certain weren’t new.

So I broke down and got all new Remo Pinstripes for the batter sides of all my Pearl drums.

The drums sounded like different drums after making the change.

If the heads made that big of a difference with my low end mics image what they will do with a quality drum mic.

The question I now have is how long will these new heads sound like new heads?  So far I’ve done two songs and haven’t notice any real degradation in the sound.

Looks like I’ll be stock piling new heads when I get a chance.

© Otis P Smith and About the Groove, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Otis P Smith and About the Groove with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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