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Which Head's For You?: One Ply v. Two

If you're going to be learning about drum heads, plies needs to be just more than just a really vulgar rapper to you. A ply on a drum head is the layers of plastic the head is made of. So a one ply head means there is just one mylar sheet per drumhead. A two ply head..., well, you do the math. If you want to hear the difference for yourself, take a sheet of paper and tap it. It has some sustain to the sound. The paper sings a little bit. Now put a second sheet of paper on top and tap the two sheets. Hear how it deadens the sound and makes it thicker and darker? That's the difference the extra ply makes. For this reason, the resonant heads you will come across are as thin as possible. Now, when it comes to making that decision, you need to think about the style you play. If you play soft jazz, chances are you'll want to go with the one-ply heads, which have a brighter, more resonant sound. If you're playing rock, two-ply heads are probably the way to go. That's not to say rock can't be played with lighter heads; it's just the standard sound. Ultimately, choosing one ply or two boils down to whether or not you want your batter-side heads to resonate more or less; to be warmer or brighter sounding. And just one remember: resonant heads are always one-ply.

Clear v. Coated

Okay, so what does a coated head do besides give you a scratchy texture on the head? The answer is: It actually affects the tone. What the coating does is serve as a slight muffler to the head kind of like an extra ply does. So the result is a warmer, darker tone to the drum. Clear heads are brighter by nature, since they don't have the coating to provide that bit of muffling.

Clear and Coated Heads

The Skinny

I know this can seem confusing at first, but here's a quick guide for identifying what type of heads you want to use.

  • Single-Ply, Clear: Brightest, most resonant tone.
  • Single-Ply, Coated: Medium brightness and resonance.
  • Double-Ply, Clear: Bright tone with less resonance.
  • Double-Ply, Coated: Dark and warm tone with least resonance.