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How To Measure Drum Heads

How To Measure Drum Heads

So, you’ve got a drum set and you’re ready to rock out, but have you ever wondered how to properly measure your drum heads? It’s important to know the exact size of your drum heads to ensure a perfect fit and optimal sound. In this article, we’ll walk you through the step-by-step process of measuring drum heads, so you can keep your beats sounding tight and powerful. Whether you’re a seasoned drummer or just starting out, understanding how to measure drum heads is a fundamental skill that will enhance your overall playing experience. Let’s get started and take your drumming to the next level!

How To Measure Drum Heads

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Choosing the Right Drum Head

When it comes to achieving the perfect sound on your drums, choosing the right drum head is crucial. It can make a significant difference in the overall tone and performance of your instrument. To help you make an informed decision, there are several factors you should consider.

Consider the Drum Type

Before diving into the specifics of measuring your drum head, it’s important to determine the type of drum you have. Different drum types, such as snare drums, bass drums, and toms, may require different types of drum heads. Each drum type serves a unique purpose and produces different sounds, so choosing the appropriate drum head is essential.

Identify the Drum Size

Drums come in various sizes, and the size of your drum will play a role in selecting the right drum head. Drum sizes are typically measured by diameter, and knowing the size of your drum will help ensure that you choose a drum head that fits properly and produces the desired sound.

Determine the Drum Head Type

Drum heads are available in a variety of types, each with its own characteristics and sound qualities. Coated drum heads offer a warmer, more controlled sound, while clear drum heads provide a brighter, more resonant tone. Additionally, there are specialized drum heads like brush or muffle heads that cater to specific playing styles and effects. Consider your musical preferences and the style of music you play when selecting the drum head type.

Measuring the Drum Head Diameter

To accurately measure the diameter of your drum head, there are a few steps you should follow.

Remove the Drum Head

Start by removing the existing drum head from your drum. This will allow you to measure the diameter without any obstacles or obstructions.

Place the Drum Head on a Flat Surface

Lay the drum head on a flat surface, such as a table or the floor, ensuring that it lays completely flat. This will help you obtain an accurate measurement.

Measure the Diameter with a Tape Measure

Using a tape measure, measure the diameter of the drum head from one edge to the opposite edge. Be sure to measure across the widest portion of the drum head to get an accurate measurement. Take note of the measurement, as this will be essential when selecting a new drum head.

Measuring the Drum Head Height

In addition to the diameter, measuring the height of the drum head is also crucial. Follow these steps to measure the drum head height accurately.

Measure the Height of the Drum Shell

Start by measuring the height of the drum shell itself. This is the portion of the drum that the drum head fits onto. Measure from the bearing edge, which is the point where the drum head makes contact with the shell, to the opposite end of the drum shell.

Account for the Bearing Edge

The bearing edge refers to the angled portion of the drum shell where the drum head rests. When measuring the height of the drum head, it’s important to account for the bearing edge by measuring from the top of the bearing edge to the opposite end of the drum shell.

Calculate the Drum Head Height

To determine the height of the drum head, subtract the height of the drum shell from the measurement obtained in the previous step. This will give you the height of the drum head itself, which is an essential factor to consider when selecting a new drum head.

Measuring the Drum Head Thickness

The thickness of the drum head can have a significant impact on its sound characteristics. Follow these steps to accurately measure the drum head thickness.

Use a Caliper or Thickness Gauge

To measure the drum head thickness, you’ll need a caliper or a thickness gauge. These tools will allow you to obtain precise measurements.

Measure the Head’s Thickness at Multiple Points

To ensure an accurate measurement of the drum head thickness, take measurements at multiple points along the radius of the drum head. This will account for any variances in thickness.

Average the Measurements to Determine Thickness

Once you’ve taken measurements at multiple points, average the results to determine the drum head’s thickness. This will give you a reliable measurement that you can use to select a new drum head.

How To Measure Drum Heads

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Measuring the Drum Head Collar Size

The collar size of a drum head refers to the portion that fits onto the drum shell. Measuring the collar size is essential to ensure a proper fit and optimal performance.

Identify the Collar Type

Different drums may have different collar types. The two most common types are flanged collars and straight collars. Identify the collar type on your drum to determine how to measure it accurately.

Measure the Collar Diameter

For flanged collars, measure the diameter of the collar at its widest point. For straight collars, measure the diameter at the point where the collar meets the drum shell. These measurements will help you find a drum head with the appropriate collar size.

Determine the Collar Height

In addition to the diameter, measure the height of the collar. This will ensure that you select a drum head with a collar height that matches your drum.

Measuring the Drum Head Sound Quality

Beyond the technical measurements, it’s also important to consider the sound qualities of a drum head. Here are some steps to help you evaluate the sound quality.

Experiment with Different Drum Heads

To find the perfect sound for your drums, experiment with different drum heads. Try out various brands, materials, and types to see which ones produce the desired sound for your musical style.

Listen to the Drum Head Tone

When testing different drum heads, listen carefully to the tone they produce. Pay attention to factors such as resonance, sustain, attack, and overall character. Consider how the drum head sounds in different playing scenarios, such as soft playing or heavy hitting.

Evaluate the Overall Sound Qualities

Finally, evaluate the overall sound qualities of each drum head you test. Consider how well it complements the other drums in your kit and how it fits into the overall sound of your band or musical project.

How To Measure Drum Heads

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Replacing and Re-Measuring Drum Heads

Over time, drum heads will wear out and need to be replaced. When replacing your drum heads, it’s important to follow a few key steps.

Know When to Replace Drum Heads

While the lifespan of a drum head can vary depending on factors such as playing style and frequency of use, it’s important to replace them when they show signs of wear. Look for indicators such as cracks, dents, loss of tone, or reduced response.

Remove the Old Drum Head

To replace a drum head, start by carefully removing the old one from your drum. Be gentle to avoid damaging the drum shell or any hardware.

Repeat the Measurement Process for New Drum Heads

Once the old drum head is removed, it’s crucial to repeat the measurement process outlined earlier for your new drum heads. This ensures that you select the correct size and type of drum head for your drum.

Maintaining Drum Head Integrity

To prolong the lifespan and maintain the integrity of your drum heads, regular maintenance is essential. Consider these tips for keeping your drum heads in optimal condition.

Clean Drum Heads Regularly

Regularly cleaning your drum heads helps remove dirt, sweat, and debris that can accumulate over time. Use a mild solution of soap and water or specialized drum head cleaner to gently clean the heads. Avoid using abrasive cleaners or harsh chemicals that can damage the drum heads.

Avoid Over-Tightening Drum Heads

While it may be tempting to tighten your drum heads excessively to achieve more volume or a higher pitch, over-tightening can lead to premature wear and tear. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for proper tension and avoid excessive force when tuning your drums.

Store Drum Heads Properly

When not in use, store your drum heads in a cool, dry place. Extreme temperatures and humidity can cause the drum heads to deteriorate rapidly. Consider using protective cases or bags to shield the drum heads from dust, moisture, and other potential damage.

How To Measure Drum Heads

Understanding Drum Head Materials

Different drum head materials offer distinct tonal characteristics and performance attributes. Familiarize yourself with the various materials available to choose the right drum head for your preference.

Learn About Different Drum Head Materials

Drum heads can be made from a variety of materials, including coated and clear plastic films, as well as natural materials like calf skin. Each material produces a unique sound, so it’s important to understand the characteristics of different options.

Consider the Tonal Characteristics

Different drum head materials can produce variations in tone, resonance, and durability. Some materials provide warmer, more focused tones, while others offer brighter, more resonant sounds. Consider the sound you want to achieve when selecting the material for your drum heads.

Choose the Right Material for Your Preference

Ultimately, the choice of drum head material will depend on your personal preference and the sound you want to achieve. Experiment with different materials to find the one that best suits your playing style and musical genre.

Common Issues with Drum Heads

Drum heads can encounter various problems, affecting their sound quality and performance. Here are some common issues to watch out for and tips for troubleshooting them.

Identify Common Problems

Knowing common problems drum heads can face will help you recognize when something is amiss. Some common issues include dents, wrinkles, excessive wear, poor tuning stability, and unwanted overtones.

Troubleshoot Drum Head Issues

If you encounter issues with your drum heads, start by inspecting them for any visible damage. Address any dents, wrinkles, or excessive wear by replacing the affected drum heads. For tuning stability and unwanted overtones, experiment with different tuning techniques or consider using dampening products like tape or drum gel.

Seek Professional Help If Necessary

If you’re unable to resolve the issues with your drum heads or if you’re unsure how to address a specific problem, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. Drum technicians or experienced percussionists can provide expert advice and assistance to ensure your drums are in optimal condition.

As you can see, measuring your drum heads accurately and selecting the right drum head is crucial for achieving the desired sound and performance. By considering factors such as drum type, size, head type, collar size, and sound qualities, you’ll be well on your way to finding the perfect drum heads for your drums. Remember to regularly maintain your drum heads and address any issues promptly to ensure they last long and provide optimal performance.

How To Measure Drum Heads

About the Author


Michael-B is a Music Producer, Musician, and Formally Trained (and was Certified by the Recording Institute of Detroit in 1986) Recording Engineer. As of to date, He's built 3 home recording studios go back to 1987, where he wrote, played all the instruments, and recorded his music. Michael B is also a Writer, Chief Editor and SEO of