Your selection of drum heads can make a huge impact on how your drum kit sounds. Not all heads are made the same as some are thicker than others.
Drum head companies expertly design them to fit particular situations and achieve certain sounds.
When it comes to playing hard rock and metal on the drums, there are a few drum heads that definitely don’t work. There are quite a few that do, though. We’re going to look through my top selections out of those.
6 Best Drum Heads for High-Energy Drumming
1. Evans EMAD2
We’ll start off strong with the Evans EMAD2 bass drum head. This thing is extremely popular as one of the best bass drum heads for metal & rock drummers.
It’s a thick head that offers plenty of versatility, thanks to the interchangeable foam rings.
The foam rings allow you to control the tone that comes out of the bass drum. The thicker ring produces a more muted kick drum sound while the thinner ring gives an open and resonating tone.
I found that using the thick muted ring was the best option most of the time, especially when playing rock and metal. Having a wide-open kick drum tone was sometimes overwhelming in band environments.
The sound that the head makes can be described as very punchy. It has a lot of attack to it and almost makes your bass drum sound like it has been EQ’d.
This tight and punchy tone is perfect for double pedal playing. It’s as if you were hearing a basketball being bounced on the ground.
Perhaps one of the best things about the EMAD2 is that it has the power to make a cheap bass drum sound a lot better. I’d highly suggest using this if you have an entry-level drum set. The improvement in the sound is always crazy to witness.
A concern about this is that many people have come out and said that their EMAD2 didn’t last very long. While this has never happened to me with EMAD2s, it does seem like they can sometimes be a bit touch-and-go with quality.
The best thing to do is put a bass drum patch on the head as soon as you set it up to prevent any unexpected damage.
The Evans EC Reverse Dot is a snare drum head that often goes hand-in-hand with the EMAD. Its main selling points are volume and durability.
I feel that the most important thing to mention is that this is one of the most durable snare drum heads on the market. It’s going to last longer on your snare than most other heads around.
The reason it’s so durable is that it’s very thick. While thickness isn’t something you generally want on your snare head, the EC Reverse Dot is cleverly designed to be enhanced by the thick build structure.
The surface has a texture, but it’s not a coated head. This means that you can hit at as hard as you want, and it will never flake like a coated head will.
It’s called the Reverse Dot because there’s a section underneath that is dampened at the center. When you hit the center of the snare, you get a controlled and muffled sound. When you hit the outer parts of that area, the sound is more open.
This is a drum head for hard-hitters through and through. If you’re in a metal band and you need to put a lot of energy into playing, having an EC Reverse Dot on your snare will make you feel secure and at peace that it most likely won’t break in the middle of a show, making it one of the best snare heads for metal.
A couple of other good things about the head are that it’s easy to mix and it makes rimshots sound very powerful.
My one concern about the head is that it’s fairly loud, no matter how dynamically you play. That makes it the perfect option for playing in large venues, but it may be too loud for smaller settings.
I’d consider the Remo Pinstripes to be the safest option you can go for with your toms. They’re the classic go-to option for many drummers across all musical styles. There are a few very strong features of these heads that make them such valuable tools to get a great sound.
Firstly, they’re fairly durable. While not as durable as the EC Reverse Dot head that I just spoke about, they have the potential to last you months or even years, even if you hit quite hard.
They also keep their tuning for a long time which is my favorite feature. Tuning can get quite tedious. Since I’m not the biggest fan of doing it constantly, I love that the Pinstripes don't need to be tuned that frequently.
Speaking of tuning, these heads thrive in the lower tuning ranges. This is why they’re such good options for rock and metal. If you tune your drums to be deep and thumping, the Pinstripe heads will enhance the thumpiness dramatically.
There’s no better sound than a deeply tuned floor tom with a Pinstripe head on it. It could even be mistaken for a bass drum.
That deep sound transfers incredibly well through microphones. Some of the greatest rock albums of all time have been recorded with Pinstripes on the drums. They’re great for studio recordings and live performances.
The heads can be too ringy on some drum sets. I’ve found the best way to control that is to just use a bit of duct tape to dampen them. You could also use Moongel if you want something that won’t leave any residue on the head.
The Evans Genera HD Dry is one of my favorite snare heads on the market. I used it on my snare drum for the longest time and would constantly get comments about how good my snare sounded.
Since I’ve started using a different head, the nice comments have slowed down. I don’t know if it’s just a coincidence, but it goes on to show how much of a difference this head can make.
It’s your best option if you have a snare drum with a metal shell. Since metal snares are great for rock and metal drumming, the Genera HD Dry is a fantastic way to improve on the sound.
The reason for this is because metal snare drums tend to have wild overtones with plenty of ring. This head does a great job in eliminating overtones and any ringing, so it balances the sound out wonderfully.
It gives you a lot of control over the tone of your snare drum. Some may say that it cuts out too much while others will say it’s perfect. If you have a metal snare drum, I think it will do a perfect job.
I’m not so sure about it if you have a wooden snare, though. You may be better off with the EC Reverse Dot then.
I found that this head is incredibly good for hearing ghost notes clearly. Since the sound is so controlled, ghost notes come out sounding very clear and precise. This is great for technical styles with busy parts such as progressive metal.
You can also hit fairly hard without stressing the head thanks to the air vents that are placed all around the edges. Overall, I think it’s a good head to get if you plan on playing rock, metal, or any other style of music. It’s definitely the most versatile head on this list.
The Powerstroke P4 offers many of the same qualities as the Evans EMAD2. However, I feel that it gives you a bit more tone out of your bass drum. It’s for this reason that I think it’s a better option than the EMAD2 if you’re going for a big rock sound.
It has a large presence in the low-end frequency range, meaning it sounds incredibly beefy and aggressive when you tune your bass drum in a lower tuning.
This caters very well to loud playing that is backed by a lot of energy. Think of it as something John Bonham would use to get his iconic large drum sound.
As with all two-ply heads, it’s thick and durable. It’s surprisingly a lot more durable than the EMAD2 is. However, it doesn’t offer different tonal options like the EMAD2 does.
Instead, the P4 has built-in dampening rings that cut down on most of the overtones that your bass drum will naturally produce.
I’ve found that this head works best for medium and high-volume drumming. It doesn’t bring out the full quality of tone from your kick drum if you play it softly.
That isn’t a problem if you’re playing rock and metal. However, it’s something to think about if you’re going to play some softer ballads.
The final feature that’s worth mentioning is that the P4 is incredibly easy to tune and get a good sound from. The overtones disappear so quickly that tuning this head is no problem at all. I’m a sucker for easy tuning so I really enjoy that aspect of the Powerstroke P4.
If you feel that this head has too much dampening, the Remo Powerstroke P3 has similar qualities with a bit more of an open tone.
The Evans EC2s are direct competitors to the Remo Pinstripes. While the Pinstripes are the safe option to go with, the EC2s offer a bit more of a unique sound, thanks to the way they’ve been designed.
The most notable part for me with EC2s is how short the decay is when you play the toms. They get out of the way very quickly.
This fits my personal playing style very well as it makes it easy to play fast patterns around the drums without the tones of the toms blending into each other. This is why you’ll see a lot of metal drummers using EC2s. With all the fast metal patterns, the quick decay lends very well to high-speed drumming.
The heads have built-in dampeners that are intended to act as internal muffling.
While the overtones aren’t as prevalent as they are in unmuffled drum heads, I still found the EC2s to have a paper-like sound when no external muffling was added. So, adding a bit of tape to each head will get rid of that flat sound.
One unique thing about these heads is that they hold up incredibly well in different weather conditions. You can move your drums from a warm studio to a cold outside venue and the tuning will stay exactly how it was in the studio.
Overall, I’d argue that the EC2s are the best tom heads for metal drumming while the Pinstripes are better suited for rock. The tight attack of these EC2s really complements metal songs.
Why Certain Heads Work Better for Rock & Metal
You may have noticed that all the heads on this list were two-ply heads. The reason for this is that two-ply heads are thicker and more durable than one-ply heads.
They’re going to last a lot longer with hard playing than thinner heads will. They also mostly have very controlled tones which blend very well in mixes of rock and metal bands.
This isn’t to say that you can’t use one-ply heads for these styles. Many rock drummers, especially older ones that were playing in the 20th century, still use thinner heads because they prefer the open tones. However, they end up needing to replace them very often.
I did my best to provide you with two valuable options for each section of the drum kit on this list. You should look at each option for all the drums and decide which one you think will suit you better.
Whichever drum heads you choose, all the heads that I’ve gone through tend to work very well in rock and metal settings.
Just remember that drum heads are one of the easiest things to change in your drum setup. It can be very valuable to give a few different ones a go before deciding which heads are your favorite.
Your favorite heads will also naturally change over time. So, experiment as much as you can.