Drum Skins & Heads

A drum skin is a material that is stretched across the body (or shell) of the drum. When the drum skin is beaten it vibrates and transforms into sound as it resonates through the drum.

Drum skins were historically made from animal hide, however, polymer (or plastic) drum heads were introduced in 1957.  Polymer skins were introduced to provide consistency of the sound of the drum. 

Animal skins can change the sound of the drum depending on the differences in the atmosphere, such as a change in temperature or if the skin gets wet.

Historically accurate performance groups may continue to use animal skins for their drums, however, drummers are more likely to use polymer skins to ensure a consistent sound in all temperatures and atmospheres.

How do drum skins work?

Drum skins are stretched over the hoop or rim of the drum to hold the drum skin in place over the shell of the drum. 

Tension rods are attached to the drum shell, which enables the drummer to tighten and tune the drum.

What instruments can I purchase drum skins for?

Drum skins can be used on all types of drum, from a bass, snare, steel or conga drum as well as tambourines, djembe and cajon drums.

Drum head and skin differences

Drum heads are often categorised by their ply count. The ply measures the thickness of the skin.

  • Single Ply – these are one sheet in thickness and are often the most versatile drum skin
  • Double Ply – these comprise of two thin sheets of material and are used to provide a deeper sound. Double ply skins are very strong and are likely to last for a very long time.

There are also different types of finishes to choose from when deciding on a drum skin:

  • Clear – provide a clear and bright sound as there are no additional material added to this skin
  • Black – is a single layer of polymer that is designed to give a darker sound, often used on bass drums
  • Coated – have an additional layer of material added. Coated skins provide a warmer tone and are suitable for quieter environments.