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I'm mainly a guitarist but also play the drums for my own needs.

I've had the same drum set and the same skins on it for as long as I can remember ... the skins are at least 10 years old. I don't hit that hard, and so the skins do not show that much visible signs of being worn.

What I wonder is:

Will the sound of my recordings be improved if I change the skins, even though they're not visibly worn?


EDIT: I should have written "not visibly deformed", meaning they're not bumpy from hits. I write this here and let the original headline be to not mess up the context with the answers that are already there.

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Somehow I doubt that the heads show absolutely no sign of wear if they're actually 10 years old and have been played regularly. I'm guessing they're clear since coated heads would most assuredly have uncoated spots. Even in a clear head playing over a period of time will scratch the head and create a satin finish rather than the clear it started out as.

As far as changing them I would say it's always a good idea to change them regularly. I don't think there's any value in playing with excessively old heads for any sort of tone benefit since most any head can be tuned to any tone you could desire. Heads are made of plastic, and plastic deforms. Go grab any plastic item you want and bend it. You'll see stress marks from bending.

The head is constantly under tension on a relatively sharp bearing edge, being hit with a very small diameter stick at high speed. This force alone puts stress on the material and causes deformation, which over time cannot be corrected by its elasticity. This causes the head to become stiffer, or asymmetrical in stiffness, stifling vibrations. The area that sits over the bearing edge gets the worst of it, as the only thing keeping it straight is the hoop. One of the most important things when it comes to heads is keeping the entire diameter of the head in contact with the bearing edge, which becomes hard to impossible as the head warps from use. Tuning drums is hard enough, but when the head is uneven getting even tuning from all the lugs makes it harder.

The steel hoops that keep the heads on may also be deformed and years of dirt and debris are certainly trapped inside. The bearing edges themselves may be damaged, or lugs or lugs screws may be bent. If you haven't taken it apart recently to check these it's definitely time.

So yes, I would say new heads would make it sound better.

  • 1
    Of course you're right that they look worn. I was using the wrong expression. What I meant was that they are not deformed as in having a bumpy surface. Thanks for pointing this out, I will clarify in my OP. – PetaspeedBeaver Feb 20 '18 at 5:33
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"Improved" would be in the ear of the beholder, what one person thinks is great may not appeal to another person. Old heads can become brittle, new heads may be hard to keep tuned. Almost anything can affect the way a kit sounds, but very important is how it's miked up if you're recording, and room acoustics are also a big factor. There is a long list of techniques such as taping the heads to control ringing, pillows in the kick, eq. on individual drums and selecting the microphones that sound best for each drum. All of this requires time spent on experimenting. After all this and more, we might get to find what you think sounds best.

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I think this is similar to changing your strings.

New string and old string have both Pros and Cons.

For some applications you might want a dull sound of an old string or head. for some you might want a new bright sound. New strings and heads tend to stretch and go out of tune.

If you are unhappy with the sound and can't tune them to the sound you desire maybe new heads will help you.

There are also as many types of heads out there as there are guitar strings, so talk to the guy at the drum shop, tell him what type of sound you are going for and maybe they can direct you to a good head for your needs.

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Yes. But only very slightly and it probably won't be hearable on a recording. Every time you hit the skin of one of the drums, it loosens it very slightly and it also streches some of the material. This will eventually be losing its layers making it quieter and it will have a more distorted waving sound. So make sure you tighten them reguarly so as not to waste your money when you don't need to and replace them every ten or fifteen years. Baasically, it will make a bit of a difference in a few more years.

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