How to Change A Drum Head

Like changing strings on a guitar, learning how to change a drum head is essential for a drummer – here’s how

How to Change a Drum Head - Mirage Rave Drum Kit

If you’ve just started drumming, and spent a good period giving your drums some abuse, you might well have put a hole in one of your drum heads (drum skins). Sadly, like all musical instruments, drums have parts that wear out or break.

So, if you now have a drum kit that is a high percentage gaffa tape(!), or one that is just sounding a bit dead and lifeless, the chances are it could do with some new heads.

If you’ve never done it before, here’s a simple, step-by-step guide explaining how to fit a new skin.

How To Change A Drum Head

You’ll need…

  • Drum Key
  • Replacement drum head of correct size and type – in this example it’s a snare drum, and as such it is a coated head. If you’re replacing a tom head, you’ll most likely use an uncoated head. As with all things, there’s a certain amount of personal taste involved, however.
  • Drum stick

Drum Key

1. Unscrew and remove all of the tension rods with the drum key, as shown here. Keep them to one side, complete with washers

How To Change A Drum Head

How To Change A Drum Head  - Tension Rod and Washer

2. Lift off the metal rim, and put to one side


3. Lift off the old drum head, and put to one side

Removed Head

4. Take the replacement drum head (in this case a 14” Remo Ambassador), and place over the drum shell

New Head

5. Replace the rim over the top of the shell and new drum head, and align the holes with the lugs (the bits on the side of the drum that the tension rods screw into)

Replace Rim

6. Then, screw the tension rods back into the lugs with the washer between

You’ll need to re-tune the drum, at this point. This is a fairly big subject, and one I won’t go into in too much detail here. There are numerous ways and techniques of going about this, and different tunings for different styles.

All I will suggest is aim to get an even tension across the skin. One of the easiest ways to do this is do tighten on lug and tap the drum head just next to it until it sounds as you want it. Then, repeat with the opposite lug.

When this matches the first, move round one and repeat, until every lug sounds the same.

For a full range of drum heads and accessories see our online store.

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