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A brief history of drum skins

The surface that is hammered to produce sound on drums is provided by drum skins, commonly referred to as drumheads. Ancient civilisations employed drum skins for ceremonial, communicative, and musical purposes, which can be seen in their history and progress.

Animal hides, such as those from a goat, sheep, or calf, were stretched over a frame or shell to create the earliest drum skins. These organic materials offered the endurance and resonance required for sound production. Drums were employed for signalling, communication, and religious rites in many ancient societies. Drums, for instance, were used to transmit messages across great distances in Africa and were an essential part of Native American societies' spiritual rituals and celebrations.

traditional hide drum
Animal hides were still used to make drum skins as time went on, but drum-making methods also changed. The use of thinner hides and stress created by tightening them with rope or metal rings by European drum manufacturers throughout the Middle Ages led to a higher pitch and better tonal quality. The uniformity and adaptability of drum skins were further enhanced by the 19th-century advent of mechanical tuning mechanisms like screws and lugs.

middle ages style drum

The invention of synthetic materials altered the production of drumheads at the beginning of the 20th century. Drum skins made of synthetic materials, such as Mylar, a form of polyester film, were first used by companies like Remo, Evans, and Aquarian. Mylar was superior to natural animal hides in a number of ways, including increased durability, consistency, and resilience to temperature and humidity variations. As mylar drumheads could be produced with uniform thicknesses and coatings, tone and pitch could be controlled more precisely.

modern drum lugs used for tensioning skins


With the debut of coated drumheads by Ludwig and clear plastic drumheads by Remo in the middle of the 20th century, the usage of plastic materials in drum skins became more widespread. In order to change the tone and texture of the drumhead, coated drumheads had a small layer of paint or spray applied to their surface. As a result, numerous coating types—including single-ply, double-ply, and hydraulic—were created, each with distinctive acoustic properties.

Clear plastic drumheads, which produced a brighter and more focused sound than coated drumheads, were made famous by drummers like Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa in the 1950s and 1960s. Rock, jazz, and other popular music genres began to employ clear drumheads frequently because they provided better projection and articulation.

some remo skin varieties
Drummers' options were greatly increased in the 1970s with the invention of multi-ply drumheads. Several plies of Mylar or other synthetic materials are layered to create multi-ply drumheads, which can increase durability, sustain, and produce a warmer tone. Heavy rock, metal, and fusion music genres, where strength and projection are important, gave rise to the popularity of these drumheads.

remo fybreskyn drum head

Manufacturers of drumheads have been releasing new materials, coatings, and designs recently in order to keep up with drummers' changing demands and tastes. For instance, some drumheads are now produced using exclusive materials, like Remo's Fiberskyn, which imitates the appearance and feel of conventional animal hide drumheads while offering contemporary durability and consistency.

Also, to provide the drummer more control over sustain, resonance, and tonal qualities, drumheads with specialised features, like internal muffling rings or vents, have been developed. Moreover, drumheads come in a variety of sizes, giving drummers the freedom to customise their drum setup and get the ideal sound for their prefered musical genre or style.

In conclusion, from the usage of animal hides in ancient civilisations to the creation of synthetic materials in the present day, the history and evolution of drum skins have undergone tremendous developments over the years. These developments have given drummers more dependability and consistency.

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