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Pro Drummer Explains: How to Measure Drum Heads

Is it time to change the drumheads on your kit? You’re going to need to know all their measurements so that you can get the right sizes for your replacement drumheads

Unfortunately, no drumheads have their sizes written on them like cymbals have, so it can be confusing to know what sizes you need. 

In this guide, we’re going to break down everything you need to know about your drumheads and their sizing. Read through all our tips, and then you should be fully equipped to understand your drumhead sizes and how to replace them with the right options.

Why Do Drumheads Need to Be Measured?

Every drum shell has a certain diameter size on both ends. You need to measure your current drumhead sizesso that you know exactly which sizes to get when you’re looking for replacement heads. If you get the wrong size, it won’t fit the drum. 

As we mentioned earlier, no drumheads have their sizes written on them, so you need to use some sort of measuring method to figure the size out if you don’t know it already

When you buy drumheads, you’ll see the sizes on the boxes, so you can match your measurements to those sizes to know which ones you should get. 

All drumheads range from 6” to 26”. They’re perfectly designed to be complete numbers in that range, so you’ll never get fractional sizes between 8” and 10”, for example. This makes measuring your heads a lot easier.

Best Ways to Make Sure You’re Getting the Right Heads

Measuring Across the Head

Our first suggestion for measuring your drumheads is undoubtedly the simplest. You just need to take a tape measure and measure the distance between one side of a drumhead and the other

Make sure to go from the furthest possible distance, and make sure to only measure the drumhead and not the rim of the drum shell. 

When you measure your drumheads like this, you’ll get a very easy reading that is typically accurate. 

Just make sure to measure in inches, as that’s how drumheads are measured. If you have a tape measure that reads centimeters, find out what the conversion numbers are to get the measurement in inches. 

Do this for all the drumheads on your kit, and you’ll be good to go! 

Using a Piece of String

If you want to get a bit more detailed in your measurements, you can measure the entire circumference of your drumheads. You don’t need to do this when looking for replacement drumheads, but this measurement is good to know for various reasons.

To do this, you need to take a piece of string and place it around the edges of a drumhead. Take a marker and mark the point off where the string makes a complete circle. 

After that, take your string to a tape measure to get the distance from where the string starts to the point where you made a mark

This method will take a bit longer when measuring all your drumheads, but it’s good to know what all their circumferences are. 

Understand Drum Head Sizes

If you want to avoid spending time measuring each drumhead, our best suggestion is to become familiar with different drumhead sizes. When you know the typical measurements of drumheads, it’s easy to figure them out without even using a tape measure.

Most professional drummers can look at a tom and know whether it’s 10” or 12”. It may take a bit of practice to get to this point but changing your drumheads will become a breeze once you get there. 

When you buy your drum kit, it’s also good to memorize what the sizes of your shells are. This will also give you the information you need to have when buying replacement drumheads. 

Take Your Old Heads with You to a Store

The final option you have is to simply take your old drumheads with you when you go to a music store. When you’re looking for new heads on the shelf, take them out of the boxes and match them to the sizes of the drumheads that you brought with you.

The Evans brand even has a system where you can bring old drumheads to redeem points. Those points will give you discounts on your new drumheads. So, bringing old heads with the store is a great option if you have Evans drumheads. 

You only need to do this once if you don’t know your drumhead sizes. You can then memorize those sizes for the next time you get replacement heads.

Different Drum Head Sizes

When understanding different drumhead sizes, it’s a good idea to memorize all the potential sizes that you’ll find with different types of drums. This will narrow your search when looking for replacement heads for those drums. 

Snare Drum Heads

Snare drumheads range from 10” to 16”. Smaller snare drums are referred to as piccolo snare drums, and they’re not as commonly found. For this reason, you don’t get dedicated snare drumheads for these snares. You typically have to get drumheads that are normally used for toms. 

The most common size for snare drumheads is 14”. The second most common size is 13”. This makes snare drumheads the easiest heads to identify when it comes to measurements. 

You’ll occasionally find snare drums that use heads that are 15” or 16”. The ones that are 16” typically double up as floor toms. The ones that are 15” are extremely rare. You’ll only find those being custom-made.

Tom Drum Heads

Drumheads for toms range from 6” to 18”. Rack tom drumheads will range from 6” to 13”, while floor tomdrumheads will range from 14” to 18”.

You can often buy tom drumheads in packs, so you’ll need to know exactly what your tom sizes are to get the right sizes in a pack. 

The most common sizes for rack toms are 10” and 12”. Older drum kits often have rack toms that are 12” and 13”, but you don’t find those sizes on many kits these days. 

The most common size for floor toms is 16”. If your floor tom looks closer to your snare drum in size, then it’s most likely 14”. If it looks very large, then it’s 18”.

Bass Drum Heads

Bass drumheads typically range from 16” to 24”. You get smaller ones on compact kits, and you get larger ones on specialty kits, but the most common sizes for bass drumheads are 20” and 22”

22-inch drumheads tend to be a lot more popular, with 20-inch drumheads coming in close behind. 

Most people identify bass drums as being 22”. That’s the normal size that everyone expects to see. If your bass drum looks a bit smaller, it may be a 20-inch one. 

If it’s even smaller, then you should compare it with your floor tom. If it’s the same size, your bass drumhead is most likely 16”. If slightly larger, then your bass drumhead is 18”.

Different Drum Kit Variations

When you buy a drum set, there are typically several preset configurations that are determined by the sizes of all the drums. These sets tend to perform best in certain styles, but it’s also good to know their names to establish what kind of kit you have. 

There are naturally always exceptions, and different drummers add and remove things as they get more creative with their setups, but here are all the basic setup options: 

Standard Rock Kit

A standard rock kit is usually identified by its 22-inch bass drum. This is the best bass drum size to have a punchy sound that is loud and effective. You’ll need to get 22-inch bass drumheads for the batter and reso sides of these kits. 

These kits typically have a 14-inch snare drum, followed by 10-inch and 12-inch rack toms, and then a 16-inch floor tom. As we said earlier, older rock kits had 13-inch rack toms, but those aren’t common anymore. 

Here are those sizes at a glance: 

  • 22-inch bass drum
  • 14-inch snare drum
  • 10-inch rack tom
  • 12-inch rack tom
  • 16-inch floor tom

Fusion Kit

Fusion drum kit setups are slightly smaller than rock drum kit setups. The biggest difference is the bass drum, as fusion kits are always identified by their 20-inch bass drums. 

The snare drum will be the same size, as well as the rack toms. However, the floor tom of a fusion kit setup is usually 14”. 

It’s also quite common for drummers to add an 8-inch rack tom into the setup, and those are always easy to identify due to how small they are. 

Here are those sizes at a glance: 

  • 20-inch bass drum
  • 14-inch snare drum
  • 10-inch rack tom
  • 12-inch rack tom
  • 14-inch floor tom

Compact Jazz Kit

Compact kits come in all shapes and sizes, and they’re referred to as compact kits due to their shell sizes being smaller than what you get with rock and fusion setups. However, when drummers play a jazz kit, you typically get specific shell sizes. These kits are also referred to as bop kits. 

The bass drum is 18”, which is the defining feature of the kit. The snare drum may either be 13” or 14”, while the single rack tom is 10” or 12”, and the floor tom is 14”. 

Here are those sizes at a glance: 

  • 18-inch bass drum
  • 13-inch or 14-inch snare drum
  • 10-inch or 12-inch rack tom
  • 14-inch floor tom

Buying Drum Heads Online

While buying drumheads in a store is the ideal route for the benefits of being able to take your old ones in to compare, it’s a lot more convenient to buy new drumheads online. Doing it this way makes it even more vital to know the exact measurements of your drumheads. 

If you don’t have anything to measure your drumheads with, you can also search for the specs of your kit. You’ll be able to find the name of your kit on the badges on all the shells. There should be a serial number as well. 

Looking those things up will allow you to see your kit on the brand’s website, and you can see what all the drumhead sizes are from there. Once you get that information, you’ll be good to make an online purchase.

What are the Benefits of Getting New Drum Heads

Fresh Tones

The biggest benefit to getting new drumheads is that you’ll get fresh tones from all your drums. The longer your old drumheads stay on your drum shells, the worse they start to sound. Old drumheads are harder to keep in tune as well. 

When you put fresh heads on the drums, you’ll get better tones and easier tuning. You can also choose various types of heads to achieve different tonal qualities.

There are so many drumhead options out there, and you can play around with getting different ones to change the sound of your drum kit. 

Clean Aesthetics 

The older drumheads get, the more marks and scuffs they get on the surface. While this makes your drum kit look like it’s been played, leaving them for too long will make your drum kit look dirty

Putting a new set of drumheads on your drums will give a new sense of life to your kit, and it will look clean on the surface, especially if you put a fresh pair of coated heads on the shells. 

This is only a minor benefit, though. The tonal aspect is the biggest thing about getting new drumheads.

Final Thoughts on How to Measure Drum Heads

Measuring your drumheads is actually very easy. To give a brief recap on what we said above, you just need to take a tape measure and record the distance across each head.

Do that a few times, and you’ll memorize your drumhead sizes. You’ll then be able to identify drumhead sizes just by looking at them. It also helps to understand the various types of drum kit setups like rock and fusion kits.