Hello my man,
Hope all’s swell & well with you - we miss you here, but you have bigger fish to fry now, right?!
Anyway good question, as I know you’re a fellow Yamaha Hip Gig user. I actually tried a variety of heads before I found the fullest and most resonant combination I like, which really expands the potential of the drums.
I’ve found what I needed with a combination of thinner heads for both the tops and bottom of the toms. I prefer Remo Renaissance or Aquarian Modern Vintage Heads, in the Thin weight, on the batter side and I have some old Evans Resonant Black heads on the reflective side.
Heavier heads (medium weight, and beyond) all seemed to choke the drums in my experiments. I’m not a basher, so the heads hold up just fine for me in general. They’re just thin - not fragile.
The Hip Gig shells are made of mahogany, which is a softer wood than birch or maple. It really brings out the low end and has a very warm tone. The thinner heads tend to be brighter in tone, in general, and so the combination produces a very full and fat sound.
I keep them wide open and can tune them up tightly for the be-bop or modern jazz gigs, and lower for the world-beat and funk gigs I use the kit on. It mics up really well, but I tend to use the kit for gigs ranging from intimate acoustic settings to open-air venues with semi-acoustic (moderate electric) ensembles. Due to the sizes of the drums the full kit can’t really compete with anything fuller or essentially louder than that - and I don’t expect it to.
Also, FYI I have a 12” add-on tom in addition to the standard 10” mounted tom and 13” floor tom. I typically use all three together, or the mounted 12” with the 13” floor as a four piece. Even though the diameters are only an inch apart, there’s plenty of tonal range between the two thanks to the difference in depth.
On the kick I still use the Remo Powerstroke-type heads that came with it. They produce an incredibly punchy and fat tone. I also have a thinner set of 16” Remo Renaissance Powerstroke heads I can swap out with those that are livelier for a jazzier tone and feel. I’ve never used any kind of muffling inside the drum either, and the lift that attaches to the BD pedal and gets the drum up off the floor allows that drum to really project well beyond its size. People always comment on that.
On the snare drum I use a Remo Renaissance head in the diplomat weight for the batter head and a Remo Weather King Hazy thin snare-side head.
Also, FYI, I typically use the Hip Gig snare drum (I have and recommend the Manu Katche Signature outfit, BTW) as a “second snare” on certain gigs and rarely use it as the main snare with the Hip Gig kit. I prefer something bigger. I’ve used a variety of older, vintage aluminum, fiberglass and wood Ludwig, Hinger and Camco drums to great effect - each SD has a certain character that blends with the kit certain ways for certain gigs. With my new Yamaha endorsement, I’m checking out some of their fine snare drums that would blend similarly in character with the kit. The “Club Back Beat” vintage drums and a few others, like the David Garibaldi Signature snare, are looking like real contenders.
I know your main question involved the heads but I thought you might like another angle on how I approach using the kit to get the sounds you were kind enough to compliment me on.
"You are only in competition with yourself" ~ Max Roach