Things you'll need:
-- a drum
-- a drum key
-- a drum head
A few considerations before you begin...
1. Don't be cheap:
Its more than worth investing in good drum heads whenever you make a trip to the music store. Good, high quality drum heads will make a huge difference in the way your drum will sound, and the difference in performance between the low and high end drumheads is well worth the slight cost increase. I used to to work at Guitar Center, and I often explained this point to the customers when buying drumheads: a crappy drum with a good head can sound significantly better than a good drum with a crappy head. Brands such as Remo (the time-tested drumhead company), Evans (the industry standard for many pro drummers), and Aquarian (they have lots of unique sounding heads) are probably your best bet, but its worth experimenting. If you want an endless amount of info on various types of drumheads, its worth checking out The Drum Tuning Bible.
2. Consider your source:
This is my first instructable, so bear with me. If you have any suggestions I would appreciate the advice, as I am planning on writing several more. Also, the info that is to come is general knowledge and you will be able to find similar instructions on the internet. This is my method for dealing with this madness, and just about everyone will have their own way. Read around, experiment, and you will eventually find your own style.
Also check out some of my other drum instructables:
Effects Snare Drum
Step 1: Getting Good Heads
1-ply: always used for bottom (resonant) heads, and for some top (batter) heads
2-ply: a good choice for batter heads, but be very wary of using as a resonant head
snare side: an extra-thin head made specifically for use on the bottom of a snare drum
coated: there is a thin layer of opaque plastic applied to the face of this head, adds
warmth, controls overtones
clear: essentially a non-coated head, these heads tend to have more sustain and overtones
Pairing Heads: (batter - resonant)
2-ply coated - 1-ply clear: This is a common combo used on toms. The coated batter heads will provide a little more control and a little less ring, plus they look cool.
2-ply clear - 1-ply clear: Another good tom configuration, and again, this is a preference issue. You will get a lot more tone and sustain from your toms with a clear batter head. Experiment with both, and you'll find your niche.
2-ply coated - snare side: What can I say, use this on your snares, always. Some people like using a clear 1-ply on the snare side, but just dont, ok? I dont want to rant, so take my word for it.
1-ply clear or coated - 1-ply clear: A good set-up on toms of you are playing jazz, or something lighter. Its just not practical for rock and most styles; your heads will last only weeks vs. months.
Now that you've got your heads all picked out, its time to get down to business. Put on some coffee, turn on some angry music, smoke em if you got em, and get ready for some frustration.