One of the most misunderstood and often underrated aspects of great sounding drums is the bearing edge. Quite frankly, it’s one of the more boring topics of drum construction, yet one of the most critical. Every aspect of your drums tone, tuning, warmth and projection is largely influenced by the bearing edges. They are literally overlooked because they are never seen!
Typically, we just quickly replace the drum heads, tune the drum and go. The next time you pull the heads and rims off of the shells, take a detailed inspection of the bearing edges. Let’s take a quick look at why the condition and characteristics of the shell edges are important.
Without going into a ton of detail, the bearing edge is the point where the drum head touches the shell. If you aren’t happy with the tone you’re getting from your shells, no head in the world will change that if your bearing edge is compromised.
As an example, Pearl Masterworks and Reference series drums offer the following three types of bearing edges:
- Standard 45 Degrees - Provides the perfect blend of attack and warmth.
- 2-Way (or rounded) 45 Degrees - Boosts mid to high frequencies as a result of greater head-to-shell contact.
- Rounded - Provides maximum head-to-shell contact for the greatest boost in mid to low range frequencies.
The sharper the edge, the more precise and “adjustable” the tuning will be. The drum will tend to resonant more and have a broader frequency range when the head is free to vibrate along a very narrow, sharp point. On the other hand, the more rounded edge will give the shell more low end thud and attack. Obviously, there’s not necessarily a wrong or right answer here as everyone has different tastes in what kind of sound they’re going for.
The point, however, is to make sure the edges are in tact. In other words, you want the edges to be free of chips, dings and any kind of damage. The shell should be perfectly round and even all the way around. If there is any inconsistency whatsoever, you’re going to have trouble.
What to Do
If you do find issues with your edges, first determine how bad it is. If it’s minor flaws, try using a Scotchbrite pad or fine sand paper along the bearing edge. Take it easy here as you don’t want to make it worse. Try simply allowing for the edge to be nice and even all the way around. If you’ve uncovered a major flaw, consider making an appointment with a drum shop to re-cut your edges. Believe me; it’ll be worth the time and money.