Canadian Musician - March / April 2018 - Page 28

PERCUSSION Chris Brown has been known to swoon over antique microphones, vintage drums, and country Telecasters. He can’t ride a horse, but does have a weakness for cowboy shirts. Find him at By Chris Brown Bearing Edges S hopping for a new drum kit can be exciting. The selection and op- tions seem endless – brand, colour, number of drums, hardware, pedals, cymbals... I have helped hundreds of drummers with their purchases over the years, but not one has ever asked me about bearing edges. I find this interesting, because the type of bearing edge on your new kit has a huge impact on the sound of the drums. The bearing edge is the only place where the shell touches the drum head. This is where the energy of your stick striking the head is transferred to the body of the drum. The amount of head/shell contact will affect the amount of the shell’s tone that will be added to the sound produced by the head. Most drummers spend a great deal of time thinking about the woods they want to make up the shells of their kit, but little to no time thinking about how the bearing edge will (literally) impact that decision. In the last few years, Pearl and Yamaha have begun to cut different bearing edges onto drums of different sizes. A rack tom under 14 in. will have sharp 45-degree bear- ing edges while floor toms and kicks have well-rounded 30-degree bearing edges. Other makers stay with the tried and true, like Gretsch, which has cut 30-degree bearing edges into all of its products for decades. What impact do these different styles of bear- ing edges have on the sound of your drums? There are four basic types of bearing edges: 45-Degree Cut into the inside edge of shell, these offer minimal shell contact, which allows the drum- 28 • C A N A D I A N M U S I C I A N head to vibrate longer, thus increasing the drum’s sustain. This limited contact with the shell provides a more “modern” sound with increased cut and attack. The drum sounds brighter as the bearing edge is in contact with the head at a single point, allowing for more harmonics to develop and the percep- tion of a brighter tone. Disadvantage: the drum is more difficult to tune and sounds less warm. Double 45-Degree Cutting a 45-degree angle into both the inside and outside of the shell moves the point of shell contact away from the edge of the drum and the collar (bend) in the head film. This increases sustain and allows a wider tuning range. Disadvantage: the bearing edge can be more easily damaged, causing unwanted buzzing or deadness and tuning difficulties. 45-Degree Roundover For drummers looking for that “classic sound,” the rounder bearing edge is what you should be looking for. More contact provides the shell with the most opportunity to provide that woody warmth so characteristic of the 1960/’70s drum tones. Many makers still use this style of bearing edge on their jazz and vintage offerings. Disadvantage: less attack, fewer overtones, and less definition. 30-Degree Full Roundover This offers the most shell contact with the head. These drums are easy to tune and offer the most control of overtones and that “fat” drum tone. Many kick drums and floor toms use this type of bearing edge. Disadvantage: “Fat” can turn to “tubby,” less drum definition, and muddier tones. There is always some experimentation go- ing on in the industry with bearing edges receiving backside (outside edge) cuts, slight variations in the degree at which they are cut, and the amount of attention paid to the edge after it is cut (sanding, gap fillers, sealants, etc.) Some snare drum makers will combine the roundover edge on the batter head with a 45-degree edge on the resonant head look- ing for the advantages of both. I recommend you visit your favourite drum retailer and have a listen to some well- tuned brands to see which kind of bearing edge you prefer. As most new drums are sold with single-ply heads, this allows you to really hear the differences. I would focus on a 12-in. tom and a 16-in. floor tom as this will give you some reference points on the most common sized drums. Take notes and try not to let the brand influ- ence you. Listen for the fundamental tone, the harmonics, the attack, and the sustain of each type of bearing edge and this may go a long way in helping you make the best deci- sion about the one you prefer. Finally, if you are purchasing used drums, take a close look at the bearing edges. If possible, take the batter heads off and sit the bearing edge of the drum on a glass table. If you see daylight under the drum or if it rocks, the bearing edges need work and the drum price should be adjusted accordingly. The number one issue with used drums is dam- aged bearing edges; this results in the drum being out of round or impossible to tune.