Something I almost never think about is a drum’s bearing edges. I’ve always put the head on the drum, tuned it, hit it, and it either sounded good or it didn’t. But bearing edges play a big role in the tonal quality of a drum. Look at the three different bearing edges in the photos.
Fig. 1. Slingerland bearing edge.
The round bearing edge shown in Fig. 1 is from a vintage Slingerland tom. As you might imagine, this bearing edge has a lot of surface area in contact with the head. Tonally, the drum is very warm sounding. This edge also causes the sound to decay faster than that of a drum with sharper bearing edges.
Fig. 2. PDP bearing edge.
Fig. 2 is of a maple PDP exotic finish tom. The sharp bearing edge on this drum helps make it the brightest sounding drum of the three. It also helps give the drum a longer decay, as the head vibrates more freely. This is one versatile tom. Different head types, muffling, even slight changes in tuning, will make this tom sound radically different.
Fig. 3. Yamaha Recording Custom bearing edge.
Fig. 3 is an early 1980s Yamaha Recording Custom tom. This bearing edge falls somewhere in between the previous two drums. Because of the edge – and the fact that the drum is birch – it has a contained, fundamental-pitch-focused sound that sits well in a variety of music styles.