Are Your Bearing Edges Damaged?
I recently reinstated my vintage 1991 Noble & Cooley Horizon set to my main recording set. While in the process I found that I could no longer get a good bass drum sound from this set, and in general they were not quite like I remembered them sounding, but the bass drum wasn’t even close. After literally 3 days of experimenting with heads, microphones, various EQs (and pulling what’s left of my hair out) I decided something was definitely wrong with the drum.
I took the bass drum to Chris Heuer, who is known in Los Angeles as THE GUY. Chris is drum tech to the likes of Vinnie Colaiuta, Peter Erskine, Matt Chamberlain, Curt Bisquera and all the greats who know. It turned out the bearing edges had shrunk on 2 sides, and air was escaping. To get the best sound (and any low end) you want an airtight seal between the head and the bearing edge. If air is escaping so is your low end. That was exactly what was happening.
My bass drum sounded like paper. Thanks to Chris it’s absolutely booming again. I didn’t hesitate to bring every drum I owned to him immediately. If your drums are older they more than likely need to be looked at. Newer drums really shouldn’t, but that depends on the manufacturer. Sometimes a new edge on a medium priced set can really make a difference.
I am playing vintage drums almost exclusively at this point. My 1965 Ludwig set sounds really good, but after Chris tweaked the edges it became an addicting instrument to play. Wood drys and shrinks with age which is exactly what happened to my 2 vintage sets. I am extremely careful now when I take heads off. Don’t let your edges touch anything that can dent or scratch them, seriously, this makes a difference.
Damage to the bearing edges can also make tuning difficult (or impossible). The bearing edge is the part of the shell that comes into contact with the drum head. In a literal sense, it bears the drum head. Run your fingers along the bearing edges to make sure they are smooth and consistent. If there are bumps, chips or other deformities, this will have an impact on the tune-ability of the drum and will result in a loss of tone and low end.
While I am in Noble & Cooley mode I decided to post some tuning videos my friend Bob Gatzen did for Evans drum heads a while back. No one knows more than Bob about tuning and maintenance. It was Bob who introduced me to the Noble & Cooley family and invited me to play double drums on the N&C Star series set back in 1989 at NAMM.
Enjoy. Look up Chris Heuer’s Drum Lab if you’re interested. People ship their shells to him from all over the world. I’m telling you, it’s worth it.