Doc Sweeney Drums is a custom drum company whose bread and butter centers around building steambent and stave drums. Their website states that they: “Specialize in building high-quality instruments using domestic and exotic woods from around the world. Whether you chose one of our existing drum designs or request an instrument built to your specifications, you will own a drum that is truly One of a Kind.”
Doc Sweeney sent Drumhead a Birdseye Maple kit consisting of a 20×14 bass drum, 14×14 floor tom, 12×8 rack tom and matching 14×6 snare. Also included was a Redheart Rx 14×7.5 (dual 45 bearing edges) snare. All of the drums including the matching snare are 5/16” thick Birdseye Maple with 5/16” re-rings and are constructed using steambent shells. Steambent shells are made from a single piece of wood; moisture is then added to the wood and once the desired moisture content is achieved the wood gets wrapped around a mold and bent into shape (more information on the craft of steambent drums can be found online). The Redheart Rx has an aluminum ring that is suspended between the top and bottom segments of the drum–this allows the aluminum to resonate freely. The strainer is attached to a bridge bracket, thereby avoiding contact to the aluminum ring and reducing weight on the wood segments.
The first thing I noticed was how amazing the drums looked. The Birdseye Maple looked stellar and the hand-rubbed oil that Doc Sweeney applies on the kit brought out the natural shine of the wood grain. The drums come standard with tube lugs; no mounting hardware on the 12” – leather gaskets are between the floor tom bracket and wood. The gaskets also work the same way for the spurs. All of the bearing edges are 45 degree round; providing nice attack but still plenty of warmth.
As with most of the reviews I write for Drumhead, I want to use whatever I am reviewing as much as possible before writing the review, giving the reader the best overall representation of the product. With this drum kit I wanted to do more than just play it for a couple of hours in a rehearsal room. Mover was kind enough to let me review the kit during a two week tour I was heading out on, where I was playing drums for two different bands on the tour. What better way to test a kit out than to play 18 shows hauling the kit from van to stage over and over again? Not to mention I get to play this amazing looking kit for the tour!
The two bands I was touring with (Ryatt and Fantazzmo) are hard rock bands and some of you may be wondering why I would take out a 20” kick and 14” floor tom for a rock tour? Valid questions but the kick drum I use for a lot of the tours I do (including the last one with these two bands) is a 20×16 bass drum only two inches deeper than the Doc Sweeney. I’ve always liked 20” kicks; I feel they are more versatile and I can tune them to sit right above the bass guitar frequency – adding attack and punch without losing too much low end. I was a little concerned taking out the 14×14 floor tom but I thought, “Why not?”
I always want to know how versatile the instrument I am thinking about purchasing is; as a full-time working musician I don’t have much extra cash and I want to use products that sound great, last a long time and that I can use in many different applications. To determine that, I always ask myself this one question – how musical is the product? Whether it’s a cymbal, snare or anything in between, musicality is the key. It has to sound good playing with the band or ensemble and within the music you’re playing. To me, if it’s musical it’s going to work in most settings – it may not be the perfect fit but it will sound good and do a great job. I was thinking the bass drum and floor tom would have enough volume (since we were mic’d for all of the shows). I was curious how low I could tune both of them and if anything would be missing from the low end.
I started the tour off using the heads that came on the Doc Sweeney; they came outfitted with Aquarian Texture Coated batter heads (single ply, medium weight) and Classic Clear (single ply, medium weight) bottom heads and the SuperKick bass for the batter side and Modern Vintage with Felt bass reso for the front bass drum head.
The head selection alone had me thinking this kit was more suited for jazz, acoustic pop, or singer- songwriter. At sound check I tuned the toms up to about medium and started playing around the kit. All of the drums had great resonance, warmth and clarity. I could get a lot of volume out of these drums. I don’t like using a lot of muffling on the toms (unless the music calls for it) and I felt leaving the toms wide open would be better suited for a rock setting. Once the band joined in, the musicality of the drums started to shine more and more. I lowered the tuning of the toms and the drums still had a lot of resonance and warmth. I was thinking I would lose some attack out of the toms but listening back to recordings of the show that was definitely not the case. Everyone in both bands and multiple sound engineers commented on how great the drums sounded.
To start the tour I left the bass drum as it came, the SuperKick bass for the batter, no muffling inside and Modern Vintage with Felt bass reso for the front bass drum head. The kick drum sounded great by itself; plenty of warmth, low end and attack. The kick didn’t have as much volume as I was use to from my 20” bass drum. I tuned the bass drum up a bit at sound check and it had great tone and resonance. I lowered the tuning a bit once the band kicked in and it sounded full and warm. Some attack was lost but I expect that when I lower the tuning of the drums. Leaving the kick wide open too was great; it really allowed the drum to be used more as another tom in some ways – having the option to get multiple sounds out of the kick.
Since I started the tour with the tuning fairly low and I was hitting the drums pretty hard, the heads started to deaden after a few shows. That’s not a critique on the heads or the drums – that’s a byproduct of my playing. I would gradually bring the tuning of the toms up a bit more and by the fifth show the toms were definitely in the high/medium range. Tuned higher with deadened heads the drums still sounded great. Definitely a lot more attack and clarity out of the drums; some warmth was lost but only really noticeable to me.
After the fifth show I switched the heads out to Remo Clear Emperors on the toms (2 ply heads) and a clear P3 (single ply with muffling ring) on the inside on the batter. I left the front head the same. The toms had a punchy, focused attack, with plenty of body and articulation. I also felt I had more wiggle room with tuning them; tuned high or low I didn’t lose much clarity of the actual notes I was playing. I did end up sticking one piece of moon gel on the 12” but left the floor tom wide open. Besides the clear P3 on the batter side of the bass drum I also stuck a small muffling pillow inside of the bass drum. Much like the toms, the bass drum had a lot of punch, a more focused attacked and the overtones were more subtle.
I used the 14×7.5 Redheart Rx snare drum for the first few shows (for both bands) just to try to get a gauge on the range of the drum. As with all of the Doc Sweeney drums, the look for this snare was exquisite. It was a little difficult to find much information on all of the drums on the Doc Sweeney website. I ended up Facebook messaging them and asking what the wood was on the Redheart snare because I couldn’t find it. They got back to me and said, “Redheart;” I didn’t even know Redheart was a wood! The combination of the Redheart wood and aluminum provided a balanced drum, with plenty of attack and warmth. The Redheart was fairly dry and I experimented with different types of muffling on the snare. Wide open it was nice and bright but still fairly controlled. With a moon gel and also the Creative Percussion Drum Taco the snare became darker and dryer. It worked extremely well for both bands and I could totally hear this snare in many different genres, ranging from pop, rock and electronic music. The Redheart had plenty of volume but I did feel it reached its volume threshold a little sooner than the Birdseye Maple snare.
The 14×6 Birdseye Maple snare had a nice bright sound without being out of control. A piece of moon gel or two easily tamed some of the brightness but I preferred only one moon gel; I felt in the rock setting having some of the overtones helped round out the sound, especially in the trio format. I did have some issue with the snares becoming loose while playing and had to tighten the throw off a few times during the show. It reminded me of playing a Ludwig with the P85 throw-off and those backing out a bit. Overall though, this snare drum sounded great; very crisp, clean and bright tuned pretty high, and a good amount of body when down tuned and with extra muffling. All of the drums came with triple flanged hoops (you have the option to order whatever you would like on their website) but out of all of them, I wondered what this snare would have sounded like with die-cast hoops.
All of the hardware on the Doc Sweeney’s had a great blend of classic and modern features. The mounting bracket for the floor tom was a perfect example of that. Instead of using the standard wing nut shape to tighten the bracket to the legs, theirs is round with small grooves to make griping it easier. It looks sleek and functions great. At first I wondered how well the bracket would keep the legs secured but had no issue with them becoming loose. I also think they will help prevent over-tightening of the legs because it’s easier to crank too hard on the wing nut shape. Their proprietary tube lugs have a nice twist on the classic tube lug as well. The indent on the face of the lugs look more classic in nature to me, but the quality and style of the lugs definitely have a modern feel.
After playing 18 shows with the Doc Sweeney kit, I can say without a doubt these are an amazing set of drums. To answer my question from before, how musical are these drums? The answer is, very! The range in tuning is great (they hold their tuning really well from being transferred to so many different temperature changes and environments) and tuning them high or low, you’re going to get a great tone out of the drums; and, depending on your head choice, plenty of articulation and/or warmth. Both snares can be used in many different genres and do them well. Doc Sweeny’s mission statement said you were getting a kit that was “One of a Kind” and I would agree. If you’re thinking of getting a high end custom kit add Doc Sweeney to the list consideration.
To see and hear some of the drum kit on tour visit facebook.com/ryattband.