Bucks County Drum Company
Semi-Solid Bebop Drumset
by Michael Dawson
Bucks County is a custom shop located thirty-five miles north of Philadelphia in the small borough of Perkasie. The company offers drums with just about any type and size of ply shell in any lacquer, satin, stain, or wrap finish. What sets Bucks County apart from general drum assemblers, however, is its unique patent-pending semi-solid drum shell, which fuses an interior solid steam-bent shell with a 5-ply maple exterior and 5-ply maple reinforcement rings. The bearing edges are cut so that the drumhead sits solely on the solid portion, which helps gives the drums a strong, vibrant, modern tone, while the maple plies increase warmth as well as strength, consistency, and durability.
We were delivered a gorgeous bebop kit to review that comprised an 8×12 rack tom, a 12×14 floor tom, a 15×18 bass drum, and a 6.5×14 snare. All of the drums have a satin tung oil finish over a wenge veneer and black-nickel hoops and Gretsch-style lugs. The drums have solid cores of a different species, strategically chosen to make each drum as sonically balanced as possible. Let’s take a look at each piece individually before we test them in action.
8×12 Maple/Granadillo Rack Tom
The six-lug rack tom on this kit fuses a 5-ply maple shell to an equal-thickness solid interior of granadillo, and it has 5-ply reinforcement rings. “Sonically, [granadillo] is comparable to Indian rosewood,” says Bucks County’s owner/head builder, Chris Carr. “But it’s hard and denser, yielding a bell-like ring.” Granadillo is often used to make marimba bars and classical guitars because of its tonal characteristic. This drum came with Evans Clear G1 heads on top and bottom and had a black-nickel suspension mount.
This drum features a 5-ply maple exterior with a solid yellowheart interior of the same thickness and 5-ply maple reinforcement rings. Mainly sourced in Brazil, yellowheart is a dense species that Carr describes as similar to a hard mahogany that “will tune nice and deep. Its hardness lends itself to good volume sensitivity, making it a great choice for all playing styles, from loud to soft.” Like the rack tom, the floor tom came with Evans Clear G1 heads on top and bottom, and it has legs with floating feet that allow the shell to resonate as fully as possible.
15×18 Soft Maple/Maple Bass Drum
The interior soft maple solid shell of the bass drum is slightly thicker than the 5-ply maple exterior. Soft maple is an abundant species in the US, and it is best suited for the big, warm tones desired from floor toms and bass drums. “Not nearly as hard as hard maple, [soft maple] tends to be a little less bright, yielding a more ‘vintage’ tone with a softer attack,” Carr explains. This bass drum came with a Clear EQ3 batter and a Black EQ3 resonant with no hole.
6.5×14 Ash/Maple Snare
The matching wenge-veneer snare features a 6-ply outer maple shell and a solid ash core of equal thickness. Ash is known to be a middle ground between the focused snap of birch and the broad, open tone of maple. This drum came with triple-flange hoops, ten tube lugs, a Trick GS007 three-point strainer, twenty-strand wires, a Coated Genera batter, and a Snare Side 500 bottom.
Tuning the Bucks County bop kit was a breeze. I started by pitching both heads on the toms evenly and fairly high (12″ to D# and 14″ to G#). The bass drum was tuned with the resonant head about a 4th higher than the batter, and the fundamental pitch was an octave lower than the floor tom. The snare was tuned tightly to the note B, which completed a G# minor chord across the entire kit. At this higher tuning, the kit sang beautifully and had crystal clear pitch, long and even sustain, and ultra-crisp articulation. The bass drum had some sweet sub tones as well. The snare and toms responded very fast with snappy attack, full sustain, and balanced overtones at all dynamics. The drums also projected very well.
For a medium tuning, I simply backed off the heads by three semitones (the snare bottom remained tight). The floor tom and bass drum were now at F, the rack tom was at C, and the snare was at Ab. This tuning had a fantastic balance of clarity and projection, plus full, rich, and fat sustain.
The bass drum was impressively deep and powerful, and it had a ton of focused sub frequencies. The toms sounded as if they were being processed with the best studio gear. The snare had a strong crack, crisp sensitivity, and chunky overtones that filled out the sound nicely but died off quickly.
To test how low these smaller drums could go, I backed off the tuning by three more semitones until the floor tom and bass drum were at D, the rack tom was at A, and the snare was at F. The heads were barely under any tension, yet the drums still produced big, fully resonating tones with clear pitch and articulate response. The floor tom became quite punchy, the bass drum sounded darker and had a less prominent note, the rack tom took on a more dramatic roll (longer decay and slight pitch bend), and the snare elicited an awesomely fat, power-ballad vibe.
While it may be categorized as a bop kit, this isn’t a drumset meant exclusively for high Tony Williams–type tunings. Its range is vast (we were especially impressed with its lower register), and all of the drums possessed strong and powerful yet warm and balanced voices that performed just as well acoustically as they did under the close scrutiny of the recording studio. Very impressive, indeed!
Shells: Semi-solid (ply maple outside, solid core, and ply re-rings)
Edges: Outside roundover and inside 45-degree
Finish: Tung oil wenge veneer
Sizes: 8×12, 12×14, 15×18, 6.5×14