This month’s inventive setup comes to us from Stephen Shepard, who’s been playing drums since 1962. In the late ’70s, Shepard started a drum restoration and manufacturing company in San Diego called the Drum Craftsmen with his best friend and fellow drummer, Paul Bleifuss. “In the ’80s,” Shepard says, “after going on a six-month tour in Scandinavia and meeting my better half, I moved from California to Oslo, Norway. Paul kept our company but changed the name to Bleifuss Hand Crafted Drums. We kept in touch throughout the years, and for my fiftieth birthday, he sent me a set of raw Keller shells and told me to make something special with them. Sadly, Paul passed away in 2007, and it was then that I decided to do something with the shells in his memory.”

The resulting six-piece set features 8×10 and 10×12 rack toms, 12×14 and 15×15 floor toms, a 16×18 bass drum, and a 3.5×14 snare. Shepard gave the drums a sunburst finish with ten coats of hand-rubbed tung oil. To make the set’s smaller kick more versatile, he took some imaginative measures. “I always loved the feel of an 18″ bass drum,” he says. “It’s very nimble. But its musical applications can be limited. In most of the playing situations I’m involved in, the bass drum is miked. So I invented a concept where I could adjust the bass drum’s pitch to fit the musical expression as needed.”

The invention consists of a U-shaped section of 120 mm plastic tubing and a straight section of tubing that are both placed inside the bass drum. “One side of the U-shaped section can slide in and out of the straight section,” Shepard explains. “The straight section is fastened to the resonant bass drum head. The curved section of tubing rests in a notched rail on the bottom of the bass drum to lock in to the desired position. In the forward position, the bass drum mic picks up more of the fundamental tone from the resonant head. In the rear position, the fundamental tone is lowered a little more than a whole step. This noticeably lowers the overall pitch, which makes the drum sound like it’s larger.”

After giving the set a trial run, Shepard was pleased with the outcome. “I recorded a studio test of the invention,” he says, “and it works just as desired! I’ve used the set for everything from free jazz to hard-rock gigs with very satisfying results.”

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