Calderwood Percussion is a small Boston-based manufacturer run by former Harmonix Music Systems composer and sound designer Bill Whitney. While at Harmonix (the creators of hit videogame series Rock Band), Whitney invented and built a variety of custom instruments, including pitched and non-pitched drums and percussion. Since founding Calderwood, Whitney has earned a reputation as one of the premier builders of historic and modernized rope-tension drums, most notably supplying field drums for the hit Broadway musical Hamilton. Bill also makes high-quality instruments for classical percussion and drumset applications. The snare we have for review is a funky 3.75×12 7-ply maple piccolo that’s wrapped in a pink brocade fabric.
This drum is built from a 7-ply Keller maple shell and has precisely cut double-45-degree bearing edges. There are six mini tube lugs that are insulated from the shell with plastic gaskets, and the hoops are triple-flange steel. The throw-off is a Gibraltar Deluxe Class Piccolo model, which has a small side-release arm and tension thumbscrews on both sides of the assembly. The throw-off and butt plate are each insulated from the shell with gaskets.
The twenty-strand PureSound Custom series wires connect to the throw-off with black grosgrain ribbon, rather than the blue wire that usually accompanies PureSound snares. The batter drumhead is an Evans 2-ply (5 and 7.5 mil) HD Dry, which has small vent holes drilled around the perimeter and a 2 mil overtone ring on the underside. The bottom drumhead is a medium-weight 300 series snare side. The hoops, lugs, vent, and throw-off are powder coated in purple sparkle. Whitney finished the drum with a pink/gold/red Asian-style brocade fabric and a custom badge that’s created by layering a small oval of white marine pearl drum wrap over a slightly larger piece of black diamond pearl. Bill signs and dates each drum on the inside of the shell.
The most obvious application for a drum this size would be for a super-tight, snappy, and bright “pop,” like the sound Steve Jordan used with the John Mayer Trio famous hit 6/8 ballad “Gravity.” To achieve that famous crack, I simply tightened the six topside lugs up to the point where the pitch of the head stopped increasing and then tightened the bottom head about as high as it would go. The 2-ply, premuffled HD Dry batter head maintained some beefiness and controlled the overtones to prevent the drum from sounding choked or brittle. Snare sensitivity was super crisp but not overly buzzy, and the attack had a thick, compressed smack.
I could dial back the tension on the batter head about a half turn on each lug before the timbre shifted from a clean, articulate “pop” to a fatter, wider tone with some slight pitch bend. This drum could also be tuned very low to achieve a punchy, quick LinnDrum-type sampled sound that had some chesty thump but didn’t take up too much sonic space. For recording situations, or for gigs where you need to replicate sampled and programmed snare sounds live, it’s a good idea to have something unusual like this Calderwood Percussion 12″ piccolo at your disposal. And with a price tag of only $275, it’s pretty much a no-brainer. Visit calderwoodpercussion.com to order one today.