In the June 2016 issue of MD, we reviewed two incredible snares by Doc Sweeny Drums. Since then, the company’s head builder, Steve Stecher, has continued to explore more unique custom offerings, including the beautiful dual-species stave-shell kit we have for review here, which Stecher dubbed the Serengeti.

The Specs

The Serengeti (list price: $5,000) is a dual-species stave-shell drumset featuring tigerwood and walnut shells with a wenge inlay. The two types of wood are joined together with a rabbet joint. The tom shells are .375″ thick and have forty-five-degree round-over edges. The bass drum is .5″ thick and has full round-over edges. The snare is .5″ thick and has double forty-five-degree edges.

This kit came with a 16×22 bass drum, 9×13 and 16×16 toms, and a 6.5×14 snare. The snare and toms came with 3mm triple-flanged hoops. The toms had Evans G2 Coated batters and Genera Resonant bottoms. The snare had a Genera Dry batter and a Clear 300 bottom. The bass drum had an EQ3 Frosted batter and a Calftone resonant.

Doc Sweeney uses proprietary aluminum lugs, which incorporate rubber washers to provide less metal contact with the shell. The snare came with a Trick GS007 multi-step strainer and Sabian bronze wires. The drums are hand-rubbed with oil. The combination of the walnut and tigerwood segments and wenge inlay made this a truly unique shell with breathtaking beauty.

The Serengeti Sound

This kit’s name is not only accurate in terms of reflecting the natural beauty of the world-famous African region that inspired it, but also in terms of its sonic offerings. The depth of the snare shell and dry-sounding batter head resulted in an aggressive bite with very little decay. As I tuned the snare low and kept the snare wires loose, I was able to get a fat, classic R&B sound with a good “splat” and minimal resonance. It sounded like I had a wallet sitting on top of the drum.

At higher tuning, the snare still provides quite a bit of depth beneath cracking rimshots. The 6.5″ depth and dry, warm tone of the shell may not provide the same versatility as a shallower 5″ version would offer, but in return you get a powerhouse snare that shines in medium to low tunings.

The toms had deep, focused attack and dark overtones. Regardless of how I tuned them, they continued to provide a lot of power with a small amount of sustain. The short decay and deep timbre of the shells reminded me of the tribal sounds of African drums.

When tuned medium-low and left wide open, the bass drum had nice low-end punch with a bit more resonance than the toms. This let me channel more of a John Bonham vibe with a huge, round attack. I ended up preferring the bass drum tuned a tad higher and with a little bit of dampening inside to reduce some of the sustain. That setup worked great for jazz/fusion playing, as it provided focused punch and minimal resonance.

Final Thoughts

So who are these drums for? Well, I found them most appropriate for rock-type applications at medium to low tunings—there’s a sweet spot in that range that made me want to lay down meat-and-potato grooves that emphasize the kit’s dark, powerful tones. But the Serengeti would really be appropriate for any drummer who appreciates exquisite craftsmanship, dark overtones, a powerful attack, and one-of-a-kind beauty.