January 30, 2021

New Stone Custom Drum kit in Black Pearl wrap

Another Stone Custom Drum beauty built with Bernie Stone's American Classic 3-ply shell formula and a durable Black Pearl wrap.

Readers of this blog know that I am a big fan of Bernie Stone.  Bernie founded Stone Custom Drum to continue building drums using the classic American formula, essentially building "new Slingerland" drums using equipment from the old Slingerland factory that he salvaged and refurbished.  You can read more about Bernie in my previous post, New Stone Custom Drum kit with American Classic 3-ply shells.

Vintage drums in black pearl wrap
(images may be subject to copyright)
Early last year, I started gigging a bit more, and while I love my Stone Custom Drum walnut-to-deep brown burst kit, I hate the idea of damaging its beautiful finish while lugging it around.  Without question, this is a first-world problem :)  I gave Bernie a call, and the good news is that he had time in his production schedule to build a kit with wrapped shells for me.

I have always liked the vintage American drum sets wrapped in Black Pearl, also known as Black Diamond Pearl or Black Marine Pearl.  Slingerland, Rogers, Ludwig, Premier, Gretsch, and other drum makers built drums with a version of this wrap as early as the 1950s.  After watching this video of a Stone Custom Drum kit in this wrap, I decided to check the box for Black Pearl.

Shells at SCD prepped for hardware, then packed for shipment
I ordered my new kit in my usual two-up, two-down tom configuration with a single bass drum.  I prefer Stone Custom Drum's American Classic maple-poplar-maple 3-ply shells with re-rings.  With Bernie cooking these drums up in the original Slingerland molds, I get shells in the classic American formula with modern hardware and Bernie's attention to detail.  It's like placing a custom order with the old Niles factory, but better.  Bernie sent me a few pics as the kit came together, which always makes the wait for the carefully packed shipping boxes much more difficult.

Because Bernie is a custom drum builder, I had a number of decisions to make to configure my new kit the way I wanted it.  I already knew that I wanted to go with the classic Slingerland-style stick-saver hoops and lugs, both in chrome.  Bernie recommended beavertail-style floor tom brackets and black bass drum hoops with Black Pearl inlays, and I decided to go with these vintage touches as well.

Evans G2 coated over G2 clear heads on the 12x14 floor tom
Next decision:  Drum heads.  I decided to go with Evans all-around--G1 coated over G1 clear on the rack toms, and G2 coated over G2 clear to tame the floor toms a bit.  I had Bernie outfit the bass drum with EMAD2 clear over EQ3 black (with port hole), and he added a Stone Custom Drum logo to the EQ3 reso head for me as I'm happy to spread the word!

Once the build was complete, Bernie asked if he could use my new kit in a photo shoot he had scheduled with Bill Ray.  I thought it would be fun to have my kit in the shoot, so I agreed.  Bernie shared a quick video as they were setting up my kit for the shoot, and it was an honor to have Bill test drive my new kit!
SCD American Classic shell pack in Black Pearl

When the drums arrived, I was struck by the timeless appeal of the Black Pearl wrap, and thankful that they were already fitted with modern hardware (e.g., suspension mounts).  I had been watching several vintage kits on eBay and Reverb, and for my situation, these "new vintage" drums are a much better choice.

I already have plenty of snare drums, so this order was for a shell pack rather than a complete kit.  Drum sizes are 7x10 and 8x12 rack toms with TIMS isolation/ suspension mounts, 12x14 and 14x16 floor toms with standard legs, and a "virgin" (not drilled for rack tom mount) 18x22 bass drum.  I prefer shallower rack toms to minimize their height over the bass drum, and I always mount them on a rack or separate stand to keep their weight off of the bass drum shell.  I also add Pearl R-40/3 rubber tips to the floor tom legs, which function as inexpensive mini-isolation mounts for floor toms.

Precision-cut vintage roundover edges
I specified vintage roundover edges on all of the shells.  I prefer the warmer tone roundover edges provide due to the increased contact between the head and the shell.  The quality of the finished edges is excellent on all of the shells.

Each drum includes SCD's black and brass badge, and Bernie finishes the interior of each shell with a signed decal identifying the drum and an amber lacquer that gives it a classic, finished look.

The drums look and sound great, and the durable Black Pearl wrap is a great choice for a gigging kit.  I'm looking forward to getting these American Classics on the road!


January 16, 2021

Vintage Pearl 5x14 brass snare - Stewart Copeland's "The Snare"

Identifying and purchasing the exact snare drum model Stewart Copeland refers to as "The Snare"--the backbeat behind most of The Police's hit records.

By Darin Soll

For many reasons, The Police are one of my all-time favorite bands, not the least of which is Stewart Copeland's brilliant drumming throughout their catalog.  Non-drummer fans of the band may not realize how much Stewart's world beat influences, and general avoidance of backbeats on 2 and 4, contributed to the band's unique sound.

My wife and I saw The Police on the Phoenix stop of their Reunion Tour in 2007.  I had been looking forward to Stewart's drumming and I wasn't disappointed--except for the dead snare mic during the first few songs in their set.  The brief mic issue really highlighted how important his rimshots are to "Message in a Bottle."

Much has already been written about Stewart's snare drum of "mysterious provenance" that cut through "the dirge from the bass and the ear-piecing sounds of a guitar."  However, there is a lot of confusion about which specific snare drum is "The Snare" that he used on most of The Police's recordings as well as many live performances.

Some of this confusion arises from the fact that Stewart has a long-running endorsement deal with Tama Drums.  While Tama did finally introduce its Stewart Copeland Signature Snare in 2001, "The Snare" was a standard Pearl (gasp!) 5x14 chrome-over-brass snare drum.

The rest of the confusion is created by inconsistencies in Pearl Drums' catalogs.  The same 5x14 10-lug chrome-over-brass snare drum equipped with a "professional die cast" or Gladstone-style throw alternated between two model numbers in Pearl catalogs of the late 1970's and early 1980's:

  • 1977 Pearl Drums catalog: Model 4214, branded as a "Custom Snare Drum" and featuring more rounded center beads, a vent hole centered on the beads, and an adjustable butt plate.  Pearl continued offering snares equipped with parallel-action throws under the "Jupiter" brand.
  • 1978 Pearl Drums catalog: Model B4514, which featured more squared-off center beads, a vent hole positioned below the beads, and a non-adjustable butt plate.  The '78 catalog accidentally associates the "Jupiter" name with the Gladstone-style throw by reversing the throw pics for snare drums "A" and "B" on page 16.
  • 1980 Pearl Drums catalog: Model 4214.  No changes to the drum, once again branded as a "Custom Snare Drum."  The "Jupiter" brand remains reserved for drums with parallel-action throws but headlines page 9 in a way that leads many to incorrectly believe that all chrome-over-brass snares are "Jupiters."
  • 1982 Pearl Drums catalog: Model B-4514.  No changes to the drum.  The "professional die cast" throw is unchanged but is now referred to as the S-015 "Gladstone" type throw.  The "Jupiter" brand is no longer used, but the parallel-action throw lives on with a new S-017 version, which adds an "X" to the end of the model number of any drum so equipped.

The inconsistencies in the '78 and '80 catalogs confused nearly everyone, and as a result, "The Snare" is often misidentified as a Jupiter.  What we do know is that "The Snare" was equipped with Pearl's "professional die cast" or Gladstone-style throw with a non-adjustable butt plate, as shown in this pic of "The Snare" from Stewart's "Sacred Grove" studio:

Stewart Copeland's "The Snare"

The lack of a parallel-action throw means that this drum was NOT a Jupiter.  The more squared-off center beads and non-adjustable butt plate indicate that this was a post-1977 drum.

Jeff Seitz, Stewart's drum tech, confirmed in 2019 that two Pearl snares (chrome-over-brass and chrome-over-metal/steel) were acquired after the release of Reggatta de Blanc and first used on the recording of Zenyatta Mondatta.  He also surmised that the first two albums were likely recorded using Tama King Beat 5x14 snares.  Assuming "The Snare" was purchased new, that would make it a late-'79 or early-'80 issue drum--either a model B4514 or a 4214, depending on when the drum was built and when Pearl implemented the model number change between the '78 and '80 catalogs.

The rest of "The Snare's" story is that Jeff replaced the original triple-flange batter hoops on both Pearl snares with diecast hoops because Stewart had dented the original hoops and even cracked one.  Diecast batter hoops provided a sturdier platform for Stewart's trademark rimshots.  The snare side of "The Snare" appears to be fitted with the original Pearl triple-flange hoop.  It is unclear what if anything this mixed-hoop setup contributes to the voice of "The Snare," but it would allow more precise lug-to-lug tuning on the snare side.

If substance was lacking in their triple-flange hoops, Pearl more than made up for it by using very substantial brass shells!  Tama incorporated both the mixed-hoop design and a heavy 1.5mm thick brass shell into their SC145.

Okay, enough of the history lesson--why does any of this matter?

Because two legendary drummers, Neil Peart of Rush and Stewart Copeland of The Police, were loyal to very specific non-Tama snare drums while endorsing Tama Drums.  They were loyal to these drums for a reason.  I've already posted about Neil's "Ol' Faithful" Slingerland snare, which has an amazing crack.  Stewart's Pearl COB snare would also be a worthy addition to a drummer's arsenal.

There are two options for drummers wanting to closely replicate Stewart's sound:

  1. Purchase Tama's Stewart Copeland Signature Snare (SC145)--about $500US new, or $300-$400US used.
  2. Find and purchase a used Pearl B4514/4214 in good condition--typically $200-$300US--and upgrade the batter hoop.  Use the magnet test to determine whether the shell is brass or steel.

In early 2011, I picked up a Tama SC145 on eBay for $240.  It was my primary snare for a while, but the throw was not properly aligned with the snare bed and it was a beast to dial in.  I eventually parted with it.

After reading again about "The Snare," I checked to see if I could pick up a Pearl B4514/4214 at a reasonable price.  Udrum offered one on Reverb at the beginning of January, also for $240, and I decided to purchase it.

The drum arrived in good condition, exactly as advertised, with some light scratches on the shell, minor pitting on the tension lugs and throw, and some rust on the hoops and tension rods.  The seller noted that the internal tone control was missing--not an issue since I remove them from drums I play, anyway.  I had already decided I was going to upgrade the the batter hoop, but I opted for a 3.0mm triple-flange model from Drum Factory Direct instead of diecast.  I've found that 3.0mm triple-flange hoops provide ease-of-tuning and rimshot advantages similar to diecast hoops, and diecast hoops are crazy expensive at the moment.

Vintage Pearl B4514/4214 with batter hoop and gasket upgrades--note that butt plate matches "The Snare"

In addition to the batter hoop, I replaced the tension rods--Pearl uses 35mm rods on its 5x14 snares equipped with double-ended lugs.  Wrapping up my parts order were Evans Power Center reverse dot batter and Hazy 300 snare heads, tension rod and lug gaskets, and Puresound Blaster 20-wire snare wires.  These upgrades added $100 to the cost of the drum. 

Lug gaskets for WorldMax's DC-010 appeared to be the best fit, so I decided to give them a try.  They protrude a bit from the tops and bottoms of the lugs, but I liked the look so I decided not to trim them back.  I know, I know--I admit that it's all but impossible to prove that gaskets improve a drum's sound, but I like the idea that they help isolate the shell from other metal parts that can resonate, perhaps not so musically.

As always, I disassembled and cleaned all of the components of this drum.  WD-40 helped remove rust and corrosion from the brass lug receivers and tension rod springs.  I used Turtle Wax Chrome Polish and Rust Remover to improve the appearance of the shell, tension lugs, and snare side hoop.

B4512/4214 includes Pearl's S-015 "Professional" Gladstone-style throw--
note extra holes from missing internal tone control

Puresound Blaster snare wires are always a solid upgrade

As you can see from the pics, the cleaned, re-assembled, and upgraded drum looks great.  More importantly, it sounds great--the voice of the heavy brass shell is loud and musical.  While the drum has a decent tuning range, it really sings at a higher tuning.  And the rimshots on this drum have me looking forward to getting to The Police in my playlist the next time I'm behind my kit!


P.S. - Not to add to the Jupiter confusion--but--this video compares three COB snares: (1) a vintage Rogers Dynasonic, (2) a Tama SC145, and (3) a pre-'78 Pearl Jupiter (note the more rounded beads and the parallel action throw).  Yes, the pre-'78 Pearl shell is slightly different, and of course the parallel snare strainer is completely different.  However, it has a very similar voice...similar enough that the video comparison is relevant to this post.