I spent some time in the drum shop this weekend. I was sent to the drum shop with a budget to pick up some cymbals for my school. I had to pick cymbals that were quality but still fit in my budget. I also didn't have time to spend hours selecting each individual cymbal. I found a boxed set of K Zildjians for a reasonable price. The set included a 14" K HiHats, 16" K Dark Medium Thin Crash, 20" K Ride and a 18" K Dark Medium Thin Crash. It has been 15 years since I last went shopping for a Zildjian cymbal but I believe I know their lines pretty well. I opened the box of cymbals when I got home expecting quality. I was wrong. Admittedly, I have been playing handmade cymbals for the last 15 years and I wasn't prepared for the sounds of these cymbals. Growing up, K Zildjians were the cymbals I always wanted because they were "jazz" cymbals. There is no way these cymbals were created for jazz. They are so heavy, The hi hats are heavier than the New Beats I owned when I was a kid and the ride has absolutely no character. These are terribly generic cymbals.
And that's my problem. I started playing handmade cymbals because they sounded like instruments. Sure, they have tons of issues like not being completely round or having drastic variations between cymbal models but they sound like instruments. Cymbals that are manufactured by computer have no character and they all have a hum. Listen closely and you can hear it. They have also become extremely heavy and metallic sounding over the last 20 years. I know that so many of you are getting ready to attack right now. I hear you. "I've been playing Zildjians since 1950 and they are the greatest ever!" "My Sabians make me cry tears of joy each time I strike them!" "Tony, Elvin, Jack and everybody else played Zildjians!" I know and I understand. I'm in the middle of a personal situation (more later) which will likely lead me back to playing computer made cymbals. Still, hear me out. All computer made cymbals have a hum and it is annoying. I'm not sure what the solution is or why I'm going on about it except that it makes me miss old Ks and leads me to the next part of this post.
The only thing I wanted for my drumset when I started playing music was genuine Zildjian cymbal. In 1994, I finally saved enough to buy my own. I was told that the most important cymbal is the ride and went into my local music store to buy a 20" A Zildjian Medium Ride. I was the happiest kid in America. I used that cymbal for a long time and it actually sounded okay. After all the gigs in bars, animal lodges and school dances, the cymbal started to change and so did my ears. In 2000 I upgraded to a set of K Customs and sold all of my cymbals except for the ride. It was the first and so it was special. I took it to the local music store and had them punch 3 rivets into it, The rivets did nothing to make the cymbal sound better. It developed a weird hum that I couldn't unhear. The K's also developed the same kind of hum and in 2005 I gave up using Zildjians and started using Bosphorus/Crescent cymbals. A few weeks ago, a friend of mine told me to stop by because she had a cymbal for me. It was my Old A which I totally forgot I lent her. So, to make this story longer...
I took the Old A to the drum shop with the hopes that they would help me with a little experiment. I decided to turn this Old A into an Art Blakey cymbal. I read somewhere that he used an old K that had the same sound and character as one might find in a modern Zildjian Medium A. So I figured, why not? I am a regular at this drum shop. The employees know me and usually go out of their way to help me out. When I asked them to drill the rivets for a Blakey cymbal, they all said no. Finally one guy said he would do it but he would have to charge their usual price of $5 per rivet. He estimated that I would need around $200 worth of labor. I couldn't believe they wouldn't knock this out for free. I could buy a new A medium ride for less than $200. I took the ride home and decided I would do the project myself. It took everything I had once I returned home not to go back to the drum shop and offer them $400 to do the job.
Do you know how hard it is to drill equal distant holes in a circle while having to use 3 existing holes as a guide? I didn't have the math skills for this job. After hours of planning, I finally mapped out my hole pattern and started drilling. I promise you that drilling 3 or 6 holes is no big deal but trying to drill 56 holes is a nightmare. I did my best and the cymbal actually looks pretty good. Well...as good as a 20 year old cymbal that's been in every bar East of the Mississippi can look.
If you've read this far, I am sure you care very little about how the cymbal looks. The most important question is of course, how does it sound? Well, not great...but not terrible. There are two golden rules to follow when adding rivets to a cymbal: 1. Adding rivets to a bad sounding cymbal will not make it a good sounding cymbal; 2. the more rivets you add, the less effective they become. I broke both rules. I took a mediocre cymbal and hoped that adding a ton of rivets would make it sound amazing. I'm an idiot. It sounded bad and now still sound kind of bad. The cymbal is not without character though. It is now extremely dry, although the hum is still there. I'm going to try to take some of the hum out with duct tape tomorrow. The rivets basically add weight to the cymbal. They really don't make much of a noise. It does look cool and a shuffle sound pretty interesting. I'm going to keep working with this cymbal but I doubt it'll ever see a gig again.
So, if you're interested in making your own Blakey cymbal, my suggestion is, don't. It's a waste of time, money, and brain power. It also creates the most dangerous cymbal in your cymbal bag as there's nowhere to grab the cymbal without getting a rivet in the finger. It does look cool...maybe I'll try that smoking thing again.