"People who make no noise are dangerous."
--Jean de La Fontaine

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Toy Cymbals

I like anything that makes noise. I have a collection of odd cymbals, some of which have been discussed in other posts, that I thought would be fun for you readers to actually hear. Please keep in mind that everything was recorded with a digital camera and that all of the playing was done with one hand.

The Splat

This is a special cymbal for me and I have had it a long time. I bought it and a snare drum for $10 at a yard sale. The cymbal was one of my first experiments. The cymbal is 10" and is made of very thin sheet brass which I drilled and added a bunch of rivets. It sounds pretty weird but in the right spots, is perfect. 


 This recording is the cymbal by itself. It's so light that it works well on a hi hat clutch. The rivets  are heavy enough that it doesn't make sound when  you play the pedal.


This is the cymbal mixed into a groove. 

The Crasher

The Crasher is a pair of Royce cymbals that I found. They are thin and have warped edges. These edges allow them to sit on top of each other without getting stuck together and thus make a cool sound. 

Here is what both cymbals sound like. Apart, they sound terrible but I dig the sound they make together. I have tried to adjust the tension, i.e. making the cymbals clamp tighter together, but it doesn't work. Only having the cymbals lay on top of one another in a loose fashion works.

Toy Hand Cymbals

This is a pair of mini hand cymbals that would come with a kid's instrument set. They sound terrible when crashed together.

However, they work wonders for snare drum sounds. This is an older studio trick where you can change the sound of the snare by adding a splash cymbal. It gives the drum a snappier sound, especially when heard through good microphones. I like using these cymbals for this so I don't mess up my good splash cymbals and because these cymbals have a little handle attached, it makes it easier to get them off the drum when I'm finished.


Sorry about the poor camera work here. I wanted you to hear what the snare sounded like with a groove. The camera is sitting on my floor tom, which I am not hitting, and wouldn't stay still. I thought it looked cool so I decided to keep the video. The playing is so-so. 

If you have the opportunity to find some cheap toy cymbals, grab them. You never know what kind of fun you could have with them. 

Monday, June 8, 2015

1970s A Zildjian Swish Cymbal

This is a 20" A Zildjian Swish cymbal with 6 rivets. The swish cymbal has a long history in the jazz world as being the cymbal that every big band player must have. I have wanted one of these for a long time and couldn't stop myself from buying this one when it came up.

I have had 2 swish cymbal besides this one and got rid of both. The first I returned to the factory because it had cracks where the rivets were drilled and frankly, it sounded terrible. The other was a beautiful 22" Bosphorus which I still can't believe I let go. (Long story) This Zildjian is certainly no replacement for that Bosphorus but it sounds great. It has a complex, articulate ride sound with just enough sizzle.

I'm not entirely sure about the history, but it seems that swish cymbals came with 6 rivets until the 1980s when they were bumped up to a beefier 22" with 20 rivets. I like the 6 rivets over the 20 as that many rivets can be hard to control. This cymbal had 3 original rivets when I bought it but they were steel and had rusted. I replaced all the rivets with some brass Bosphorus split rivets which are lighter and have a more musical sound to my ear. I can't wait to take this cymbal on my next gig and see how it performs with a tenor saxophone.   

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Elephant Bells

I was wandering through an antique store in Amish country when I stumbled upon these little beauties.

These are commonly called elephant bells or meditation bells. The following is from creekbed.org which explains what these bells do better than I can.

"The bells are cast in factories in a small town called Jalesar. This is a town in a northern state of India, called Uttar Pradesh; an area well known for brass work. The cloisonn-like coloring is done in another town situated close by, called Moradabad. The bells are hung about the elephant's necks so the Mahouts can locate their animals while they are out in the jungles.

The style of these bells has not changed since the 17th century as can be seen on Mughal paintings from that period."

I really love the detail on each bell. I am not sure how old these bells are or how they ended up in Amish country. All I know is that they are useful in the percussion world, including serving as part of the instrumentation for several Lou Harrison compositions.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

New Sabian Cymbals Post 1-- 22" Artisan Medium Light Ride and an 18" Ed Thigpen Signature Flat Ride

Well, a lot has happened recently. I never thought I would say it but...I am a Sabian artist, sort of. I was an artist with Bosphorus Cymbals and when the company split, I continued as an artist for Crescent Cymbals. Earlier this year, Crescent sold everything to Sabian, including their artist roster. It's a weird time that I have yet to completely understand but I am excited about the possibilities. Since I did not actually own any Sabian cymbals, I thought it might be nice to pick some up. I think of my first order from Sabian as having 2 parts. Part 2 will be discussed in another post. 

The first cymbal in my Sabian order was a 22" Artisan Medium Light Ride. The first thing I have to tell you is the presentation of this cymbal is unlike anything I have ever seen. The cymbal came in its own velvet lined bag which included a letter that discussed its inclusion as part of a very limited run of cymbals. Pretty cool! In addition, the cymbal looks amazing. The logo is small and the hammering markings are unique.

Of course a cymbal can look amazing but it is the sound that is most important. I took this cymbal on a gig too see how it would perform and I have to tell you that I have mixed reviews. The gig was a typical jazz group with piano, bass, and drums augmented with 3 horns players and a singer. I thought this cymbal would be an interesting choice with so many horn players.

This is a big cymbal and it responds a such. It has a lot of wash and can easily get out of control, which is a problem. I must say however that no matter how washy the cymbal got, the stick definition was always clear. I will admit that the cymbal did not match well with my Crescents. It didn't seem to have the same complexity or subtlety. The cymbal was just too aggressive for playing standards. There was a point in the gig where I started playing a groove like Elvin and the cymbal really came alive but moments like that were few and far between on this gig. During a set break, two of the horn players asked me not to use this cymbal while they were soloing. Ouch! With that being said, I still like this cymbal. I'm just not exactly sure where or how to use it. I am not giving up on the Artisan series and I think with a little extra love, this cymbal will become a favorite in the future.

I was super excited about the second cymbal I received in this order. It is an 18" Ed Thigpen Signature Flat Ride. If finding a ride cymbal is difficult, I believe that finding a good flat ride is damn near impossible. I have had several and have never been completely happy with any of them. I used to own a 22" Ed Thigpen Signature Flat Ride which was a nice cymbal but it was simply too big for any gig at which you would need a flat ride.

Anyway, I requested this ride and Sabian made one for me at their custom shop. I'm really excited about this cymbal. I haven't had a chance to use it yet on a gig but it sounds amazing out of the box. I added 2 rivets to the cymbal yesterday and it really made this plate sing. It has a beautiful crystal sound with all of the refinement you would hope to have in a flat ride. If you're looking for a good flat ride, this might be the one.

New Sabian Cymbals Post 2 -- 10" Sabian SR2 Splash and a 12" Canadian Crescent Splash Cymbal

The Sabian splash cymbals discussed in this post were not part of my order placed with Sabian but cymbals I bought over the last few months. 

There was a weird time in between the merger of Sabian and Crescent when it appeared that Crescent would exist as a separate company, but would be distributed by Sabian with Sabian making one specific series of Crescent cymbals. I honestly don't know how long this idea lasted, but it wasn't long. I ordered a 12" Classic Splash from Crescent, which should have been hand made in Turkey and instead, received a 12" unmarked Crescent Classic splash made in Canada. It was a confusing time and also telling of what was to come. 

As I have mentioned in other posts, I like my splash cymbals to sound like little crash cymbals, not like bells. This cymbal fits that bill and is a nice all around splash. It is still weird for me to see "Crescent: Made in Canada," but I'm getting used to it. 
This 10" Sabian SR2 Thin Splash is a great example of what happens when I go to a drum shop. Do I need yet another splash cymbal? No. Did that stop me from buying one? No. The SR2 series is made from cymbals that have been returned from trade shows or by artists. They could be any model from Sabian which are then re-lathed and re-stamped. I don't completely understand why you would have to go through all of this trouble to get a different cymbal. For example, in the Sabian video which explains this series, there is a guy who says something like, "There are fingerprints on this cymbal. It'll be a good candidate for the SR2 series."  Why not just clean off the fingerprints and sell the cymbal? I'm not sure but I am a fan.  First, the price of these cymbals are super discounted. A student can now purchase a descent sounding cast cymbal for the price of buying cymbals made of sheet metal. Second, the cymbals are all different so you have to actually search through them to find one that suits your taste. Finally, the cymbals are marked Heavy, Medium, and Thin. I truly believe all cymbals should be marked this way. 

This particular cymbal caught my ear because it sounded different than my other cymbals. It has a clangy sound, think Wuhan splash sound, but is still musical. I think this will be a nice cymbal to use with a multiple percussion piece I have been playing. Seriously, the price was so cheap I had to buy it. If you get a chance to check out some of the SR2 cymbals, I suggest you buy one. They are a lot of fun.

New Sabian Cymbals Post 3 -- 16" HH Viennese and 18" Artisan Medium Light Hand Cymbals

The second part to my Sabian order was 2 pairs of hand cymbals. I play both popular and orchestral music so it is nice to have a few sets of hand cymbals.

The first set in this part of the order was a pair of 16" HH Viennese crash cymbals. They looked beautiful out of the box and came with nylon cymbal straps. I will most likely replace these with leather straps soon. They have a focused sound which is neither too dark or too bright. They have a lot of shimmery crash sound without a lot of bell like tones. All around, this is a nice set of cymbals. While a pair of 16" hand cymbals may seem too small for many people, I find that they are actually quite versatile.  These cymbals are great for pit work, musicals, small operas, use with brass bands, and other types of chamber percussion work.

The second set of cymbals to arrive with this part of the order was a set of 18" Artisan Medium Light crash cymbals. Like the Artisan mentioned above, the cymbals came with a card designating them as part of a limited run of cymbals. This pair of cymbals came with a pair of leather straps. Out of the bag, these cymbals look gorgeous. The raw bell against the dark bronze color of the cymbals is really striking. The cymbals are really interesting. They sound unlike any pair of crash cymbals I have played before. They have a dark, complex sound which is pleasant but unique. The closest comparison I can make is that this pair of cymbals sounds like cymbals you might hear in symphonic recordings from the 1930s and 1940s.

I completely recommend picking up a pair of these plates. They are super expensive but anyone buying a set of crash cymbals usually isn't worried about the price. It's all about sound and this set of cymbals is worth every penny.  I can't wait to use them on a gig!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

18" Zildjian K Thin Dark Crash

I've received a ton of cymbals in the last few months. It's like Christmas! If I have some time to kill when travelling, I will always haunt a pawn shop. It turns out to be a waste most of the time but I have found some deals including this 18" Zildjian K Thin Dark Crash that I found at a local pawn shop. It looked like it had never been used so I assumed it was purchased new by the store. When I asked, the salesman said some kid brought it in because it didn't sound good. It sounds like your typical K to me. I wouldn't have purchased it but the price was extremely low. Think 2 people eating at Taco Bell low. Anyway, I couldn't let it die in the pawn shop. I bought it and I figure I'll use it on my teaching kit so my students will stop beating on my good equipment.  

Start searching those pawn shops. You never know what you might find.