Classic sounds: Art Taylor with Sonny Clark

Here is Art Taylor playing a very interesting ride cymbal that reminds me very much of some Cymbal & Gong cymbals I’ve played— in fact it’s quite similar to the first C&G cymbal I bought. The tune (and album) is Sonny’s Crib, by Sonny Clark, recorded in 1957.

It is a apparently a 20″ K. Zildjian ride, with rivets, medium weight— I’m guessing around 1925-2000 grams. A traditional medium, not a modern medium. Overall pitch is high, with pronounced high and low harmonics. A moderately dark sound, and not particularly warm— while the horns are playing it seems that it could well be an A. Zildjian; the “raspy” sounding highs are, to my ear, as much a feature of the old As as “darkness” is of old Ks. I hear that quality on a lot of records, and a lot of C&G cymbals have it. The cymbal’s low end has a slight exotic edge— you can hear that most clearly during the piano solo. Strangely, it almost sounds like a different cymbal with the piano than with the horns. I had to check a few times to confirm that it wasn’t. Listening during the piano solo, it seems clear that it is a K.

The other cymbals present seem to be an 18″ A, and 14″ or 15″ hihats. They’re pleasing-sounding, and fairly straightforward— the 18 is clean, full, and fairly low pitched; it still is a high, energetic sound when crashed next to the 20″. Taylor rides the 18 with a brush during the bass solo. The hihats seem to be light medium, with a nice foot sound that is not too chunky, not too soft. He crashes them two or three times during the track, but I couldn’t get a particular handle on describing the sound there.

Jazz stick round up

Reposted from the CRUISE SHIP DRUMMER! site:

For many years I’ve used one stick: the Vic Firth SD-11 Slammer. It’s a maple stick the size of a 5B with a rounded arrow tip. It’s big, but since it’s made of maple, it’s not overpowering. I get a nice, full, round sound with them, and I’ve still been able to play as quietly as I’ve ever needed. At some point I realized I could switch from brushes to Slammers with no volume change, and I decided I could just use the one stick.

But a 5B is really big, and I have begun to feel the limitations to using the one fat, light stick— under some conditions, that full round sound can be a detriment. The body of the tone can compete with the attack.

So here are some notes on some sticks I’ve been trying out, taken roughly in order from smallest to largest:

 

Regal Tip 7A — diameter: 0.52″ / length: 15″
I’ve had a pair of these with nylon tips kicking around for a number of years. They’re short and extremely thin. Much smaller than any other stick I have ever normally used.

I took them out and used them on a gig, and they do make for a very intimate sound on the drums, while still having a cutting attack. Good for guitar/piano/vibes— I’m not sure I’d choose them if there was a strong horn player present. They’re an excellent bossa nova stick— it’s easy to play the very fast cymbal rhythm, with a very aggressive, edgy high pitched sound out of the snare drum.

Nylon tips have an unpleasantly bright sound on cymbals, and we normally recommend against them— but they project in a way other sticks do not, so they shouldn’t be totally discounted for live playing.

 

Bopworks Birdland Model — diameter: 0.5″ / length: 15 5/16″
Very interesting experience playing these sticks. They’re a quarter of an inch longer, but thinner than the Regal 7A, with an even longer taper, and thin oval bead. They feel extremely delicate— they are the thinnest, lightest stick I’ve ever played, in fact— if you are prone to digging in these may be difficult sticks for you. They don’t respond to that kind of touch, and you may break some sticks. You really have to just dance around on the drums for these to work. In the practice room, the sound of the instrument at first seemed thin and insubstantial.

…and then I used them on a gig, and they were fine. I had no problem adjusting my touch for them. There is a definite ceiling as to how loud you can play, but there was a very interesting sensation of responsiveness to dynamics— since the stick isn’t instigating a whole lot of vibration in the instrument, dynamic changes can be instantaneous. That was my experience both with the Birdlands and the Regal 7As. By comparison, my Slammers are like a PT boat roaring around, leaving a big wake. The Birdlands/Regal 7As are more like stones skipping across the water.

What I initially thought was a thin sound on cymbals is really just an order of magnitude softer than normal sticks; when you’re using them, especially when playing with people, the sound is not thin. In coming weeks/months I’ll be using these sticks more than any others listed here.

 

Bopworks 7D Mel Lewis Model — diameter: 0.54″ / length: 15 1/8″
Similar in size to the Regal 7A, but a quarter of an inch longer, with a shorter taper. Weight is somewhat balanced toward the bead end, so they produce a fuller sound. To me they feel rather stubby— I find myself holding them close to the butt. They seem to be designed for Mel’s low, deep tom sound. I’m still undecided on how useful these will be for me.

The Bopworks brand duplicates signature models of sticks from the 40s-60s, with a definite doctrinal perspective that they are the correct sticks to use for jazz. Whether or not you agree with that, everyone listens a lot to the drummers of that period, and it’s enlightening to be able to approximate the instruments/implements they used. If you take those Birdland sticks on a gig, you realize that oh, those drummers really must have been doing a different thing from what I’ve been doing. It’s a rare thing for any drum stick to give me any kind of musical revelation, and I will be using these a lot.

 

Vic Firth American Classic 7A — diameter: 0.54″ / length: 15 1/2″
Very solid-feeling 7As. Half an inch longer than the Regal, fatter bead, shorter taper, slightly fatter shaft. Chunky compared to the other sticks in this size. VF American Classic hickory sticks generally seem to be stuck in the 80s, when power drumming was the norm. Drummers were playing medium-heavy cymbals, with Pinstripes on the toms, and everything was all about slamming, full, deep sounds.

Despite the similarity in size, these sticks are a very different playing experience from the others so far. They’re very solid, and not so different from the heavier sticks I’m used to. These are probably the only stick from VF’s American Classic line I would consider using today.

 

Vic Firth SD-4 Combo — diameter: 0.545″ / length: 15 7/8″
A very popular stick with jazz players, which I used for a long time. When I gave them up, I felt they were the worst of all worlds— too thin, too short, and too light. Compared to the other sticks here, these are not at all small; about the size of a 5A, and maybe a quarter of an inch shorter than my Slammers. The tip is basically a cube with a rounded end, and they’re made of maple. They produce a full sound from a cymbal, with fairly weak definition compared to the other sticks here, which was part of my original complaint about them. That was borne out on the same gig where I played the Birdlands and Regals— I played the Combos for half a tune then put them away. Overall not bad, though, and I will continue to try to find a way to use them. A lot of good players use them and sound great.

 

Vater Sweet Ride — diameter: 0.53″ / length: 16″
Long hickory 7A with a short taper, and very small round bead. These are really strange. This stick produces a lot of body, and little attack. I don’t know the reason for wanting that sound from a cymbal— maybe if it was a heavy, ugly sounding cymbal. It works OK with my 22″ Sound Creation Dark Ride— a very heavy cymbal compared to anything on this site. But I think this may be a bad design for jazz drummers playing normal jazz-weight cymbals.

 

Vic Firth American Jazz AJ6 — diameter: 0.55″ / length: 15 1/2″
Weird, short hickory 5A with shaved-down end, small acorn bead. I can see breaking these easily if you’re prone to digging into the drums/cymbals. The last two inches of the stick is thinner than all of the other sticks listed here, which give a strange muting effect when played on a cymbal. Possibly a good stick for playing with a vocalist, or playing very quietly on cymbals are too heavy. A skilled player could certainly get a very refined, museum-like sound with these.

 

Vic Firth American Jazz AJ2 — diameter: 0.565″ / length: 16″
A refined 5A, with a very long taper, fat smallish acorn bead. A companion to the VFAC 7A. Both of them are good general purpose sticks, and alternatives to my Slammers— but being made of hickory, they do get a harder sound. Sometimes in club settings you need the cymbals and drums to cut more, and these would be good for that.

 

Vic Firth Peter Erskine Ride Stick — diameter: 0.575″ / length: 16″
The biggest, heaviest stick here. A big 5A, hickory, with a small tip. Seeming designed for Erskine’s round, musical sound on the cymbals and toms, this stick is made to give a nice sound when digging in. Weight is emphatically balanced at the bead end, which feels good when you’re playing medium tempo full strokes on the cymbal. That’s a very 80s feel to me— we used to like sticks weighted at the end, with some “throw.”

These would be a good alternative if you’re used to playing relatively big fusion sticks like a 5A, and want a nicer cymbal sound. Or if you’re using lighter sticks and want something heavier, but still “musical.”

 

Vic Firth SD-11 Slammer — diameter: 0.61″ / length: 16 1/4″
After playing all of these sticks, my usual sticks feel very big, but they still work for me. I have no problem playing them quietly, but I have noticed that they overwhelm certain thin, very live cymbals. I don’t think we should be buying cymbals that demand a certain kind of stick, but that’s a subject for a different post.

The Slammer is most similar in playing experience to the Firth AJ2 and 7A; they are all normally balanced, and produce a full range of overtones from a cymbal or drum. The Slammer gets a nicer tone, and the others have more attack— I don’t think it’s a very pretty attack sound. Kind of a thud with the larger sticks and a thwack with the lighter ones. As I already said about the Slammer, in some conditions the body of the sound competes with the attack, and definition can suffer.

Germany tour report!

In December we had a really great time meeting, hanging out with, and bringing cymbals to drummers in Berlin and Dresden.

Big shoutouts to Tim Ennis at Cymbal & Gong, and Michael Griener for instigating and facilitating this whole thing. Shoutouts to Sebastian, Moritz, Tim, Valentin, Manuel from Augsburg, Heinrich, Joshua, Paul, Claas, André who charged in at the last minute and bought a 22″, and Yorgos who bought a 16″ crash I left behind. Also shoutouts to Ernst, Martial, Felix, Tobias, Simon, Dag, Pablo from Barcelona, and all of the drummers at Hochschule für Musik Carl Maria von Weber in Dresden. And to Carlos in Mexico, who bought a really nice 22″ ride “LeRoi ”right before I left, and Jens from Rotterdam who sat in when I was playing at Hat Bar in Berlin on the 9th— and Jonathan from Toronto for taking me on for that gig.

Shoutout to Berlin for being a truly incredible city, and Dresden for being incredible in a different way, and Germany in general for being infectiously wonderful. Shoutout to Planwirtschaft in Dresden for the schnitzel and bockbier, and Pivovarský Klub in Prague for the lunch specials and great scene. And to 500 ml beers and every kebab shop in Germany. Shoutout to the ice skaters and the street guy in Alexanderplatz. Shoutout to the U-Bahn. Shoutout to all the glühwein, good and bad.

Another visit to Cymbal & Gong

A few videos from today’s visit with Tim Ennis at Cymbal & Gong headquarters.

Labeling and cold-stamping the Krut 22″ Ride “Clevon”:

As we discuss in the video, we should see more of this “Krut/Turk” style cymbal in 2019, under the series name “Midnight Lamp”— there was another new series that was going to have that name, that will now be called “Oaktown.”

Briefly demonstrating four new Holy Grail Jazz Rides— a 19″ selected for Michael in Berlin, a 22″, a 20″ and another 22″. These 22s especially are rather deep, mysterious, funky cymbals. The 20″ will be getting a special heavy patina. The stick I’m using in all of these videos is a hickory Vic Firth American Classic 5A— a much heavier stick than I normally use.

Playing a lot of 16″ Holy Grail Crashes, 20″ Jazz and Medium Rides, and a few other items. Most are Holy Grail, or Kervan— which is HG without a patina. Also some Leon Collection, which is a custom line of generally light, bright, airy modern cymbals. The last cymbal played is a prototype of a new series of rock cymbals. If you hear any cymbal you like, email us with the exact time it appears in the video. Many of these will be shipped to other dealers soon.

Playing some Mersey Beat 18″ Crash-Rides. These cymbals will be on hold for a short time.

Classic sounds: Mel Lewis with Chet Baker

We refer to Mel Lewis often, for good reason; he was one of the most vocal authorities on cymbal sounds for jazz, and was known for consistently having some of the best sounding cymbals in drumming. This recording by Chet Baker exemplifies everything we’re looking for in a good cymbal sound: defined stick sound, big, exciting crash sound, overall tonality more warm than dark.

It’s notable that the sounds are all fairly straightforward— they’re focused, and not particularly trashy, washy, or exotic. The sound of the cymbal perfectly supports what is being played on it. Lewis gets some funkier effects with the hihats, which are thinner, with a very big sizzle when played half-open.

 

 

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Choosing cymbals

UPDATE: Videos of individual cymbals are now on YouTube, with more coming tomorrow (10/30). All will be listed on this site this week.

While we are getting the recordings and descriptions of the new cymbals together, here is a rudely-edited video from the cymbal selection process on Friday. If you want to purchase anything you hear, send us a note, including the exact time that the cymbal is being played, and we’ll do our best to locate it.

Recorded on an iPhone with a Rode VideoMicro microphone.

 

Order of cymbals played:

0:00 – 22″ Holy Grail rides Richard and Louis, with patinas. I believe Richard is on the right.

0:41 – 19″ Holy Grail rides and crash/rides. None of these were purchased, but we can likely get them if you contact us before 11/5. Same with other cymbals in the video.

1:35 – 20″ Holy Grail jazz rides. We took several of these.

3:28 – 20″ Holy Grail rides – adding some slightly heavier cymbals. Cymbal & Gong 20″ medium rides are typically in the 2050 gram range— very light for a medium, and very versatile.

6:00 – Two 20″ Mersey Beat crash/rides. We took the one on the left.

6:45 – Two 20″ American Artist rides. This series has more medium-weight cymbals, with a bright finish.

7:25 – 20″ Kervan jazz ride or crash/ride. Kervan is the same as the Holy Grail jazz weight, but with a natural finish. Patinas can be applied to all cymbals if you wish.

7:50 – 22″ very light Holy Grail jazz rides— under 2100 grams— and the unlathed “Krut” ride. The Krut is a little thinner than the jazz rides, with a deep but well-defined sound. Normal HG jazz rides are ~2300 grams.

12:00 – Playing more 22″ Holy Grail rides. At 14:30 we discuss doing a special, extra heavy patina on that cymbal, which has a distinct muting effect. That cymbal is on hold at C&G if anyone wants it— we won’t be listing it on this site this week.

15:00 – Adding some slightly heavier 22″ Holy Grails.

17:48 – New custom series “Midnight Lamp.” I believe sizes are 14, 16, 18, 21, and 22. Let us know if you’re interested in this series— it may be possible to get these cymbals if the dealer who ordered them passes; certainly more can be ordered. It’s undecided whether this will be a regular series.

22:25 – 18″ Holy Grail crashes; I believe some rides and crash/rides are mixed in. I had a hard time deciding— there were a lot of nice 18s that sounded similar (I continue to be impressed by C&G’s consistency), and I only took three.

29:39 – Chinese/swish cymbals. Sizes are 18-24″. Fairly unique design with a wide flange and large bell. Weight is approximately medium-thin. This was not a great room for listening to swish cymbals; at the time they seemed very explosive and somewhat uncontrollable for riding. But the one 20″ I brought back to my studio is actually a great performing swish; should be great for light riding (typically you only ride lightly or extremely loudly on a swish anyway), very responsive for light accents, and of course the powerful crash is always available. Cymbal & Gong smiths have controlled the more obnoxious/abrasive overtones that are often a problem with Chinese-type cymbals.

34:30 – 15″ Holy Grail light hihats. Again, there were several excellent sets of these, and I had a hard time choosing.

Cymbal day this Friday!

UPDATE: Cymbals are in!

New cymbals we have available:

18, 20, and 22″ Holy Grail — ten fantastic rides and crashes, all in jazz weight. Many folks have been interested in 20 and 22″ rides, but these 18″ crashes are GREAT— I encourage you to consider them.

• One set of 15″ thin Holy Grail hihats. There were no 16″ hats in the new shipment , unfortunately, but these 15s are just as good. More are available— I played several equally good sets.

20″ Mersey Beat ride— I have two currently available.

22″ custom Turk-style ride— or “Krut”, as the smiths call it— unlathed, thin, with a low, complex sound, with good definition.

20″ Swish. I’ve never gotten to play C&G’s Swish cymbals before, and they were very interesting, with a unique profile— larger bell and wider upturned edge than is found on most other brands. Medium-thin, available sizes from 18-24″.

There was another interesting custom line, “Midnight Lamp”, with features similar to another brand’s “Anniversary” series. These were special-ordered by a dealer in California, who has first option to buy them. I think they’re very cool, and will buy them if that dealer passes. Dark, well-defined, somewhat more aggressive than the Holy Grails.

Video of the selection process is coming soon, as well as audio/video of the new cymbals— check back throughout the weekend!

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The last shipment of the year has arrived, and we will be selecting cymbals for the December 2018 Germany tour on Friday, October 26th. The best variety of sizes/models will be available that day— email us today to make your requests!

We will be meeting people and showing cymbals in Berlin (Dec. 3) and Dresden (Dec. 5)— you can order/make requests as late as November 25th. Sign up for our mailing list or check the site for full tour details.

 

Bill Stewart on cymbal technique

Here’s a nice video of part of an interview with Bill Stewart, speaking with Quincy Davis of the University of Manitoba, in which he discusses his cymbal technique. Note that the conversation is entirely about sound— nothing about speed or high performance, nothing about technique in the abstract. It’s all about getting a sound he seeking from a cymbal he was using at the time.

Classic sounds: Ben Riley with Thelonious Monk

In this series we listen to some great recorded cymbal sounds, some reminiscent of Cymbal & Gong cymbals I have played and owned. Here Ben Riley is playing what sound like a medium weight 20″ K, and medium 18″ A. Both cymbals are straightforward, clean, dry, and rather heavier than you might expect. The 20 has a nice smoky accent sound, and a defined, rather metallic ride sound. The 14″ K hihats are darker and more complex, but we don’t hear as much from them. Played by itself during the drum solo, the 20 has an odd, very pronounced harmonic. The 18 is very clean.

Ronald Shannon Jackson on cymbals

The great drummer, composer, and band leader Ronald Shannon Jackson is best known as a player of a giant Sonor set with Paiste cymbals in the 80s and 90s, but here he talks about the old A. and K. Zildjians he played earlier in his career, in New York in the 60s:

“I remember how turned on I was by the K. Zildjian sound to begin with. Then when I heard Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, that was really it. I’ve played A. Zildjians. My mother bought me a set of Slingerlands when I got out of high school. That set came with a 22″ medium ride and a pair of 14″ hi-hats, so I’ve played A.’s all along. But when I was coming up, all the hip guys used K.’s and Gretsch. Every month in down beat there’d be these ads, and everyone looked so clean and sharp in their suits and ties: Max, Philly, Blakey, Art Taylor, Elvin and all of them.

Basically I find the differences between A.’s and K.’s to be a matter of taste. A.’s aren’t bad. I just prefer the warmth of a K., but a K. can be a lot worse if you don’t get the right one. I’m talking about the old cymbals, now. I used to be able to go across the bridge to the Gretsch factory when they were in Brooklyn. They’d warehouse all the K.’s, but man, after Elvin and Tony and those guys had picked their way through, there wasn’t much left. I couldn’t believe how many bad cymbals there were, but I figured somebody’s got to be buying them. In fact, some of those warped, funny belled cymbals really work for cats. I’ve got a 22″ K. I bought from Frank Ippolito for $70, from his last shipment of Turkish K.’s. Nobody wanted it because it was messed up with a bad dip in the cup, but you can get some beautiful sounds out of it… sometimes. To me, the tones of a K. allow for a variety of inflections, whereas an A. doesn’t change that much. You can get a great sound, but it’s always going to have that distinctive A. sound: bright, high pitched; with that big cutting bell sound.

But see, there are all kinds of K.’s. Some of them were so metallic that by the third set of a gig you’d be tired of listening to it. That’s why you have to find the right one. That’s how me and Tony Scott fell out. We were playing a gig at a club in the Village, and I had two K.’s: a crash and a ride. Right in the middle of a tune, Tony Scott came over, took my cymbals off the stands and reversed them, putting my crash where my ride was and my ride on the crash stand. He was basically right, because that ride was just too hard, especially for clarinet.”