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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.”

Classic sounds: Charli Persip with Gil Evans

In this series we listen to some great recordings with cymbal sounds reminiscent of Cymbal & Gong cymbals I have played and owned. Here Charli Persip plays some very thin, funky K. hihats, and possibly 18″ and/or 20″ As or Ks. The hihats make the biggest impression, but the other cymbals are very cool to me, even as their sounds are difficult for me to define. They have a rather airy sound, non-metallic, and high pitched.

 

Mel Lewis on cymbals

Mel Lewis talks about cymbals in his 1985 Modern Drummer interview. This is pretty much the bible on the subject, as it relates to jazz:

Number and type
The average drummer usually uses two to four cymbals. To have any more than that is totally unnecessary, because where are you going to put them anyway, and how are you going to reach them? They shouldn’t be there just for looks. I notice that most people have crash, crash, splash, ride, and hi-hat. Very few young drummers play on their hihats, except in the rock situation where they generally play them closed and they play their 8th-note beat on them. They should learn that the hihat is another ride cymbal to be played properly—”ta, da-ka, ta, da-ka, ta,” changing rhythms and all that, open/closed, all open, half open, half closed. There are a lot of effects. To me, the hi-hat is another ride cymbal.
Every cymbal I use is a ride cymbal. Every one of my cymbals is also a crash cymbal. I only use three. Three is enough.
But every cymbal should be a ride cymbal and every cymbal should be a crash cymbal. I’ve been noticing that almost everyone has only one ride cymbal and a million crash cymbals. You don’t need the crash cymbals. You need the ride cymbals, because that’s where your whole thing is coming from. Crash cymbals are only for accents, so you can hit any cymbal for a crash.

Dark
I find that all the cymbals should be dark. If you want a high-pitched splash cymbal or crash cymbal, fine. That’s to your own taste. But darker cymbals are more complementary to horns than any other kind of cymbal. High-pitched cymbals have a tendency to obliterate high sounds.
The more high-pitched cymbals you have, the more trouble you’re going to give the band. Also, for riding in a big band, I think that the pingier a cymbal is and the less overtone and spread it has, the more empty everything will be. It’s important that you have a good, full, fat-sounding cymbal. Finding cymbals like that today seems to be a problem. They are all too heavy. Definition is one thing, but those pings do not cut through. There has to be a little more sound to a cymbal than they’re creating right now. They’ve forgotten how to make ride cymbals with color. They don’t know what dark sound is. That’s why I still like the old K.’s. They’re hard to find, but it seems like they are the only cymbal that was made for music.

Orchestrating cymbals for big band
[W]hen you hit a high crash cymbal with the brass section while they’re up in that high register, you will knock out half their sound. But if you hit a cymbal that will blend with that section—in other words, if there are four trumpets and the fourth is playing the lowest part, you should be the fifth trumpet, which is lower yet. Now of course, we can’t go that low all the time, but that’s the way I’m thinking musically. Trombones, of course, can go lower than my cymbals can, so I want to be somewhere in the middle register where I don’t obliterate the lead and I don’t destroy the bottom.
With the saxophones, you want a roaring sound to envelop, because reeds don’t have the power that the brass has. That’s why I believe that during a sax soli— where you have five saxophone players standing up playing together—nothing sounds better behind them than a Chinese ride cymbal, because there’s a blend. Bass violin players love Chinese cymbals because the low sound and the Oriental type of roar make the bass sound spring forward. That’s why, when we play big ensembles, I’ll go to that cymbal, and you can hear the bass just singing through everything. When you’ve got a whole ensemble, you want a strong, enveloping, low sound with a lot of clarity as far as the beat is concerned. It’s like a picture with a beautiful metal frame around it. It gives tremendous fullness to the sound of the band.

Big band drumming
That’s why I prefer the darker sounding cymbals and that is why I tell every drummer, “Every cymbal you have should be a ride cymbal, because you should treat the different sections with a different ride behind it.” There is nothing worse than the monotony of one cymbal going on behind everything. When the band is playing along and they keep hearing the same cymbal sound, it just disappears in their minds. But when you make a change to another ride cymbal, it wakes them up again.
Even in my dark sounds there is still a higher sound, a medium sound, and a lower sound. I’ll use the high sound behind a piano. I’ll also use the lowest sound behind a piano. But I won’t use the middle sound behind the piano because it’s too much in the piano’s range. Behind the piano, a flute, or a muted trumpet, I’ll also use the hi-hats or brushes. When I’m playing behind, say, a trumpet solo followed by a tenor solo, and I know that the tenor player is a hard-blower, I’ll use the Chinese cymbal behind the tenor. Now, if it’s just going to be a trumpet solo, or if the tenor player has a lighter sound, I’ll use my normal 20″ ride cymbal. But I’ll always save my Chinese for the hardest blowing soloist.
I don’t work it out; it’s just automatic—which cymbal suits which soloist. I want to have a low cymbal behind a soloist who has a harsh, high sound. With a subdued type of player who has a softer edge, I don’t want something that strong, so I go to a lighter, higher sound to complement it. When the band is roaring, for main ensemble work, I would stick with my 20″ ride or I would use my hi-hats and really lay into them, which was the norm in the old days anyway. If it’s an ensemble that keeps building, then when I hit the final loudest point, I’ll go to the Chinese.
So I might play three cymbals in the course of an ensemble. If you have three choruses of ensemble— which is rare—the first chorus is not going to be that shouting. It’s going to build to that. The second one is going to be stronger so you change cymbals. Then you go to the roarer for your last one.
Another thing I’ve found is that it’s good to change cymbals on the bridge of tunes and then go back. A bridge is a musical change, so your cymbals should be a musical change also. If it’s the first chorus, I’ll play
hi-hats for 16 bars, go to a light ride cymbal for the bridge, and then go back to the hi-hats to finish it out. Then I’ll go to my chosen ride cymbal for the solo.

As and Ks
At the time of the interview, hand-hammered, K-type cymbals were only beginning to be widely commercially available again, after being difficult to find for a decade or more. The older A. Zildjians Lewis refers to were generally thinner and less clean/bright than modern ones since approximately the later 1960’s.

The old A’s were too—the old ones. But today, they’re thinking in terms of loudness and durability rather than musicality. I know what I’m talking about because I hear the complaints from everybody. I see it in your magazine here. Everybody’s complaining about the cymbals—that they’re all too heavy. Even the famous rock players are complaining that they can’t find enough colors in their cymbals, but that they would really like to find some. And everybody wants to have an old K. There’s a reason for that. I’ve been playing original K. Zildjian cymbals practically all my life.
The early hand-me-downs from my father were all K.’s, because that’s what he used. Then I bought my first A., which I still have to this day. That’s the famous one with the pieces cut out. Buddy Rich says it’s probably the greatest ride cymbal of all time. I feel the same way about it. Everybody seems to know that cymbal. Of course, it’s reached a point in its life where I can only use it occasionally, so I just use it for small-group recordings now, because it’s starting to crack again, but it still has its flavor. That would have been considered a bad A. in its time and it would be considered a horrible A. today because it was low pitch and a real medium weight, but that came from my K. ears.
Later on, when I came to New York, I used A.’s for a while. All my A.’s were really considered by most people as not very good. They were all low pitched, but they had definition. Bandleaders I worked for were always complaining about them—that they spread too much and so on—but that was what I liked. You either took me as I was or that was that. When I joined the Kenton band, I needed to use A.’s because they are louder and I needed the volume. So I stayed with the A.’s there for a while. One of my ride cymbals was that famous one, with two rivets in it, which is my trademark. To this day, I’ve been using two rivets in my ride cymbal. Of course, as soon as I left the Kenton band I switched to K.’s completely. That was the end of ’56. With my small-group playing, actually, I was using K.’s all along, but I became a permanent K. player from ’56 on.

For more background on Lewis, this Modern Drummer piece by Rick Mattingly is highly recommended.