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.

 

Selecting cymbals

I want to give a little context for the late talk about cymbals; mainly, what I think is good and bad, and my thinking when hand-selecting Cymbal & Gong brand cymbals for people who want to buy them through this site.

First, I’m talking about cymbals for all genres of acoustic and moderately amplified music, and for recording— meaning the full dynamic range of the cymbal is used, from extremely soft to as strong as the cymbal can play with a musical sound. I don’t factor for extreme power drumming situations, arena volume, or for relentless bashing with heavy sticks. My standard for a good cymbal tone for this purpose comes mainly from jazz recordings of the 1950s and 60s, and from drummers who continued using older cymbals into the 70s.

The main questions are: how does it sound, how well does it do all the normal things you expect a cymbal to do, how does it handle when playing with an ensemble, and does it project and blend appropriately for its purpose.

Cymbals I choose for my own use have to meet the Mel Lewis standard— everything is a ride, everything is a crash. Within that I have my own categories of primary (your main cymbal on which you will do most of your playing), secondary (“left side” cymbal, contrasting the primary— usually smaller, and either heavier or lighter, maybe more idiosyncratic), crash (good for stronger, faster, more cutting accents and light riding), and hihats (obvious).

Overall impression of the sound can be clean or complex, refined or pleasantly chunky. Should have a focused ride sound free of unpleasant overtones, an excellent stick sound, bell sound, shoulder of the stick accent sound, and an explosive but musical crash. Controllability is important; I don’t want the wash to easily overwhelm the stick sound in normal playing. Hihats should have a solid foot sound, and a good sizzle when played half-closed, and preferably a good bell sound. Performance should be excellent in a dynamic range of very soft to very strong.

More broadly, do I like it? Do I want to play it, or do I want to move away from it? How comfortable is it to play? Do I have to adjust my touch for it?

Things I consider to be flaws include: an overall unpleasantly crude sound, overall poorly defined sound, unpleasant overtones, over-brightness, over-darkness, metallic, washing out easily, hard to control, won’t crash, piercing bell sound, weak bell sound, unpleasant gong-like overtone, too much noise/trash in the tone, too refined/glassy a sound to the point of having no body; too loud or too soft when played normally with other cymbals— especially when the crash sound is unbalanced, either underwhelming or over-loud. Too one-dimensional in either sound or function. Sounds and handles poorly at very soft volumes. Any general feeling of obnoxiousness or over-delicacy.

The Cymbal & Gong cymbals I own and have played hit a lot of sweet spots very consistently. Other cymbals I’ve played, owned, and gigged with over the past 20 years— which is a lot of cymbals by all major manufacturers— often have an amazingly hard time hitting even a few. That’s why I’ve been complaining about it, and it’s why you saw me suddenly overjoyed when I found the C&G cymbals a couple of years ago.

Rehearsal cymbals

Originally posted on the CRUISE SHIP DRUMMER! blog in April 2018.

Everyone is looking for excuses to spend money on gear, so here’s a concept: rehearsal cymbals. We’ve all played rehearsals where the instrumentation and/or acoustics made it extremely difficult to play normally. Maybe there’s an unmiked vocalist, acoustic guitar, strings, whatever. A clarinetist with a really weak sound. Playing our normal 20-24″ cymbals at normal-quiet volume blows them away, so we end up playing the entire rehearsal with brushes on the snare drum and closed hihat, and it’s nothing at all like what’s going to happen on the gig. A complete waste of time.

A lot of these situations can’t be salvaged, but in general it would be nice to have cymbals that sound good when played quietly in somebody’s living room, with no audience, when we only need to project to the other players standing a few feet away.

Here is generally what I would suggest: little, thin, dry cymbals.

18″ ride — light to medium, unlathed/partially lathed, small or no bell
15″ crash — paper thin to medium thin
13″ hihats — light to medium

Some thoughts on makes and models:

Bosphorus cymbals
Their Turk series are nice cymbals, with great definition, and playing them you feel like Tony Williams on Nefertiti. They sound really nice from the playing position. I was into them for awhile, but eventually found them to be too soft for most real world playing with an audience. They don’t project well unmiked, and they don’t balance well with the rest of the drumset or with the ensemble. I’ve written about this before. But they’re good for recording, and would be good for rehearsals.

Bosphorus’s Master Series are an option that are even quieter… I have actually found many of them to be so thin and delicate they virtually have no real world application at all. But a ride that is not too thin, or a 18″ Master thin crash (check your gram weight— it should be comparable to any other brand of paper thin crash) could work very well for what we’re talking about here. Seriously, beware: there are a lot of extremely thin examples floating around that I think are completely useless as musical instruments.

Flat rides
I think I’m done with flat rides. I find them to be one dimensional and not worth the real estate in my set up. They can be good for rehearsals, though. And certain special situations. Try an 18″— or smaller, if you dare, and can find one.

Little rides
I got interested in sub-18″ rides after reading T. Bruce Wittet’s account of Connie Kay’s 17″ medium-heavy. I had a 17″ 602 and a 16″ Zildjian medium ride which were both intriguing— they really do handle like real ride cymbals, except, hey, they’re small— but for whatever reason did not hang onto them.

Paper thin crashes
I find these to mostly be too delicate for the real world, but for this usage you can get a real crash sound without generating a lot of volume and sustain.

Dixieland hihats
Usually pre-60s A. Zildjian, smaller than 14″. Revival Drum Shop, a great Portland vintage shop seems to find and carry a lot of them. They’re extremely thin, tight, and splashy, without much of a foot sound.

Sabian Sound Control
I started thinking about softer cymbals when playing a boat gig with abysmal acoustics on stage, and these Sabians were some of the first things I looked at. They’re supposed to be quieter than normal cymbals. I never found one to purchase before I got into Bosphorus cymbals, and the few I encountered never struck me as particularly quiet. But I have found many newer Sabian AAs and AAXs to have a minor case of Bosphorusitis— their sound has been so refined that they lose some body… which makes them good for this purpose. A 20″ Raw Ride (18″ if you can find one) would be good, or a small El Sabor crash. I have used an older Jack Dejohnette Signature Ride before, but the combination of being extremely dry with a very penetrating stick sound made them unattractive for this purpose.

Tape
Often the problem in these situations is the signal to noise ratio: when playing very soft, and in close quarters, the wash of the cymbal is amplified relative to the attack of the note. You can cut down on the wash by applying 1-4 pieces of masking tape on the underside of the cymbal, radiating out from the bell. It’s not a very popular solution any more, and not as fun as buying more cymbals. Less is more, if you choose to do this.

What do I use for rehearsals?
13″ Bosphorus Turk Hihats — Their normal light model. I’ve used mine on every recording I’ve made in the last 15 years. I now find them too insubstantial for normal performance applications.
17″ Cymbal & Gong Holy Grail Crash — A great cymbal I now never go anywhere without. Thin, rather dead (in a good way!), with great crash, ride, and bell sounds. I could do the whole rehearsal just on this cymbal.
18″ Cymbal & Gong Holy Grail Ride — With three rivets. An unassuming medium-weight cymbal that happens to sound great with other musicians. Very traditional bebop sound.

Here is my 18″ Holy Grail ride, together with my 18″ Leon Collection crash, and 14″ Holy Grail Hihats: