Holy Grail

A video shared by Sebastian Merk, a great drummer living in Berlin, who teaches at the Hochschule für Musik Carl Maria von Weber in Dresden. He’s playing an 1845 gram 20″ Cymbal & Gong Holy Grail jazz ride “Moyes”, which he bought from me on my last visit to Germany in December ’18. It’s a fairly funky cymbal that was given a special patina that gives it a drier sound. It sounds really great here, with him playing it— just a perfect, classic, dry jazz sound:

After the break are videos of the cymbal before and after it received its special patina:

Continue reading “Holy Grail”

CYMBAL DAY – 5/10/19

Todd Bishop at Cymbal & Gong headquarters in southeast Portland,  with company owner Tim Ennis, selecting cymbals for the site, and for our Germany tour in June.

We played 14/15/16″ Holy Grail hihats, 20″ Leon Collection rides, 20″ and 22″ Holy Grail jazz rides, and 20″ Holy Grail medium rides. Scroll down for a complete list of all cymbals played and selected.  As always the quality and consistency was extremely high. I don’t believe there was a single bad/difficult cymbal (or set of cymbals) in the lot.

Individual videos of all the cymbals we took are coming next week. Most other cymbals should be available in Cymbal & Gong’s stock for a short time, so if you see anything you want, let us know as soon as possible, and we will try to get it.

Here are the cymbals played, at what time in the video. Cymbals marked with a * were selected for Cymbalistic, and will soon be available on the site (as of 5/11 I have not yet starred everything I selected):

00:00 Holy Grail 16″ hihats – 01
00:48 Holy Grail 16″ hihats – 02
01:36 Holy Grail 16″ hihats – 03
02:18 Holy Grail 15″ hihats – 01
02:53 Holy Grail 15″ hihats – 02
03:13 Holy Grail 15″ hihats – 03
03:39 Holy Grail 15″ hihats – 04
04:47 Holy Grail 14″ hihats – 01
05:24 Holy Grail 14″ hihats – 02
06:03 Holy Grail 14″ hihats – 03
06:37 Holy Grail 14″ hihats – 04
07:05 Holy Grail 14″ hihats – 05
07:37 American Artist 14″ medium hihats – 01
08:01 American Artist 14″ medium hihats – 02* (this set is reserved)
08:41 Holy Grail 14″ hihats – 0 replay
09:15 Holy Grail 14″ hihats – 0 replay *
09:47 Leon Collection 20″ rides – L-R: 01 / 02 / 03
11:54 Leon Collection 20″ rides – L-R: 02 / 03 / 01
14:15 Holy Grail 20″ jazz rides – L-R: 01 / 02 / 03 / 04
16:20 Holy Grail 20″ jazz rides – L-R: 01 / 02 / 05 / 04
17:17 Holy Grail 20″ jazz rides – L-R: 01* / 06 / 05* / 04
18:44 Holy Grail 20″ medium rides – L-R: 01 / 02 / 03 / 04
20:33 Holy Grail 22″ jazz rides – L-R: 01 / 02 / 03 / 04
22:32 Holy Grail 22″ jazz rides – L-R: 01 / 02 / 03 / 05
23:34 Holy Grail 22″ jazz rides – L-R: 01 / 02 / 03 / 06

Classic sounds: Steve Gadd with Chet Baker

“I use a combination of K and A Zildjian. One ride and one crash. I have a high pitched A with the big bell that blends very well. It’s good for recording — very clean. I vary my cymbals depending on the date. It’s a matter of what the tune is supposed to sound like and the style of the artist I’m playing for. For an R & B date, I’d probably use both. Sometimes I’ll use a sizzle. Paul Simon occasionally likes that sizzle quality. Of course, the sound changes over a period of time. As cymbals get dirty, they take on a personality all their own.”

On Chet Baker’s record She Was Too Good To Me, Steve Gadd is playing a 20″ K jazz ride which he played on quite a few records in the 70s— I don’t know if he owned more than one of them.  This is airy, very dark, very live, with a great stick sound, and a little bit of an exotic edge when crashed. It’s a very classic sound. The second cymbal is a somewhat funky A, with that metallic edge that’s very common in newer A. Zildjians. Hihats are 14″ medium Ks, with a fairly straightforward dark sound.

 

He uses this same basic set up on his instructional video Up Close. You can listen closely and decide if these are the same cymbals— here the ride and hihats are solid light-medium weight:

 

 

Describing cymbal sounds

Here is a glossary of words I use to describe cymbal sound and performance.

Generally, these are for describing a ride sound, crash sound (strong accent on the edge of the cymbal), accent sound (shoulder of the stick on the ride area) bell sound, and harmonic profile. Also for describing definition and response, which are qualities of riding, accenting, and crashing.

Bright
Higher harmonics are emphasized generally.

Dark
Lower Harmonics are emphasized generally. An over-used word; I may use it to describe a very broad category of cymbal, or to mean, with specific individual cymbals, very dark, compared to warm or smoky.

Warm
Mid and lower harmonics subtly emphasized, generally harmonious profile.

Smoky
Lower harmonics moderately emphasized. Many Holy Grail cymbals fall in this category.

Gong-like
The cymbal crashes with a bwah sound; in my mind suggesting a low sound. Can be a pleasing quality, or it can be a flaw.

Exotic
Suggests an unusual Chinese cymbal or gong like sound or pitch bend.

Splashy
Suggests a cymbal that is very responsive to crashing, possibly with a high sound.

Clean
Focused, harmonious profile.

Dry
Harmonics de-emphasized relative to the direct stick sound.

Dead
Excessively dry or muffled, lacking in expected overtones. Not always a negative quality.

Live
Full harmonic profile, big wash, easily crashable.

Fast
Responds quickly to the touch of the stick. When crashing and rolling, builds to a peak and fades quickly.

Slow
Long crash sound that peaks well after the cymbal is struck. Could also describe a cymbal that requires a lot of force to get an explosive crash sound.

Funky
A mysterious combination of dark, dry, trashy, and exotic.

Noisy
Pronounced random harmonics. Could be used interchangeably with trashy, but noisy has a more negative implication.

Trashy
Harmonic profile tending towards a white-noise like sound; random harmonics dominating the sound.

Cutting
Strong, focused attack, tending to be higher-pitched, to cut through a large ensemble or electric band.

Piercing
Unbalanced high harmonics present. I would never use this word as a positive adjective.

Metallic
A persistent, obnoxious metal sound.

Clangy
A forceful metal sound. Generally negative, but moderate clanginess can be desirable; it can give raw energy.

Airy
Bright, light, non-metallic sound. I use airy to describe many of our Leon Collection cymbals.

Glassy
Lacking in body; almost an empty sound. Airy and glassy could be used interchangeably by different people, but for me, airy is positive, glassy is more negative.

Thin
Not referring to the actual thickness of the metal— suggests an insubstantial, tinny sound.

Other words:
I have never thought to describe a cymbal as hot, but it is used. Sweet is a commonly used word the meaning of which I am unclear on, other than “sounds pretty”, or a pleasantly bright sound. I have played a few cymbals with a distinctly tubby sound. Cymbals are essentially springs, and I have encountered a few very strange cymbals with a springy, slinky-like tone. Some people say sticky to refer to a cymbal with a pronounced stick sound. Some have described sounds as actual colors: blue, red, green, yellow. I have no idea what is meant by that.

CYMBAL DAY – 2/26/19

I visited Cymbal & Gong HQ yesterday to play cymbals and acquire stock, and the theme of the day was GREAT LITTLE RIDE CYMBALS. I played a number of really good 18 and 19″ rides and crash-rides, and as always, the consistency of these cymbals was impressive. Everything I played was very solid, and most of my selections were made on very subtle distinctions, or just stylistic choices of what I wanted to have in stock. I’ve noticed that each shipment of cymbals has its own character; this group was generally moderately light, with prevailing clean, controlled sounds, rather than very dark, funky, or exotic sounds.

Here is what I got:
Two 20″ Holy Grail Jazz Rides
Two 20″ Mersey Beat Crash-Rides
19″ Holy Grail Jazz Ride
Two 18″ Holy Grail Crash-Rides
18″ Mersey Beat Crash-Ride
18″ Leon Collection Crash
Two 18″ Custom unlathed “Krut” Rides – Both dry cymbals, light-medium, one very dry, with a handsome smoky finish.
Two sets 14″ BARGAIN Hihats – one medium, one light. Nothing particularly wrong with these— they were just used by endorsers a little bit before being returned to C&G. Generally bright, higher pitched cymbals with a bright finish.

Here is the video of the selection process— the sticks I’m using are Bopworks Birdland model, and Mel Lewis model. The Birdlands are very light, and I have struggled a bit to find my touch with them. The Mel Lewis sticks are more robust 7As, and get a little fuller sound from the cymbals.

If you hear any cymbal you like, let us know, and we may still be able to get it for you. Many of these will be shipped to other dealers soon.

 

Here is what is played in the video:

0:01 20″ Holy Grail Rides – Took two of these— left and right, not middle. 1907 and 1915 grams.
1:17 19″ Holy Grail Rides – Took the one on the left. 1628 grams.
2:46 18″ Holy Grail – Selected one the left. 1411 grams.
3:39 18″ Holy Grail Rides – Selected cymbal on the right— same as the one above. 1717 grams.
4:33 20″ Mersey Beat Crash-Rides – Took the two on the right. 1907 and 1915 grams.
5:34 20″ Leon Collection / Leon with patina – I was looking for a Leon ride cymbal, but all of these really handled like crash cymbals. The patinated Leon on the right was very good, and came closest.
7:21 22″ and 24″ Leon Collection
8:42 18″ Leon Collection – I think I took this cymbal. 1336 grams.
9:19 18″ Mersey Beat Crash-Rides – I took one 18″ MB, possibly the one on the right. 1411 grams.
11:38 18″ “Krut” custom unlathed Rides – Took the center one, and the special patina cymbal set up at 13:08. 1472 and 1569 grams.
14:29 14″ Mersey Beats Hihats
14:58 14″ Hihats – Possibly HG?
14:37 14″ Leon Collection Hihats
16:12 14″ Leon Collection Hihats
16:51 14″ Leon Collection Hihats
17:32 14″ Hihats – The light set of bargain hats. I believe both sets of bargain hats are American Artist series. 765/902 grams.
18:05 14″ Hihats
18:39 14″ Hihats – These may be the medium bargain hats. 942/1159 grams.
19:09 16″ Holy Grail Hihats – I was looking for 16″ hihats, but these were all a little heavier and lower pitched than I was hoping for.
19:55 16″ Holy Grail Hihats
20:29 16″ Holy Grail Hihats
21:31 16″ Janavar Hihats – This is a series of rock cymbals, but these are not particularly heavy— nice lively mediums.
22:11 18″ Holy Grail and Kervan Crashes – Most of the 18s were in ride and crash-ride weight this time; here I was looking for a fast, thinner crash. Took the one on the left after 23:33.
23:55 8″ Holy Grail Splash
24:07 10″ Holy Grail Splash
24:35 20″ Holy Grail China
24:54 22″ Holy Grail China – This was a very interesting cymbal— not as thin as most Chinas, it really handles like a ride cymbal. I actually don’t know how it compares to Mel Lewis’s famous swish knocker, but it seems like this would make an excellent big band China ride cymbal.
25:22 24″ Holy Grail China
26:20 22″ Holy Grail China (same as at 24:54)
27:53 Two Chinese-made cymbals, one modified— not Cymbal & Gong products

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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