Billy Higgins special!

Here’s a special-order cymbal which we’ll be seeing more of— a Billy Higgins tribute cymbal! A bright 22″ Medium Ride with six rivets.

For this we used a Cymbal Foundry ride— Cymbal & Gong’s series of basically clean, modern-sounding cymbals— gave it a patina, and installed six rivets, evenly spaced, 1.5″ from the edge:

At 2675 grams it’s about 325-500 grams lighter than the actual model of cymbal Higgins used, and a good deal easier to play, and integrate into a set up of jazz cymbals.

Compare the sound with Billy Higgins’s cymbal on Tears Inside, from Pat Metheny’s album Rejoicing:

Or on Don Cherry’s album Art Deco:

Look for another one of these with the next shipment from Turkey in early February! There are also 20″ and 24″ Cymbal Foundry rides on hand right now if anyone wants a similar effect in a smaller or bigger cymbal. Write us to get yours!

Seattle cymbal meet – 12/13/21

It was small but mighty. We had a little meeting of drummers in Seattle this week, to hang out and play some cymbals. It confirmed a lot of things I already felt about the Cymbal & Gong instruments, and gave me a lot of valuable information from some drummers whose experience and opinions I totally trust. Most of the conversation happened between me, my brother John Bishop, and Seattle drummers Don Berman and D’Vonne Lewis— all players with many decades of experience playing in a lot of different situations, and having played a lot of cymbals in our careers.

Here’s the upshot:

They are the K sound
We got to compare the Holy Grail series directly with several decent Turkish-made K. Zildjians— they were clearly the same family of sound, with a very similar harmonic profile. The Ks were all about 40-80 years older than the C&Gs— which dulls a cymbal, dries it out. It’s not necessarily a bad quality, it’s just what happens to cymbals over time. I’ll sometimes order a heavier-than-normal patina on Holy Grails to replicate that quality. The Ks each had their funky idiosyncrasies, which were apparent when you hit them once, but not so noticeable once you were playing them— with the examples we played, at least. The Holy Grails were more lush, like pristine examples of the same type of cymbal.

Jazz drummers love the Mersey Beat
The 20″ Mersey Beat Crash/Ride has been a popular item on my Germany trips, but I have difficulty describing their strength, except that a lot of players love them. They’re bright timbred, live, light-medium crash-rides with four rivets, and just an all-around outstanding all-purpose cymbal. I feel that they’re moderate-duty cymbals; I was surprised that my brother thought they would work great in a big band setting as well. D’Vonne purchased the one I brought, and everyone was enthusiastic about it.

No dogs
We talked about playing cymbals in a store, which is often an exercise in rapid fire rejection. We are so used to not liking cymbals, everyone was a little bit stunned to play fifteen different cymbals, and have them all be totally valid— the cymbal you were hunting for on your last ten visits to the drum shop.

Few reservations
On this site I give pretty detailed playing notes on each of the cymbals I sell. I was interested to see that some of my reservations about certain cymbals were not shared by the other drummers— see my description of the Leon Collection cymbal “Aramis”, for example, which D’Vonne also purchased. Or the 17″ Turk “Daichi”; I reported that it seemed a little stiff as a crash cymbal, but you can see in the video that it handled quite well in that role. I felt Aramis was too washy for many ride applications, my brother and D’Vonne disagreed.

My sound, not the cymbal’s sound
There are many heavily characterful cymbals available now, but there’s a feeling that they don’t always work that great as instruments. Players expressed the feeling was that they box you in, coloring your performance in a way you may not want all the time. As Peter Erskine said about relentlessly amazing drumming, a relentlessly characterful cymbal can be like bad wallpaper. Cymbals are supposed to be vehicles for what you play on them, not be the content themselves. I cymbal can have a beautiful sound, but we need a certain amount of transparency.

A little video of people playing the cymbals, with apologies for the poor sound quality:

Here are the cymbals being played— cymbals listed as NEW will be posted for sale by 12/15-16:

0:00 – D’Vonne Lewis playing (l-r):
14″ Holy Grail hihats – “Eugene”
17″ Turk medium-thin crash – “Daichi”
20″ NEW Merseybeat crash-ride – unnamed, purchased by DL
22″ Leon Collection crash/ride – “Aramis”, purchased by DL

1:57 – John Bishop playing (l-r):
14″ Holy Grail hihats – “Eugene”
17″ Holy Grail crash – “Jake”
22″ NEW Holy Grail jazz ride – unnamed
20″ Janovar with patina – “Grayson”

2:42 – Don Berman playing (l-r):
14″ Holy Grail hihats – “Eugene”
20″ Turkish K. Zildjian ride – owned by Bishop
20″ Turkish K. Zildjian ride – owned by Berman
20″ NEW Cymbal & Gong Holy Grail jazz ride – unnamed

4:14 – Don Berman playing (l-r):
Same as above with different unnamed new 20″ Holy Grail on the right.

5:09 – John Bishop playing (l-r):
14″ Holy Grail hihats – “Eugene”
18″ modified Turkish K. Zildjian ride – owned by Berman
20″ NEW C&G custom crash-ride – unnamed
20″ Holy Grail ride – unplayed on this segment

5:41 – John Bishop playing (l-r):
15″ NEW Holy Grail hihats – unnamed
16″ NEW Second Line – unnamed
20″ NEW C&G custom crash-ride – unnamed
21″ NEW Holy Grail jazz ride – unnamed

26″ Holy Grails now available!

26″ Holy Grail alongside 14″ Swish cymbal

Cymbal & Gong is now making 26″ Holy Grail ride cymbals on a special order basis!

Price will be in the range of $600, expect to pay more than usual for shipping.

There are a few on hand and available right now but we don’t expect C&G to carry these as stock— they will only be manufactured a few at a time, and all cymbals will go immediately to dealers, so there may be up to a 12 week wait for this very special item.

Contact us if you have questions, or would like to order!

Six 16″ Holy Grail thin / med. thin crashes

A customer requested a 16″ Holy Grail Crash, and I went over to Cymbal & Gong HQ in southeast Portland and played a few. Weights are from 941-958 grams, and all were excellent, responsive for crashing, but good for light, jazz-style riding as well. I purchased the 949 gram cymbal for sale on this site— that video and description will be coming soon. The others will be at C&G HQ until someone buys them— if you like one, send me a note, and I can find out if it is still available.


Over at our CRUISE SHIP DRUMMER! site, a user noticed that the last cymbal, @942 grams, sounded like Art Taylor’s cymbal from the beginning of Played Twice, from Thelonious Monk’s album 5 by 5. I think you might find some of the others are pretty close, too.

Michael Griener playing Cymbal & Gong

Here are few videos from Michael Griener, a very active drummer and teacher in Germany. He has been hugely encouraging and directly helpful in me developing this little business, and in getting Cymbal & Gong cymbals to drummers in Germany. He has been a big fan of the Leon Collection and Mersey Beat cymbals especially, and in these videos you can hear a lot of them, masterfully played.

Here he is using a Merseybeat ride, Leon Collection crash and hihats, and a special 22″ Dizzy-style China prototype, with rivets and a large chunk rudely cut out of it by Cymbal & Gong’s proprietor, Tim Ennis. Plus a bell and some splashes by another brand:

Geoff Goodman Quintet – Noch eins für Heinz

“I replaced Billy Elgart in that band recently–” – MG
“That’s extremely cool!” – TB

Sofakonzert #1: Stephan Abel & Band spielen “The New Standard”

Into The Shed vol. 41 feat. Rudi Mahall/Michael Griener

Uschi Brüning sings Billie Holiday
“She used to be the most famous singer in the GDR (East Germany).” – MG

A great jazz ride cymbal

A few thoughts and guidelines for selecting a great jazz ride cymbal— the same standards we apply in selecting every cymbal we sell.

20, 21, 22″ are normal, full-voiced ride cymbals. 18, 19, 24″ are semi-normal, but a little more limited— 18/19 are simpler, 24 is grandiose. Not every situation calls for the Gustav Mahler of ride cymbals.

<18″ ride cymbals are specialty items— for Dixieland, or Bossa Nova, or rehearsals; >24″ cymbals… consider seeking professional help!

A jazz cymbal should be multi purpose. It needs to handle well and sound great when riding, crashing, playing accents with the shoulder of the stick, and playing the bell.

It should be well suited to your touch, so you can play in a way that is comfortable to you, and have it be the right volume— not louder or softer than you intend. It should be controllable and sound good played soft or loud, through the usual range of styles/settings you play. It should sound good with a variety of normal sticks for the music— it shouldn’t demand special sticks.

It should have a fairly complex sound— sought-after sounds are either warm/dark (like our Holy Grail or Kervan series, or vintage K Zildjian) or bright/airy/musical (like the Leon Collection, or Paiste 602), or moderately bright/complex (like the Merseybeat or American Artist series, or 1960s and earlier A. Zildjian). The ride cymbal is your main voice, so it shouldn’t be overly ear-catching or unusual by itself— just like any other normal instrument, an acoustic bass, piano, tenor sax. For their main voice, musicians typically seek sounds that are classically excellent. It’s an instrument, not the main show by itself.

It should make you want to play it— its sound on all the basic functions should be pleasing and exciting. It shouldn’t be annoying, or cause you to flinch because it did something you didn’t expect. It should sound like a record that defined a great cymbal sound for you. You could sacrifice playability a bit if it leads you to play more thoughtfully, without being a distraction.

“Left side” ride cymbal
The second ride cymbal is usually about forming an ensemble, complementing the main cymbal. You can make moderate compromises on the above criteria. Most often the second ride will be in the area of a crash/ride— a little lighter and airier than you might use for your main cymbal. It should contrast the main ride, and have a nice melodic interval with it. Usually smaller and lighter, sometimes heavier, it could also be a brighter or darker sound, too. Possibly with rivets, if the main cymbal doesn’t have them.

Classic sounds: searching for Tony Williams

In all of drumming, the most sought-after ride cymbal sound has got to be that of Tony Williams in the 1960s. To an extreme extent— in people’s enthusiasm for that sound, they sometimes seem to forget there are other possible sound conceptions… perhaps a concern for another blog post.

Tony’s cymbal was a 22″ K. Zildjian, said to be approximately 2600 grams— not quite a medium. Tony selected it with the help of Max Roach, and in an interview in Modern Drummer magazine he called it a “high, dark sound.” Listening to the Miles Davis LPs, it never struck me as a particularly high sound. I would call it semi-dark, with focused harmonics, broad but controlled spread, capable of an explosive crash, non-metallic, with a pleasing, well-defined stick sound through a range of dynamics. Despite the claimed heavier weight, it is in the family of airy, expressive light cymbals and not stiff, chunky medium cymbals.

For me the definitive recordings soundwise are Nefertiti and Four & More. The ride cymbal sounds incredible on those recordings (especially on the original vinyl) but they may not be great guides for actually choosing a cymbal. Four & More gives a feeling of the large hall in which it was recorded, with the more subtle harmonics absorbed by the room— the attack is emphasized, and the cymbal sounds drier than it is. Nefertiti is better, though if you’re like me, you may have formed an idealized concept of the sound on it, and need to give the record a fresh, close listen for it to guide your cymbal choices.

The Plugged Nickel recordings seem to give the most natural picture of that cymbal that I’ve heard— it really sounds like we’re in the room, not too far from the drums. The sound is a little funkier, with somewhat wilder harmonics than we hear elsewhere, with a slightly more exotic crash sound, and more highs present (though that might be attributable to digital mastering). And it’s a familiar sound— I feel like I’ve played a cymbal like this before.

After about 3:50 we can give it a good listen:


It’s actually reminiscent of a number of Cymbal & Gong cymbals that have passed through our hands (scroll the video to 2:12, there’s some dead air at the beginning):


Of course, this cymbal is much lighter than weight claimed for Tony’s cymbal. And the bell shape is probably wrong, and possibly other things about its design and construction. At a certain point, in hunting for a certain, idealized cymbal and sound, we have to ask what is our goal? What are we looking for, what are we trying to create, or duplicate? We are not playing with Miles’s band, we are not in the situations on those recordings, and if we were, we might not sound as good as Tony. Tony’s actual cymbal might not sound like the Tony cymbal when you play it.

At a certain point, a player’s attitude has to take over, in which we are creating our own musical space and statement. Cymbals are unique musical instruments, and one of the main things we do as drumming artists is to work with cymbals to get the best sound from them, and use them expressively in our music.

The “Tony sound” is absolutely a great model for a jazz ride cymbal, but I see that not as a specific magic cymbal, but as a category: a full, dark, non-exotic, harmonious crashable moderately light weight 22″ ride with a defined stick sound.

My new axe: “Werner”

A new cymbal for my personal use, replacing a similar model I sold to our man in Berlin, Michael Griener, last year: a 20″ Cymbal & Gong Holy Grail Jazz Ride, “Werner”, 1893 grams. This has a special heavy patina, which dries the sound somewhat.

I have another C&G 20″ with custom “Sultan” style lathing, which is more of a light medium. I was looking something for a “left side” role. Usually I want something a little airier for that, but in this case the relative dryness contrasts nicely with my Holy Grail 22″, which has more spread. Werner also serves nicely as a main cymbal. I made sure I had a nice pitch differential between this cymbal and the others I regularly use— a 22″ A-type Holy Grail, and a funky 17″ Holy Grail thin crash, which you hear a few times in this video.

By the way, in selecting this cymbal, I played a dozen Holy Grail 20s in rapid succession, all of them fantastic— the weights varied, but every one was absolutely solid. My final selection (which took about 15 minutes), was based purely on pitch and weight.

New cymbal videos are up

C&G proprietor Tim Ennis getting pictures on our June visit to the cymbal foundry in Istanbul.

I’ve just posted videos for a new batch of cymbals, handmade in Turkey by Cymbal & Gong, personally selected by me for awesomeness in the purpose of playing music, for you to purchase and love. I have several Holy Grail series, and a couple of flat rides.

The Holy Grails are a solid group, good primary cymbals for their size and model. There are three 17 and 18″ crashes, two 20″ rides, and a 22″ ride. They are all moderately dark, with no wild/exotic elements, and trending towards medium weight. The crashes are true crash cymbals, but are distinctly medium thins, not splashy thins or paper thins. The rides are all jazz weight, but they handle like light mediums— full sound but controllable, with good definition, and a robust stick sound. It’s a peculiarity of Cymbal & Gong cymbals that the heavier cymbals often act lighter than they are, and the light cymbals often act heavier than they are. What that means in practice is that most of them are excellent all-purpose jazz cymbals, suitable for riding and crashing, to varying degrees.

We also have a couple of special flat rides— an airy, delicate 20″ Leon Collection, and a very tight, light-medium 18″ Custom. Both have complex, pleasing brighter sounds, a la a Paiste 602… “only better”, as my German friends commented on playing them in Berlin in June.

And I have a lot of other great stuff in stock. I’ll be doing a meet in Seattle in January, where I’ll be moving out a lot of cymbals, so if you want to get yourself a nice holiday gift of a fantastic, heirloom musical instrument, you should order now!