on May 10, 2000
I'll never forget the excitement of buying my first real ride cymbal. I had to cut a lot of lawns in order to afford it. I tested out a good many cymbals that afternoon in the drum store, and I came home with a 24" Avedis Zildjian medium ride. I remember the smile of approval on my drum teacher's face when told him what I had purchased and also the look of astonishment on my friend's face (who was also a drummer) when he asked, "How big is that thing?" That was over twenty years ago, and I still love playing that cymbal today. For me, a drum is just a drum, but a cymbal evokes a stong passion in me--especially a good ride cymbal. This is a book for percussionists, like myself, who love their cymbals!
The first chapter tells about the history of cymbals, going all the way back to Bible times. It also discusses trends in modern music. For instance, in the early twentieth century, drummers played snare rhythms with straight quarter notes on the bass drum, while cymbals were mainly used for choked accents. Eventually, the low-hat was developed, and it was the precursor to today's hi-hat. Drumming styles changed greatly with the advent of the hi-hat, as it became widely used in timekeeping. This book explains how cymbals began to be categorized as either ride or crash cymbals and how drumming styles evolved even further with the invention of the ride cymbal.
Chapter two contains an excellent overview of the major cymbal categories: ride, crash, hi-hat, crash/ride, medium, Chinese, and splash. There are a lot of interesting viewpoints expressed. Andy Newmark said, "I don't use the ride cymbal a lot because there's so much more definition in the hi-hat as far as keeping a rhythm section locked into something. If I do play the ride cymbal, I very rarely play in the middle or on the edge. I always play on the bell, because the bell cuts through."(p. 27) Varying viewpoints are also presented. Marvin "Smitty" Smith said, "I like to look at my ride cymbal sound as a wave on the ocean; it doesn't have to be loud. It just coats the entire area. It surrounds you." (p. 25) It is very helpful to hear the different viewpoints on cymbal artistry.
Chapter three contains good, sound advice on selecting a cymbal, with special tips for each cymbal type. Chapter four is devoted to composing a setup. It shows diagrams of the setups of many famous artists, including their comments. Many representative styles are included. Pheeroan Ak Laff said, "People figure, 'big crash, big sound,' but it doesn't work that way. If you want a powerful crash, you're better off with smaller, lighter cymbals, because they're faster, they cut like glass breaking and then they're gone. Big crashes tend to be lower pitched, which means that most of the sound is going to get lost in the low frequencies of the electric guitar and bass, while in acoustic music it'll be too overpowering. But big crashes can be very effective in a controlled environment like the recording studio." (p. 48) I agree with Laff, and I play hard rock. I'll never forget the time I asked my guitar friend to rate my crash cymbals. He preferred my 16" thin crash over thicker, larger and louder ones. He replied that it cut through better and didn't sustain too long. I had also come to that same conclusion myself. It is interesting that at the time of purchase, I had considered it to be experimental, as I wasn't sure if it could get the job done. Now, I am a believer in thin crashes!
Chapter five is all on cymbal acoustics. It tells about the anatomy of a cymbal. There is a very helpful chart on the influence of dimensions on the sound of a cymbal. It tells how hammering, lathing, buffing, and aging affect the sound properties.
Chapter six is about developing your own cymbal artistry. This information was very helpful to me recently. I had been experimenting with changing the locations of my two ride cymbals in my setup. But, I found that they didn't sound the same to me anymore! I figured it must be my ears playing tricks on me. I tried it again a couple weeks later and the same thing happened. Finally, the light from this book dawned on me: "Varying the angle at which the cymbal is played will have a direct influence...." (p. 87). I realized that the angle I was striking the cymbals had changed in my new setup. After I compensated for it, my ride cymbals sounded like normal in my new setup. Now, I have also learned to change my stick angle as part of my ride cymbal artistry to get more sounds out!
Chapter seven is all about cymbal care. It talks about mounting, cleaning; transporting, repairing. It tells you how to drill your own holes for installing rivets. Chapter eight is on the manufacturing processes of Turkish, Swiss/German, Italian, and Chinese Cymbals. Chapter nine is all about the different cymbal companies. There are lots of neat color photos at the end, as well as a chronology and an index.
There are some books that help you learn how to keep time on a drum set or do a solo. But these books usually fall short in terms of helping you develop your own style. You will get out of this book what you put in to it. It's an instruction manual of a different approach--a book on how to develop your artistry and touch.