German company Meinl produces a diverse range of cymbals, from entry-level models right through to handmade instruments of distinction.
Meinl has clearly set out to create a set of contemporary sounding cymbals to sit happily within touching distance of its pro ranges. The high level of automation built into the manufacturing process should guarantee the sort of consistency that is normally difficult for cymbal makers to attain. Of course, such consistency is only desirable if the sound and look of the cymbals is right in the first place and, our minor gripes about the rides aside, they are pretty much spot on.
How To Choose the Right Cymbals
by Daniel Glass
Although they often play second fiddle to the drums, your cymbals are just as important in defining you as a player. Put as much care into choosing them as you would a new kit, a new car, or any other “serious” purchase. Here are a few things to keep in mind when preparing to bring a new cymbal into the fold.
Before actually heading to a music store or perusing the classifieds, make sure to do the following:
1. Decide what type of cymbals will best support you as a player—the sizes, thickness and brightness that are typical for the type of gigs you do. If a Tony Williams vibe is what you’re after, then you’ll need a heavy jazz ride that can provide good stick definition. If you want that Dave Grohl sound, you’ll need to invest in a ride cymbal that can also be crashed. If you’re a freelancer who plays in any number of styles, it’s important to have a variety of sizes and weights to select from. But don’ t go overboard, a good drummer should be able to draw music out of any cymbal.
2. Educate yourself. These days, options abound like never before, and stores are full of brands and styles that have very specialized purposes. Choice is a great thing, but it can also be confusing. Read product reviews in drum magazines. Find out what your favorite players are using. Most importantly, talk with other drummers—your peers, a teacher, a more experienced player. Once inside the store, don’t be afraid to pull a salesperson aside and ask their opinion as well. It’s what they’re there for.
Once you’ve narrowed your choices down, keep the following in mind:
3. Whenever possible, make sure that you play any prospective cymbal before buying it. This may sound obvious, but many younger drummers assume that all 16″ crashes sound alike or that a 22″ ride is an acceptable substitute for a 20″, etc. Listen to advice, but don’t assume that someone else’s favorite cymbal will automatically work for you.
4. Make sure you play prospective cymbals at a drum set. A cymbal might sound great when it’s being hit on the display stand, but does it have the resonance you want in the context of a groove or the punch you expect when it’s crashed in tandem with the bass drum? You won’t know unless you try it all together.
5. Test out new cymbals in conjunction with your existing setup. As with the strings on a guitar, your cymbals should mesh sonically as a set, so don’t feel afraid to bring your cymbal bag with you when you buy. Most music superstores like Guitar Center have “cymbal testing rooms” for just this purpose. Take advantage of them!
6. Explore every aspect of a cymbal’s capabilities. Crash it (even if it’s a ride), ride it (even if it’s a crash), check the bell, hit it with both ends of a stick. Note the decay time for crashes. Determine how much of an overtone “wash” builds up when you play time on rides. Swish hi-hats with your foot in addition to hitting them. Although it may not seem like it, cymbals are finely crafted musical instruments—it’s up to you to be fully aware of the array of sounds they can produce.
7. Don’t rule out used cymbals. They’re not only cheaper, but may have developed a unique and incredible sound from being hit over a period of years. Also, don’t feel you need to “clean up” a used cymbal—it may be the grime that gives that cymbal its unique personality. Jim Keltner has described in interviews how he would stomp on new cymbals and throw them down stairwells in an effort to get that “worn in” sound for recording projects.
Daniel Glass has spent the last seven years spreading the gospel of classic American music with neo-swing pioneers Royal Crown Revue. He is currently at work on a book examining “roots” styles of drumming, to be released by Warner Bros. Publications. To find out more, or to contact Daniel directly, go to his website www.danielglass.com
1. Play the right cymbals
Every cymbal has its strengths and limitations. Hitting a smaller or thinner cymbal harder and harder to get a bigger sound or make it louder isn’t the answer. It wasn’t designed to be so loud. So don’t use small, thin cymbals for high-volume, hard-hitting playing (unless you want a contrast in your set-up… but don’t hit them as hard as the rest.)
2. Prepare your stands
No cymbal stand is complete without the following:
- A nylon tube over the center rod so the metal of the stand doesn’t hurt the cymbal and from the bottom of the cymbal tilted to the top:
- a metal support washer to prevent the cymbal from sliding down too far. A felt on top* of the metal washer, under the cymbal, to prevent metal-to-metal contact then add the cymbal before topping it off with:
- a felt on top of the cymbal*
- a wing nut that isn’t tightened down too tight
*Use smaller felts on smaller cymbals (splashes, hi-hats, etc.)
3. Do not over-tighten the cymbal
A cymbal must be free to vibrate. Vibrations are what generate sound in the metal. The looser the cymbal, the better the sound. Tightening it will kill that sound… choking it the same way as if it was being held, or dampening it in much the same way as a piece of tape. If the cymbal isn’t free to move, then the pressure of your playing creates stress in the metal and that can create cracking. Cracking due to over-tightening usually happens around the base of the bell or straight in from the edge.
4. Do not over-angle crash cymbals
These cymbals should be positioned fairly flat and angled only slightly toward you, so your stick can slice across their edge. A cymbal that is angled too steeply is restricted from moving freely and it will suffer the same stress as if it were bolted down too tight. This will restrict the sound and can lead to cracking.
5. Play your crash cymbals correctly
The edge of the cymbal is meant to be ‘crashed’, but there are two things you can do to get the most and best sound out of your crashes plus avoid cracking them:
- Don’t hit directly into the edge. If you are ‘chewing up’ your sticks when playing your crashes you may be hitting directly into the edge. When you direct-hit the edge of the cymbal, you are pushing the stick into it. This not only hurts the edge (and your stick), it reduces the response of the cymbal… choking it somewhat. Heavy hitting like this may cause the cymbal to vibrate uncontrollably, for a less than perfect sound. If you must do the occasional direct hit, strike and pull back quickly. Like touching something hot, pulling a punch, or snapping a towel.
- Do you slice your stick across the edge in a sweeping motion? A glancing blow activates the cymbal and lets it vibrate freely because the stick is on and off the cymbal before it vibrates. This sweep-stroke will give you the best sound. It will also create a ‘flow motion’ that will bring your stick back into play faster and more smoothly, so you’ll be playing better.
6. Protect Your Cymbals
Your cymbals are in danger once they are off their stands. They can get knocked over and their edges damaged if you lean them against your stands or other objects while ‘tearing down’ your kit (a small nick on the edge can grow to become a major crack!). Other band members can step on them if they’re lying on the floor. Avoid these dangers by putting them directly into a quality cymbal bag or hard-shell cymbal case. Inserting dividers between the cymbals in the case will prevent metal-to-metal contact. Pieces of cloth, inexpensive kitchen towels (also good for wiping the cymbals clean after playing), or the original plastic bags the cymbals came in, are some options. Always stack cymbals so smaller models fit into larger models.
Meinl Cymbals Continue To Inspire
By: Chris Brewer an employee of Meinl
As an employee of Meinl Cymbals, it’s my job to do everything I can to promote awareness of our company and its instruments. Wherever and whenever I have the opportunity, I make it a point to further spread the message about Meinl. This would be an extremely difficult task to manage, if as a drummer myself I didn’t stand behind the instruments that we manufacture. One of the reasons I agreed to work for Meinl six plus years ago was because I did (and obviously still do) stand behind our instruments. Having worked in and around drummers for all of my professional career up through that point, I knew that there was no way I would be able to work in such an artist specific position (Artist Relations Manager, USA and Canada) and try to get artists to endorse our instruments if I didn’t believe in them myself first and foremost.
In my position, it’s necessary to have a broad and specific knowledge of each of our cymbal series and the cymbals within those series as well as a broad and specific of a knowledge as possible of our competitors’ cymbal series and the cymbals within those series. This knowledge enables me to fit existing artists and potential artists into a cymbal setup that works for them. Interestingly enough, I have been forced to re-examine my notions of which of our cymbals will work for certain musical applications. My re-assessment has happened through a number of our cymbal artists and their search for certain sounds to help them achieve their musical ambitions. Quite unexpectedly I have stumbled upon cymbals that have fulfilled these artists’ requests, however these cymbals were not what I had anticipated to be the conclusion of our search.
All of this is exciting to me because it opens up new possibilities for what Meinl Cymbals can achieve for any and every drummer out there. Whether you’re playing country music, R&B, extreme metal, hard bop in a small jazz combo, or four on the floor rock and roll, there are literally many cymbal sound options available to drummers with Meinl Cymbals. While this may seem like I’m trying to make things more confusing rather than simplified, I’m really not. All I’m saying is that a cymbal is as unique as the drummer that plays it. If you hear a jazz ride pattern on a cymbal that another drummer might usually use for a wide open crash-ride, don’t be afraid to utilize it as such. Every company, Meinl included, by necessity has to market their cymbals in a way that presents an organized approach for helping a dealer know which cymbals to stock and for helping drummers find their sounds. Don’t be afraid though, to read between the marketing lines and listen to a cymbal that you might not normally approach, simply because you believe that it wasn’t created with your specific style of music and drumming in mind. You might end up pleasantly surprised, just as I have lately, by what you find that Meinl Cymbals can really do for you.