It's a beautiful day here and we're finished on the gardening for awhile.
I just went through several cymbal catalogs trying to find the meaning of: "thin," "medium thin," "medium," "heavy," etc. with regard to cymbal weights in terms of CENTIMETERS but no luck. That's odd: most cymbals have the metric measurement of thickness printed right on them these days and ALL the magazine and catalog descriptions I read described cymbals in terms of thin, medium, heavy. But not one catalog or ad had the two together.
Based on my own cymbals, I'd guess that 40 cm is thin, 45 is med. thin, 50 or 51 is medium, and more is heavy. But I'm not sure. At this moment I have 6 of my 7 ride cymbals out and leaning against the wall. The 7th is at the home of a friend. It's an 18" Zildjian I bought used for $70. at Drum World in San Francisco some years ago. It's probably medium or medium thin weight. I liked its swishy sound and smooth overtones but upon playing it at leisure at home, discovered that it was unbalanced. I'd put it on a cymbal stand and quickly it would always wind up with the Zildjian logo in the same place, which means that one spot on the cymbal was heavier than the others. No matter; I found that because of that, the cymbal yielded several distinct sounds. In other words, I had 2 or 3 different cymbals in one. But that IS the cymbal I lent to a friend which says that I could do without it. And why not? With 6 others to choose from I'd say things are going pretty well.
The first ride I ever got came with my first drum set in 1960 or '61, a 20" Zildjian ride. It's thinner than 51 cm by eye, has low sounding overtones, and plenty of them which will build up if you really hit it hard and constant, but the "wash" as I believe it's called, is controllable by just laying back on the force of impact. Bear in mind that in 1960 the big band sound was still in and the small combo sound all the way from the Modern Jazz Quartet to Art Blakey's hard bop groups to Ornette Coleman and everything in between were happening. On the rock front, well, rock and roll died in 1956 but there was still an incredible array of sounds and styles present and to come-- girl groups, doowop styles, New Orleans r&b, Elvis, rockabilly, groups like The Kingsmen and Johnny & The Hurricanes, and LOTS more.
I was into the music and into drumming but it would be 15 more years until I figured out how to pick out a cymbal. Usually I would hear something on record I liked, like Connie Kay's ride, and then I would find out what it was in "Avedis Zildjian's Cymbal Set-Ups of Famous Drummers," or in a DownBeat Magazine ad, and then I would go find it at a music store. I would be looking for a (say) 20" medium Zildjian ride. I'd usually just buy the first one I heard, and sometimes it was the ONLY one the store had. Sometime in the 70's there started being more of a selection in music stores, probably because I moved from a small town to the San Francisco Bay Area. I started comparing different cymbals in stores and picking out the one I liked best. When I got it home, it usually sounded different than in the store, and furthermore, when I played it with a group, it sounded different again. I felt a little bewildered and frustrated.
Now after another decade has come and gone, just from experience, I have a better chance of getting something home that I'll like. This kind of learning comes from trial and error, no way around it. And nowadays there are so many different kinds of cymbals available, it's even more bewildering and frustrating but in a different way. Where to start? Trust your ear. Listen to all kinds of music. Listen to your favorite kinds of music and really zero in on the ride sound. Listen to the same style of music that your band plays even if you don't like that style as well as other styles. Have someone play your cymbals and listen to them as audience rather than band member. Then go behind your drums, play the ride and try to hear how it sounds different from inside and outside the drum set. That's always a mind blower! At the moment, I have 4 - 20" rides and 3 - 18" rides and one 18" crash or crash ride.
Here's the list and subjective sound description:
20" Zildjian med. or med. thin, looks thinner than 51 cm. Washy, jazzy sound, low pitch; cutting, low bell sound. Bought in 1960 or so. I used this for everything for years and it sounded fine. Now I feel it's real good for combo jazz, blues, and Beatles-type pop/rock. It's too washy for funk, disco, or anything needing a clearly defined "ping" sound. It's definitely an "old" sound to it.
20" Sabian AA Rock Ride 51 cm. Bought in mid-80's to try to get a powerful, clear, high end cutting sound for hard rock and punkish music. It has something of a wash but you have to hit it pretty hard to get that. It would probably be good on Latin stuff too. I hear it as brash and brassy now, like AC/DC, Aerosmith, that sound.
20" Sabian HH Leopard Ride 51 cm. This is a great cymbal! Lower pitched than the AA, clean, clear, pingy but with an under roar that's subtle and bassy which you feel more than hear. Piercing bell sound. It's also less harsh sounding to me than the AA. Both these are way too dry to be in the same class as the old Zildjian. This cymbal sounds "up-to-date." There are definitely different "sounds" that are "in" at any given time. The dry sound is pretty hip now.
20" A CUSTOM Zildjian 51 cm. When I heard this in the store I thought "WOW!! This is IT!!" It has a shimmery, silvery, kind of high pitched wash that I find unobtrusive and applicable to many different styles. It sounds good as a jazz ride, in pop tunes, Latiny stuff, country/western, and you can get a drier sound by playing up close to the bell. That "this is IT" feeling was the same one I had with the Leopard Ride. If I had to choose, I'd take the A Custom because it's more of an "all around" cymbal and my band plays several styles of music, but it sure would be hard to let the LEOPARD loose.
18" Zildjian medium mini cup ride. I got this because it was about the driest sounding cymbal out at the time, or so I'd read. Late 70's. I like it when you hear the wash of the cymbal but can also clearly hear the stick hitting the cymbal. It's hell trying to play the bell which is very small. This one always seemed good for jazzy tunes. By today's standards it's hardly dry at all. I use it for certain songs.
18" K Zildjian Ride medium, 45 cm. I just got this one about 2 or 3 years ago. I thought it sounded like one of Peter Erskine's I heard on his "Timekeeping 2" video, but now I don't think so! It's a husky, washy thing, really good for old Stones songs, loud blues, jazz. The bell is loud! Don't use this one much anymore either. The 20" A CUSTOM sounds more like Peter's.
18" Zildjian med. thin crash ride. At least I THINK it's a crash. It's high pitched with low, spreading undertones when you ride it. I bought it so long ago I can't remember what it is-- pretty sure I used it as a crash, and let me tell you, it's loud and powerful for an 18"er. I have drifted into 16" crashes these days, probably due to my band which is a trio and not too loud, and because I'm using a smaller sized drumset than in previous decades, and because, well, they are cheaper! I have two really great drumsets. Most of what I buy now are accessories. Cymbals are the goldmine of accessories: look like gold, sound like gold, cost like gold.
OK, that's it for my cymbal inventory and thoughts. I think you answered your own question in "In Search Of The Perfect Ride" in FDN. I don't really feel I said anything different here-- just more words to say it, and "it" is: There IS no PERFECT ride, just lots of good sounding cymbals for different times, situations, bands, songs, styles, trends, and the developments in your own ear!
Good Luck! - Chris Hanson -
A quick response to your "In search Of The Perfect Ride Cymbal"..
I've played Zildjian since I was 12 and still love them, but I have purchased some of my favorite cymbals over the past 3 years from Sabian and Paiste. I recently purchased a Paiste "Signature Series" 21 " Dry Heavy Ride that is amazing (absolutely musical, beautiful and clear, with no real overtone build - up ... it really sounds sweet). You might just love it too??
C. Jamison Tampa, Florida
Wizard of Roz' Classic Ride
Years ago , a wonderful bass player friend of mine named Danny, gave me 2 beautiful cymbals that would change my life forever, CAMBER cymbals from Germany. One 18 " CAMBER SAVAGE crash ride , and a CAMBER SAVAGE 16`` crash. It was amazing. Its gold and had the word 'Savage' written across it. I just fell in love with it, it sounded great, looked great and it did the job. It isn't as pingy as the giants Z`s + Paistes, but when played a certain way it sounds beautiful. It has a slightly low sound but when it's really used it blasts. I found it to be exactly what I was looking for in a ride cymbal . Most of all it's different. Different from what I'd ever encountered before and very inexpensive.
First of all, no cymbal in the world has to be expensive to sound good. I'm sorry, no one should have to pay $200.00 for one cymbal. (My absolutely beautiful giant 1st Gretsch drumset, which I still use, didn't cost that much.) Unfortunately, CAMBER'S aren't that high in demand but they should be, they're extremely useful. I'm on my way to purchasing some CAMBER 300`s which they've made lately and I just might change my entire cymbal set to CAMBER they're very exciting. My SAVAGE 18`` CAMBER crash ride is wonderful and has lasted me a good long bashing time. Please look out for them I recommend them to all female drummers who can't really afford a massive deal. I cant wait to get my 300`s. -Wizard of Roz - NY
EDITORS NOTE: (Modern Drummer Nov.'95 issue has a great article on Camber Cymbals)