Thursday, April 14, 2022

Cymbal Assessment

 Hey all,

I've mentioned this before, but one of the silver linings to the dark cloud of things being shut down is the chance to assess elements of one's sound. Inspired by Paul Motian's list of cymbals that made the rounds, I decided to do an inventory of all the cymbals I own. 8 rides, 3 splashes, 5 crashes, 1 China type and 3 sets of hi-hats. For someone who has been playing for over 40 years, that's not really that much. Then I started recording myself and playing various combinations of of my collection.I won't post most of the videos because they do go on, but I have been making notes and will share them here. Hopefully, my insights into the qualities and interactions of my various metal friends will inspire you to assess your sound as well. 

I will  be grouping my cymbals by categories such as Best at playing with others (blend, in other words), Most similar Sounding, Darkest, Lightest, Trashiest, This Needs to Go, Loudest, Quietest, Hardest to Control, and anything else I can think of…..should be fun! 

The results:

Well, first of all, I should say that after 3 or 4 days of cymbals comparisons, my ears were getting fatigued.  I remember checking out cymbals at the Zildjian factory some time ago, and after about an hour it was like, "Um, that sounds like a cymbal, and so does that!"

Most Bull in the proverbial "China" Shop

This was easy. My 16" Zildjian Oriental Trash doesn't sound like anything else I own. Because I tend to view China-type cymbals as crashes (like DeJohnette) rather than rides ( like Mel Lewis), the trash cymbal is thin fast, and nasty! The ironic thing is, because the sound of this pie is so specific, it actually works wonderfully with all the other cymbals because it's always a great contrast! Whenever I get a bit burnt out on this sound, I put it away and when I come back to it, it sounds fresh again!

Most Same-y Same-y ( Or, "Why do you have two of these?)

There were a few of these. My 12"  A Zildjian splash and my Dad's old A Zildjian Hi-Hat (which is actually 11", my mistake earlier) sound close enough in pitch that I wouldn't ever use them both at the same time, so if I get some sort of Manu Katche tribute band together, I'll only have 2 splashes available! :) I will use the newer 12" and keep the 11" mainly for historical and sentimental value. I also have an 8" Zildjian splash that does sound quite different than the other ones…...

Also the two 16" crashes' pitches are very close. I will use them both for slightly different things however, as the A Zildjian ( the first "Good" cymbal I ever bought myself!) is better for high volume situations. The K Constantinople crash seems to "max out" after things get loud, and I have found this true with all the newer Ks I've tried.

Phew!  Is anybody (besides my Mom) still reading this?……………….

Least interesting cymbal

My 2002 Paiste 20". Now, that isn't to say it isn't a good cymbal. In fact, if I had the dough and played a lot more Pop and Rock I would love to have a whole set of these. They record well too! ( Lot of highs and low, and not so much mid-range.) So, what's the issue?  Well, it doesn't have a ton of character, IMO. Sometimes the things that make a cymbal challenging to play, are also what make it interesting. Anyway, it is a nice clean sounding cymbal, and I'm glad I have it.

Most interesting cymbal

Probably the old K (20")  I've had since high school. It's very thin and therefore it took me a long time to learn how to play it without washing out. I traded it for a 20" A Zildjian mini-cup ride which Ive NEVER regretted getting rid of.  The mini-cup is again, a good quality cymbal, but it seemed to combine the worst elements of a flat ride and a regular cymbal, without any of the benefits of either!

Is there a cymbal I still want?

Speaking of flat rides! I'm still looking for one. I had an A. Zildjian flat ride for awhile but it was too bright. I like most of the Jazz drummers in the GTA, borrowed Don Thompson's Paiste 602 flat ride. ( The "Now He Sings, Now He Sobs" cymbal. ) I LOVE the 602s, but getting them to blend and harmonize with any other cymbals I find very difficult. I'm still looking though. I borrowed Kieran Overs' 20" K Flat ride ( Where would we drummers be without borrowing other instrumentalist's cymbals?) and that was pretty close. If I can find one for a decent price I'd probably grab it. (UPDATE: I bought a 20" K Zildjian light flat ride that I am really enjoying.)

Most Whacky Overtones

Oddly enough, the 3 Old Ks I use were beaten out by my 22 A Zildjian from the 70s. (Mids for days), and the 19" K. Dark Crash (2000s) , that, despite being quite a low pitched cymbal, has a strange kind of brittle brightness that I've  never quite gotten used to. It seems to have mellowed a bit, however, so maybe it just needs more time.

Hi-hats, not so catchy-matchy

Of the 3 sets I have, only the old Ks are actually a matched pair. (I absolutely LOVE these hats, and if I was only allowed on set of hi-hats, I would play these quite happily.) One is an old A. Zildjian bottom I'm using as a top cymbal and a Sabian (the only cymbal of this make I actually own) Flat Hat on the bottom. The other "set" of hi-hats is a newer K. Zildjian on top and a A. Armand Zildjian on the bottom.

Anyway, I would encourage everyone who has been amassing gear to go through it and access occasionally.

Happy trails! 

Happy trails! 


  1. Hey Ted! Do you have any video of your old Ks?

  2. Most of the stuff I have online has me playing, but if you'd like to hear them by themselves, I could do that too.