Srikrishna Natesan a.k.a Krish, drummer/manager, Blind Image talks about how to go about choosing the right cymbals, and creating your own signature set up.
Importance of cymbals?
It’s essential for every drummer to understand the importance of cymbals and the role it plays in changing the dynamics of a band. Understanding this will give clarity on the kind of cymbals that need to be picked based on the type of music played.
Cymbals are predominantly used as a part of drum kit in order to throw out a certain form of sound which significantly express the accents stressed in a piece of music. They can be used to express the aggressiveness, powerful nature of the form of music or they can be used to express the melodic factor in a form of music. This is the very reason why often many drummers have different kind of cymbals as a part of their set up.
I’ve often heard a lot of non-drummers questioning – “why do these guys have so many of them?” Well you see, only a drummer can understand the importance of the variants. And the role the variants plays can be clearly observed when you hear them with the whole band. Cymbals are definitely the tools which define the key parameters of drumming.
How to pick the right cymbals?
The most basic things you need to know first are these two –
Sustain and Decay
These 2 factors pretty much define the character of a cymbal. It is essential to understand the concept of sustain and decay in order to choose the right kind of cymbal for the style of music you want to play.
Sustain is basically – how long a cymbal can ring. This will also determine how efficiently it will cut through in the mix when played along with the band
Decay is – how quick the cymbal sound fades out
So every cymbal will have sustain and decay.
Good, Now what?
You have to learn to trust your ears. It is your key tool to judge the cymbals that will work for you. Also another and the most important factor – understand, what your fellow musicians are playing. LISTEN TO THEM!
Without this understanding you will mostly end up picking cymbals which will sound either too harsh or too dead.
In general if you play for a band let’s say ranging from Jazz to Soft Rock, I’d suggest picking up cymbals with decent over tone , good warm sounding cymbals, sustain level ranging from low to Mid. For example cymbals like Meinl Byzance will be a great option. These cymbals have a nice warm nature to them.
I’d also suggest, if you are sticking only to Jazz, not to pick cymbals with brilliant finish which usually throws out a lot of over tone and try to pick cymbals which are thin.
If your music spectrum is going to be somewhere from Rock to Metal – go for cymbals with good overtone which will also have a good sustain and will also cut through the mix easily. For example you can consider going for Meinl Byzance brilliant or traditional finish. You can also consider using Medium or heavy cymbal. The other options can be heavy cymbals like Meinl MB20, Meinl Classic, Meinl Classic Extreme and even Meinl m series.
So once again, the key to pick the right sounding cymbal is to listen to the musicians that you play with. Not listening to what they say but to what they play.
The wonder of Pre-Lathed Cymbals
Well what is lathing you may ask? Lathing is a process that is widely used in the manufacturing industry to give a certain form of finish to a product. So giving a form of finish determines the overtone character of a cymbal.
The geniuses at Meinl however decided to tinker around and create Pre-Lathed cymbals, which as the name suggests, are the ones that are taken and finished without lathing. In fact, they are hammered by hand and then that’s it. . The Byzance Dark Series, as they have been aptly named, hold on to their dirty, raw nature and sound dark with low sustain. And if that wasn’t enough, you now have something called the Byzance Extra dry series, which is another form of pre lathed cymbal whose sustain, is so low that it actually gives a very sharp cutting through tone. It can even be used in form of music like rock and metal if the drummer has the style of playing splashes as a part of a groove or a quick fill.
Also try crashing those dark rides, if you are metal drummer. You would be amazed by what those ride cymbals can do when used as a crash!
The kind of harmony that we speak here is different from the actual term harmony used in music world. It’s essential for a drummer to not be picking random sounds. You need to understand the nature of a cymbal and how well it sits with the other cymbals in your set-up.
Here is my suggestion, take two cymbals of different series, put them on stands and play them together and see if it’s hurting your ears or if it sounds welcoming. Trust me you will know it when it sounds bad. Please never buy random sounding cymbals. Have your whole set up in mind when you pick each and every cymbal.
Investing in cymbals
Let’s face it, if you want to be a drummer you might as well embrace the fact that this is an expensive instrument and if you are going to be very picky about your sound then it’s going to be even more expensive, but it will be totally worth it! And being picky about your sound defines how professional you are and how serious you are about your music. Don’t buy random shitty sounding cymbals. Instead save money and buy one cymbal at a time. No hurry. Just don’t waste your money on bad quality cymbals or cymbals that sounds like sheet metal. It will hurt your ear drum. As the wise have always said, good things costs money!
Also, my opinion is as a drummer your first investment should be on High hats. High hats are pretty much the heart of your cymbal set up. So give priority to hats and ride cymbals first. Don’t buy some fancy crashes and use crappy hats. In my opinion, crashes can wait!
Best of Luck!
Srikrishna “Krish” Natesan, is officially endorsed by Meinl, Mapex and Vater. Check out his Cymbal Setup and his band, Blind Image
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