Why ya' gotta be so dark?

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
Hey here's a question for us to ponder: why is it that when we talk jazzy-sounding cymbals, we immediately think dark?

I understand variety is the spice of life, but the other day we had a big band playing at Plaza Gardens Stage here at Disneyland and I could tell the drummer had his K Constantinople ride just washing away with the band, and the more I listened, the more I thought, "this doesn't fit!"

For big band jazz? Dark and washy is not the deal. I don't think Buddy Rich ever played dark and washy, nor did Joe Morello with Dave Brubeck. Of course, most drummers only have one set of cymbals and even if they had more, I doubt they'd want to haul them all around (although I've heard some guys do that). I only have one set of cymbals too which I think straddles the line between dark and washy and bright and pingy rather well. I don't get gigs where people are asking for certain cymbal sounds, so I guess I've been lucky. But thanks to the marketing, I think it's a requirement that everybody own at least two ride cymbals (like we all own two snares). One to be bright and pingy, and another to be dark and washy. I suppose it's great for business.

I think we shouldn't assume that because you've got that wonderful dark ride, that it is right for everything. Some of you guys who already own a number of cymbals can say, "well duh, Bo, we already knew that!" to which I would say, "well, some of us obviously don't"....
 

Spreggy

Silver Member
I agree, but today's jazz players wear that cymbal like a badge of honor, and band leaders call for it because they've been told it's cool. Not in all cases of course, but you see it often. A friend got bounced out of a big band audition for not having one.
 

daredrummer

Gold Member
Kinda off topic but I think it's ironic that jazz players tend to have really high pitched drums and really low pitched cymbals.
 

DrumEatDrum

Platinum Member
And here I thought you were going to discuss my personality or tastes in music. haha!

True though. Most of the traditional big band drummers played Zildjian A series.

K's didn't enter the picture until much later in jazz history.

Buddy and Louise primarily used A's then entire career.

Later on, Louie added a K on this left side, but his primary ride was an A.

When Sabian came out with the Ed Shaughnessy signature ride, it was thick, like a rock ride.

But when the term "jazz cymbal" comes up, people tend to jump to the sounds of Tony, Max and Elvin, who did prefer the K line.
 

caddywumpus

Platinum Member
When you're in your practice room, playing solo on your drums, or with a small combo in a small room and at a low volume, those low-pitched dark cymbals are great to fill out the sound and draw "color" from. They can teach you how to ***play*** a cymbal, for sure: how to stay above the wash, how to shank the cymbal, etc... however, once you play on a bandstand, unmiked (versus a stage), you realize that they just. won't. cut. it.
 

aydee

Platinum Member
...

I agree completely. I've never understood cymbal sets, or allegiance to a particular brand, or liking the sound of just one particular cymbal.. unless someone else is buying them for you or paying you to use them.

Having said that, I own a Zildjian Ping ride and a extra dry K custom ride.- Both ends of the bright/dark spectrum, and I have to say that articulation of ride patterns are sharper on the darker cymbal. I assume that would be the overall logic of jazzers going for the darker stuff, though back in the 70s, 80s, everyone played As or ping rides.

Big Bands have different sonic dynamics, where the cymbal needs to cut through a bunch of horns and stuff.

...
 

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
I suppose the times they are a changin'. But what prompted me to bring this all up is that I found in an old box of magazines at my house, I actually have the Paiste player's set-up book from 1975-76 (?) and also the Avedis Cymbal Set-ups from the mid-70s (both in mint condition). And it was like stepping back through time when I was 8 or 9 years old discovering this entire world of percussion. Even Max Roach was listed as playing a 20" A medium ride, and Buddy a 20" light ride. Everybody had A's and played 'em! Same thing with the Paiste book, other than some obscure European players who had access to Paiste's experimental division, lots of 2002 rides or 602 rides (the 505 and 404s hadn't even been developed yet). I even found a CD set of all these old drum catalogs too spanning back to the 40s of many manufacturers.

But back to the cymbals, like I've said in other "recording" threads - once you EQ a cymbal for live performance, alot of that dark wash goes away to keep the "gongy-ness" out of the system, so the old days of just a few similar ride sounds was really all you needed then. But as a sound mixer here at the Disney resort, I almost argue it's still all you need now. Even though the sound technology has gotten so much better, you're still dealing with the vagaries of the live venue and end up EQ-ing pretty much everything the same way.

So yeah, I love a beautiful K Constantinople as much as the next guy, but some drummers gotta know their role. As you have guitarists who know how to get different tones out of their amps depending on the music, then drummers should at least be ready to "let go of their favorite ride sound" so they can better fit the music being played. I suppose I should pick up a ping ride to go with my K Custom Dark, eh?
 

Pollyanna

Platinum Member
Since switching to lower volume music I learned the value of dark cymbals. When I used my Paiste and Meinl I felt like I was treading on eggshells. I could rarely fully open them up.

When I crash my 20" Zild A med ride, I can give it an uninhibited crash without stomping on the rest of the music, and I love those exotic Turk tones.

Like DED, I thought this thread was going to be about personalities or lyrics :)
 

harryconway

Platinum Member
I think we shouldn't assume that because you've got that wonderful dark ride, that it is right for everything. Some of you guys who already own a number of cymbals can say, "well duh, Bo, we already knew that!" to which I would say, "well, some of us obviously don't"....
Well .... duh!!!! You said it, it didn't! Though I did repeat it.
And yeah, I own 3 sets of cymbals. So that, for me, means 3 different rides. An Istanbul Mehmet 20" Turk, a Paiste 20" Red Colorsound5, and a Zildjian 18" Breakbeat. Because I learned, a long time ago, that one size does not fit all.​
 

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
Well .... duh!!!! You said it, it didn't! Though I did repeat it.
And yeah, I own 3 sets of cymbals. So that, for me, means 3 different rides. An Istanbul Mehmet 20" Turk, a Paiste 20" Red Colorsound5, and a Zildjian 18" Breakbeat. Because I learned, a long time ago, that one size does not fit all.​
I'm surprised you don't also have a Zildjian Pitch Black. That size fits somewhere ;)
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
I suppose the times they are a changin'. But what prompted me to bring this all up is that I found in an old box of magazines at my house, I actually have the Paiste player's set-up book from 1975-76 (?) and also the Avedis Cymbal Set-ups from the mid-70s (both in mint condition). And it was like stepping back through time when I was 8 or 9 years old discovering this entire world of percussion. Even Max Roach was listed as playing a 20" A medium ride, and Buddy a 20" light ride. Everybody had A's and played 'em!
I have a history with that booklet, too- spent many hours with those ugly middle aged dudes. It's available on line at drumarchive.com, with a bunch of other cool old catalogs. I don't actually believe Max or Kenny Clarke or Dannie Richmond or Jo Jones were leaving their Ks at home all the time- I think they were chummy with Armand Zildjian and he sent them a lot of cymbals. I'm sure they used them occasionally. But when I saw Blakey in '85 he was playing a heavy, metallic 22" Paiste 602 with a sextet, so maybe they used them more than I think.

It's funny, every time someone uses the word "cutting", I say "oh yeah, that used to be a selling point!" You don't hear it used as positive that much any more. I think what's going on with cymbals in jazz right now is that volumes are coming down- at least in Portland, all of the young guys play really quiet. You can really only tiptoe on the surface of a heavier cymbal in those settings- the warm/dark cymbals allow you to actually play the thing. So you forget that now and then you actually have to project, get on a big band thing with your dainty cymbals, and end up screwed. Also people aren't working as much, so they buy things that sound good either behind the drums, or in rehearsal, as Cad. said.
 

Strangelove

Gold Member
Hey here's a question for us to ponder: why is it that when we talk jazzy-sounding cymbals, we immediately think dark?

I understand variety is the spice of life, but the other day we had a big band playing at Plaza Gardens Stage here at Disneyland and I could tell the drummer had his K Constantinople ride just washing away with the band, and the more I listened, the more I thought, "this doesn't fit!"

For big band jazz? Dark and washy is not the deal. I don't think Buddy Rich ever played dark and washy, nor did Joe Morello with Dave Brubeck. Of course, most drummers only have one set of cymbals and even if they had more, I doubt they'd want to haul them all around (although I've heard some guys do that). I only have one set of cymbals too which I think straddles the line between dark and washy and bright and pingy rather well. I don't get gigs where people are asking for certain cymbal sounds, so I guess I've been lucky. But thanks to the marketing, I think it's a requirement that everybody own at least two ride cymbals (like we all own two snares). One to be bright and pingy, and another to be dark and washy. I suppose it's great for business.

I think we shouldn't assume that because you've got that wonderful dark ride, that it is right for everything. Some of you guys who already own a number of cymbals can say, "well duh, Bo, we already knew that!" to which I would say, "well, some of us obviously don't"....
Well, if you really go back and look at the history of Avedis Zildjian, one of the reasons he broke with the Black Sea hand hammered traditions was to get a brighter tone, which was more in demand with Big Band Jazz drummers in the USA. The acoustic jazz guys always went to the Kerope bin, and always have. So I think this sterotype of dark cymbals with jazz has really more to do with acoustic and quieter jazz styles. Buddy Rich and those famous big band drummers had a full sets of Avedis Zildjians, not K Zildjians. What baffles me is this latest fad that I see throughout all genres of music for darker cymbals. I'm an old guy and I just scratch my head when I see this. Back in my heyday, guys were scrapping their Avedis for Paiste 2002s to get more cut on stage and not crack so many cymbals. Anybody dragging a set of Ks onstage for a rock show would be looked at as touched. You might as well be hitting air next to those 100 Watt Marshall and 200 Watt Ampeg stacks. However, today, I see guys trying to throw in a set of Istanbuls into metal, rock and Big Band jazz. This makes no sense to me, and I have to wonder how much of it is pushed by the manufacturers themselves. But then, maybe it has to do with all the noise consciousness these days and the pressure all around for live music to be a lot quiter than it used to be.
 

Fishbones

Silver Member
And here I thought you were going to discuss my personality or tastes in music. haha!

True though. Most of the traditional big band drummers played Zildjian A series.

K's didn't enter the picture until much later in jazz history.

Buddy and Louise primarily used A's then entire career.

Later on, Louie added a K on this left side, but his primary ride was an A.

When Sabian came out with the Ed Shaughnessy signature ride, it was thick, like a rock ride.

But when the term "jazz cymbal" comes up, people tend to jump to the sounds of Tony, Max and Elvin, who did prefer the K line.
+1
The small group jazz combo generally has a darker sound. It makes sense for the jazzers to use their Istanbul K Constantinople Thin Dark 22" Riveted Tony Williams Max Roach Paper-Thin Vintage Ride.

Likewise, big bands have a brighter sound in which a more cutting, bright sound is required out of a ride.

It's all about context.
 
Last edited:

Shedboyxx

Silver Member
I'm surprised you don't also have a Zildjian Pitch Black. That size fits somewhere ;)
Yes in a professional trash compacter. :) Buh-dum-pum

But seriously folks....

I can say that most of my playing life I've had cymbals that leaned toward bright and pingy. heck the first 'jazz' cymbal I bought was an A Zildjian flat ride after I heard a local player (when I lived in the Miami area) who was emulating Roy Haynes. I bought the Chick Corea album " Now He Sings, Now He Sobs" and for a while it was all about the ping.

I really didn't start seeing the value in dark washy cymbals until I started getting more into jazz players that used the cymbal more thoroughly. When it came to rides, there was the tip on the bow, tip on the bell or shoulder on the bell. No crashing the ride, no stick shoulder accents, no using a wider area of the ride. Once the latter concepts got in my ears, my pingier cymbals just didn't work. Although not a rule, the pingier cymbals tend to be heavier and therefore not as crash or shoulder accent friendly. I compare my K Custom to my K Constantinople. They are both the same size (20") but sound very different and give different sounds, the K Custom being the heavier one.

Ironically, I use my K Custom more on live gigs these days and leave the K Connnie at home in the studio. MY ears want to here the K Connie but I realize that the more 'cutting' sound of the K Custom is what's best for the louder, guitar driven stuff I end up playing. At my church gig, there is a nice 20" Sabian Groove Ride which leans toward the darker side but still has some ping. I've considered getting one but......OK no more cymbals for now says Mr. Wallet.

With darker cymbals, for rides at least, I feel I can be more expressive. I also want to get some thinner, darker hi hats. I feel it's easier to self balance rock/pop/funk/etc. playing where I want more snare back beat and less hi hat, especially when the hi hat starts bleeding into the snare mike. My 13" K Mastersounds produce a nice solid foot chick but can be a bit over balanced when I'm trying to get the snare up in my total sound.

These are some of my thoughts. I will say I've just started liking the darkier washier sound in general so it's been an interesting progression.


Jim
 

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
But then, maybe it has to do with all the noise consciousness these days and the pressure all around for live music to be a lot quiter than it used to be.
Really? I was unaware that there's a conscious push for quieter levels. I know we all talk about practicing quietly, but I'm not aware (at least here in LA County) that people want their live music softer. Either way, when I hear a guy really going to town and projecting on his oh-so-dark cymbals, the roar of it must drive the band nuts. In a small way, it was beginning to compete with the bass player, who is really the guy pumping everything forward.
 

braincramp

Gold Member
I'm not a jazzer...I know my loss and have kudo's of respect for you drummers that are my old teacher is... but I have dark and bright cymbals on my set..playing cover rock music I really prefer the dark cymbals on the ballads..anything slow and melodic..they seem to sound so right...then the heavy rock and metal the bright ones sound like they fit better..is this because I've been "brainwashed" (maybe too strong of a word to describe it) to think this way or is it really the case.......????...good question...I just know from listening to our recordings its the way it will always be for me..of course if I could only have one series of cymbals..thats a no-brainer..the before mentioned pitch blacks!!!!...
 

dwdrummerky

Senior Member
The past 5 years or so i see a lot of younger players switching from "A" type cymbals to large and dark "K" types. 99.9% of shows I play are mic'd with large PA systems and I have never had a problem being heard playing K's and HH/HHX, or even Istanbul pies, but I am using sizes and weights that will fit the style we are playing. I know that a K light ride is not going to cut it playing music that requires a solid tick on the ride.

Recently I played a show, and the band opening for us played classic rock and some original material. Their drummer was using two 18" crashes as hats both K's, 22"-24" K light rides as crashes and rides..It sounded absolutely aweful. The hats were out of control with no definition, the ride sounded like a roaring trash can and there were no crash sounds, just wall of noise. It literally ruined what could have been a decent band. Even non-musicians were commenting on his sound in a very negative way. After the show he was commenting to me about how great my kit/cymbals sounded, the guy even bowed to me lol. At that gig I was using 14" k hats, Istanbul rock ride, and HHX/K medium thin crashes 16"-18", when I play a crash it makes a crash sound, not a 30 second gong sound.

I dont understand this obsession of younger players wanting to have such large and dark/thin cymbals for heavy amplified music, especially when articulation is needed.
 

Fishbones

Silver Member
I dont understand this obsession of younger players wanting to have such large and dark/thin cymbals for heavy amplified music, especially when articulation is needed.
I use the driest, smallest cymbals for the music I play. I find large, washy, cymbals extremely hard to control. It works in certain situations (in Bonham's case, for example or for slow ballads) but often overpowers the band, as you mentioned. I haven't noticed a sudden growing popularity with large, washy cymbals among younger players, but I believe it.
 
Top