I brought my cymbals to school today

makinao

Silver Member
In this day and age of recordings and sound reinforcement, I often feel that too few people have a chance to hear acoustic musical instruments without electronic intervention. So I decided to bring two of my cymbals (a new 16" Stagg Traditionals China, and a 70's 16" A. Zildjian Thin Crash) to my college Art Studies 1 class (Humanities 1 in most other local universities) for a lecture on timbre. I chose cymbals because I felt they are grossly misunderstood. Their subtleties are hard to record and amplify, and much of popular music does not call for them.

First, I showed my students the three main parts of a cymbal. Then I played each part using mallets, cool rods, brushes, and drumsticks, in a full range of dynamics from pianisimo to fortissimo (mostly soft however, in deference to the classes next door). Each cymbal part/beater/playing force combination not only produced a variety of broad spectra and dynamics, but a few discrete pitches as well. Then I explained how I chose each of them from the same set of models which were available in the store at the time. Finally, I explained to them each cymbal has a unique timbre, and that each musician will select a particular cymbal based on his/her own timbral preferences. I gave my age-old story that some of my drummer friends can actually tell these particular cymbals are mine just by hearing them.

I don't know exactly how my students reacted to the demonstration, so I am waiting to find out if any of them will write about it in their weekly free-for-all-topic reflection papers. But I personally enjoyed demonstrating many of the delicate nuances of cymbals, which often gets lost in electronically amplified, processed, and recorded music.
 

dmacc_2

Well-known member
Excellent!........ The most important part of the drum set for me are the cymbals I'm using. They totally change the way I play the instrument.
 
M

mediocrefunkybeat

Guest
I've found the best way to demonstrate the inherent overtones of a cymbal is to use a violin or 'cello bow on the cymbal. That really brings out individual harmonics.
 
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mediocrefunkybeat

Guest
I love this- creates a really eerie tone quite unique
It is rather great. It's actually very difficult to get the same tone twice because the angle of the bow and the pressure you apply can cause the resonances to set themselves up ever so slightly differently. It's a real art.
 

caddywumpus

Platinum Member
It is rather great. It's actually very difficult to get the same tone twice because the angle of the bow and the pressure you apply can cause the resonances to set themselves up ever so slightly differently. It's a real art.
Also, where you place your finger to stop the cymbal from moving as you bow it has a muting effect on that concentric ring of the cymbal...you can EQ the "howl" this way. With hammered cymbals (with large hammer marks), the concentric rings are radically broken up, giving you even more options.

I usually use bass bows for this, by the way. It's easier to get the cymbal to activate with more hairs. Also, when I play live with one of my groups, I bow cymbals, vibraphone bars, and xylophone bars. Also, the other percussionist in that group bows a waterphone, which is the ultimate instrument if you like that bowed "eerie" sound. Also, Manhasset music stands have a bowed sound like a cymbal, but they're drier.
 
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mediocrefunkybeat

Guest
wow that is amazing!!

top comment "I'd love to just hide in bushes at night and play that as people walk by."
HAHA brilliant!
It's certainly more original than the Guerilla airhorn!
 

DrumDoug

Senior Member
I've found the best way to demonstrate the inherent overtones of a cymbal is to use a violin or 'cello bow on the cymbal. That really brings out individual harmonics.
Try putting your cymbal upside down on top of a timpani and then bow it while you change the pitch of the drum. That's a cool sound. We used to do that in the stairwell at college. It reminds me of whale song.
 
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mediocrefunkybeat

Guest
If you'd had told me that a year ago I would've started bothering the orchestral percussionists I know. Sadly I am far from an orchestra now! I'll remember that one.
 

caddywumpus

Platinum Member
Try putting your cymbal upside down on top of a timpani and then bow it while you change the pitch of the drum. That's a cool sound. We used to do that in the stairwell at college. It reminds me of whale song.
I played a Husa piece in college where a large cymbal was played on a timpano with mallets. Man, that thing roared! All of the other percussionists were jealous of that part...
 

makinao

Silver Member
DrumDoug: we did that in my university avant-garde ensemble (back in the 70's). We also had a work where we would dip cymbals, gongs, and bells in water. Interesting, weird, and wet.
 
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