The Tony Williams Cymbal Thread


Senior Member
It's not the cymbal. It's a great cymbal, but it's not the cymbal.
Absolutely 100% correct. No question.

When I hear one of Tony's rides on a recording, I regularly think 'that's the best sounding ride I've heard of it's kind'. That certainly tells you something special about this unique player. I'm sure he got his pick of nice gear as well, but even then, a ride (or any other cymbal) isn't anything until a human being brings it to life. He had a unique way of bringing cymbals to life.

I think Poppies is right, though. That particular cymbal is a collection of contradictions, and it's become the holy grail of jazz rides for good reason. Naturally, a big part of that reason is Tony, but I have seen footage of him playing the EAK Zildjians later in his career, and there's almost no chatter about those. Famous drummer after famous drummer talk about that ride cymbal - and these guys know about the difference that gear actually makes (or not, as the case may be). There's certainly something about it.

Either way, I think this thread is less about 'The Tony Cymbal = the Tony Sound' and more about interesting drum & gear info/trivia about one of our heroes.


Senior Member
A few more pics of the famous ride and other cymbals...

Have a close look at the first two pics. They are almost certainly taken at the same show, and I wonder if the smaller picture was taken first. Have a look at the ride in the first shot. There is a 'W' shape to the crack at that point. Then, in the larger picture, that centre piece is clearly missing, leaving a 'U' shape. I wonder if this is a gig where part of the cymbal flew off? Must have happened a bunch of times before it was left in its final condition...perhaps this captures one of those times.


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Swiss Matthias

Platinum Member
The room also makes a big part of how a cymbal sounds, especially when not
mic-ed closely. My 24" Meinl big apple dark ride is a surprisingly quiet cymbal,
and it's dark and dry. But when I play it in a wet room with big reverb, it gets
these contradictory character actually, it has a lot of attack and brightness to
it and at the same time remains it dark and complex personality.

Interestingly I love Tony's sound on the tune Nefertiti, but I don't like the
sound too much in at least one other tune from that album. I don't know why -
I guess they recorded all of it in the same room.


I have one of the TW cymbal sets #85 and my ride is 2289 gr. And I have to tell you that these cymbals didn't make me sound like Tony :)


Senior Member
Yeah good calls there Kaide and Swiss Matthias - room, mics, preamps, mic placement all make a massive difference to the sound that we hear - and no one can sound like Tony except Tony ;)

This thread is less of a 'I want my gear to make me sound like Tony' thread (I think/hope) and more of a 'Iconic gear-centric chat'.

I was tracking for an album over the last two days, and listening to the playback yesterday only served to underscore further the difference between what we hear in the room and what you hear on playback - even before you start messing with EQ, etc.

A number of drummers that have played Tony's ride in person have commented that they wouldn't have chosen it out of a line-up. Kinda odd sounding, and not 'pretty' at all. Just shows you that it's something quite special when played by that guy with that group...


Administrator - Mayor
Staff member
And since you described it as The Tony Williams cymbal thread, I moved it from the Drum section to the Cymbal section.

mike d

Silver Member
Kinda like the Vic Firth "Buddy Rich" signature sticks.
I really don't have a problem with that, if it is a superior, more true to the original, or better than the original, product. I try not to be a brand whore, but I do prefer certain brands due to my experiences with them.
I like the sound of the tribute cymbals. If I didn't already have my sound palette I would consider buying them, especially the hats.


Platinum Member
This is really making me want to put up some recordings of my cymbals. My 21" Agop is a particularly nice one. I'll do it after I get back to work in January.

The Nefertiti ride is a fantastic sounding cymbal but I also want to just raise the point of the music itself. Part of the beauty of that sound is in the musical context - it's a very sparse piece, with a lot of room for the cymbal sound to develop. It just so happens that the tone of the cymbal matches the darker tone from the trumpet as well. It's called the 'Nefertiti' ride for a reason and it is only on that album (and that track in particular) that it becomes a real highlight.

So even though we're talking about Tony Williams and the ride cymbal itself, there's also the question of the musical arrangement.