Perverting Cymbals PART II: Messing with Shiny Bronze Disks

Are you still looking, store to store, for that special cymbal, perfect for all applications?
Part II of our series “Perverting Cymbals” is dedicated to those of you who never seem to find that dream cymbal, and who get impatient and want to do something about it!

Eliminate Boxcar Letters

I hear a lot of discouraging words directed at Zildjian and Sabian…you know, the “corporate guys”. When there used to be a “big three”, the list included Paiste. Probably still does, in fact, but somehow Meinl’s snuck in there.  Is there currently a “big four”? Or a big three, shuffled considerably? I have an idea of what’s happened, and my hunch might surprise you, but speculating on the current pecking order is beyond the scope of this article.  or did someone drop out? The answer might surprise you. But speculating on that hierarchy is a work-in-progress and beyond the purview of the current article.

Point is, whatever cymbal you purchase, it comes with a company logo that’s often disproportionately large and indelibly branded with letters you could see from an airplane.  If you’re not into proclaiming brand loyalty on sweat shirts, sneakers, or cymbals–or if you want to create the vibe from the sixties, when young drummers had to guess, “Is he playing an A, or a K, or is that maybe a 602? — you may want to get rid of the logo.

Removing logos serves to: (1) eliminate the obvious and, (2) to “open metal pores” to mischief.

I advise you skip this section if you’re new to the drum community. Maybe you want to wear your heart on your sleeve and that’s okay. If I was a young drummer and I’d purchased a premium-priced Zildjian, Sabian, Paiste, Meinl, Bosphorus, Istanbul Agop (or Mehmet), or even UFIP, I’m thinking I’d be proud of my accomplishment and not too hasty to cover my tracks. At any rate, don’t attempt removing logos if you have any misgivings. You risk hurting yourself, your siblings/children, and your pets. Take the following with a grain of salt (actually, you will need salt for one procedure). When in doubt, email me, or Dr Boo, at the address provided.

Funny that the forums are bursting with people bitching and moaning about the corporate giants. Zildjian is a particular target. Why I don’t know. If it wasn’t for Zildjian, we wouldn’t have Ks today.

You may disagree and I sense your reasons. You may reject my stance and complain I’m a company apologist, maybe even in the employ or on the roster of one of the majors due to friendships with Paul Francis (Zildjian) and  Nort Hargrove (http://www.sabian.com/. And with Andy Morris (Dream). Fact is, I got friendly with these guys for one reason only: I admire their work and I love cymbals. Okay, so two reasons.

I’ve played cymbals longer than any of the forum complainers and that includes disgruntled niche company reps, so far as I can tell. I feel entitled to share my knowledge, earned the hard way and from the hundreds of artists I’ve interviewed over the decades. Actually, I feel compelled to share my observations. When I was coming up (and I’m still not there), my drumming idols unselfishly fed me from their plate. None of this means I’m in favor of branding in such extravagant fashion that the logos risk muting cymbals: we can take care of that in other ways! Speaking of logos (before eradicating same), wouldn’t it be cool to sponsor a contest: worst cymbal company logo? I have a few opinions on that one (and I’ve already settled on my pick for worse bass drum logo).

Sometimes it’s not a matter of branding entirely; perhaps you want to expedite the aging process beginning with losing the huge black silk-screened brand. Sometimes this is harder than you’d think. You could sand and apply lacquer thinner and solvents all day and never get ahead.  As reported previously, you need a good dose, maybe two, of gel paint stripper.

If you’ve never applied commercial stripper, except to an old table top you wished to lay bare, you will rightful harbor misgivings about the use of stripper on cymbals. You’ve seen the stuff go to work, causing paint to bubble up such that you’re able to scrap it off with a putty knife, a job it’d take six months to do armed with 80-grade sand paper. You’ve spent $350 US/AUD (200 quid, 30,000 yen, 255 Euro, trying to be fair and comprehensive) on a new ride and don’t want to eat away your investment.

In the eighties, the German company Meinl obtained cymbal blanks that had been cast, shaped, and hammered in China—done up in a familiar, if somewhat shallow, western cymbal profile. Meinl brought them to Germany and roughed them up even more, tweaking shape and tone. These became a separate line: Meinl Dragons. The logo, in the instance of smaller splashes and marvelous heavy 10” models that sounded a cross between triangles, crotales, and metal coat racks, was a red, glossy expanse that resembled a Rorschach ink blot, and took up more real estate than shining bronze.

The day those cymbals arrived in my town, interestingly, they were already on sale. According to the sales clerk at Steve’s Music, they’d been discontinued. No matter: the Dragons fascinated me. They were obviously hand made—not just hand hammered but totally shaped by hand. The problem was the giant, fire engine red logo. I had to erase it. This was my first conscious attempt to get rid of a company logo.

At that precise point in the chronology, I discovered that conventional lacquer thinners/paint brush cleaners did nothing. It reminded me of an ancient cartoon depicting a Japanese emperor, who attempts repeatedly to white wash a cryptic, sinister symbol from his wall. No matter how many attempts, increasingly vigorous, he makes to eradicate it, the black returns to view: the emperor’s nemesis.

Those Meinl Dragon logos required two full swoops with commercial paint stripper before they vanished. Paint stripper is dangerous, immediately so, to skin and lungs.

Do not use paint stripper inside house, apartment, tent, or maybe even garage. Outdoors perhaps.

Do not apply stripper near valued furniture. A scruffy picnic table might do. In any event, do not leave traces/globs of paint stripper scattered about where a child might investigate. Or a pet.

Dogs eat anything, irrespective of your concern for providing them with a well-balanced diet. My dog, for example, loves to romp on the snow. He favors our backyard, which is littered with rabbit turds. He’s devoured several hundred of the dark pellets in a couple of swoops before I realize what’s happened and pull him away. I don’t know whether it’s coincidence or design, but kibble—dry dog food, that is—comes in bags, each containing thousands of ostensibly similar brown nuggets. Far be it for me to do a blind taste test but it seems that dogs do not discriminate when it comes to snacking.

Gel, not liquid, paint stripper

Again, I advise you use a gel-type stripper as opposed to a liquid. The gel will sit still, allowing you enough time to spread it evenly over the cymbal. And this broad treatment is important, otherwise you’ll end up with a cymbal mottled with bright patches.

Wear gloves. I don’t but you should! This stuff stings and that’s only the beginning. If it takes off silk-screened logos, it’ll take the hair off any affected area: don’t get any ideas because after your hair comes your skin. Wear gloves or a body suit.

And use a brush, a stiff brush that you set aside afterward in a ventilated space beyond the reach of tiny hands. This brush is now your dedicated stripper brush and so it should be. It’ll never be useful for any sane task in future.

Spread the gel evenly, leaving it fairly thick, and let it “set” for a few minutes. When removing stripper, use the brush and go in the direction of the lathe grooves; follow with a rag. If you depart from the path of the lathe grooves, you can create wild patterns that look nothing like an aged cymbal.

Elvin Jones liked shiny cymbals and employed household abrasive cleansers such as Ajax. Cymbal companies claim that such powders will damage cymbals by removing metal. My opinion is that most cymbals would benefit from the loss of a little metal. At any rate, the amount of metal you’d remove would be negligible. To take a cymbal from heavy to medium using Ajax would take forty days and forty nights running four shifts.

After Peeling it Off, Heap it Back On

It’s odd and it’s a bit of a paradox but once the stripper has removed all coating and has exposed the cymbal to the elements, there are many ways to go, one of which is applying lacquer or water-based polyurethane.

The lore is rich with drummers who’ve adopted the spray solution. Several of my cymbals are sprayed on the bottom, which is where I’d advise you start before immersing the cymbal in some glossy, or matte, clear coat. Top and bottom is too much, unless you’re looking to create a special effects cymbal.

Glossy is cool if you like shiny, but I advise you begin with a fine mist of matte polyurethane. It will be invisible to the audience and it will work like a charm. If the cymbal is heavier, you may find two coats are necessary. Again, you want transparent polyurethane spray, preferably water-based for ease of clean up, in a matte finish. Later on, you can work up to gloss for another look, which we’ll discuss in the “polish section” forthcoming.

With regard to the matte vs gloss finish, it’s all aesthetics. I haven’t detected any difference in tone.

Plain Old Dirt

It’s dirt cheap. When Bill Stewart kindly gave Jeff Ballard one of his prototypes, Ballard sought to match the newcomer with the half-century old cymbals in his set up. Jeff told me that each time he’d spot a bead of sweat, bit of soil, or butt of cigarette, he’d take the blend and rub Stewart’s gift. Within no time, the cymbal began to discolor and more closely match Jeff’s post-World War II cymbals.

The biggest problem with dirt is that it won’t stick to surfaces—thus the use of sweat, which contains its own acids that hasten the dulling. Sweat, to my knowledge, doesn’t come in a spray although heavyweight boxers seem to do fine in that regard. That spoken, arm sweat is in plentiful supply: maybe you could do the deed in a sauna. You’ll find perspiration infinitely better than urethane mists (especially in a sauna!), which dull the cymbal arguably unnaturally, both in appearance and tone.

Again, the dirt is not simply an antidote to shine; it’s for the tone. Dirt appeals to me (no comments please!) because it’s readily available and organic.

Tip: Don’t limit “dirt” to the garden variety. It could be stuff from under the bed, ashes from pipes or cigarettes, or, a favorite, the shavings and graphite from inside pencil sharpeners (is this getting wacky?).  Here’s one I’ve had great luck with: Rottenstone—ironically a powder used in French polishing or furniture buffing. It’s feather light and applies easily. Just don’t inhale it!

If you find any chunks in your dirt, (again, sicko or what?) pulverize these with a mortar and pestle. You want smooth like the Sahara, not pocked like the moon. I suggest that you apply your soot with a kitchen sifter or, if your partner objects, make one by carefully punching as many holes as you can into the bottom of a coffee can.  Fill your cymbal sifter with your dusty dog’s breakfast and empty the contents evenly onto the surface of the cymbal. Resist the temptation to touch the surface until it’s dry, otherwise it will look as if a child has been finger painting—been there, done it. Next morning, shake off the residue and, if there are excess bits, push them aside by running a stiff brush in the direction of the grooves.

Salt

Fill the laundry tub with warm water and stir in a liberal dose of table salt, or, better still, sea salt. You’ll need the patience of a saint but eventually this odd bath will have its way with cymbals. My success with salt has been mixed but were I more patient, I’m certain that I’d get results. In northern climes, they salt streets in winter and cars rust quickly; the same goes for areas such as Wells, ME or parts of the Baja in Mexico, where you rusted vehicles parked close to water. It has always taken me ages to create any effect using salt. I’d leave an old cymbal in the salt bath and wait a night, maybe three. And wait. The late Mike Skiba explained what I was doing wrong.

What you have to do,” Mike advised, “is submerge the cymbal in salt water for, say, two or three hours, then remove it and let it dry.” Ah, remove the cymbal and let it properly oxidize—that is, let the air do its thing! That was a revelation. Mike has also experimented with applying ferric powders, shavings and what not to a cymbal fresh out of salt water. These additional particles introduce another oxidation component.

Sand Paper

Sand paper and Emory cloth are for those who know what they’re doing and desire specific results. A vigorous, consistent rub with 180 sand paper can smooth out irregularities once your mixture of dirt and spray lacquer has dried.

Bill Stewart knows cymbals intimately and, more significantly, knows what he can get from a cymbal by various means not limited to sticks. I want to stress that he’s a player, not a tosser (as if you hadn’t realized!)  He does not sit around and endlessly beat, rub, polish, sand, or mutate cymbals. Much of what I describe harkens to years past, during which Bill acquired first-hand experience in how, say, rounded lathe grooves contribute to less “jagged” harmonics and, perhaps, lend focus to tip work, when riding, that is.

Bill told me that his handwork led him to Emory paper/Emory cloth, among several options he’d employ. Bill might have discovered, for example, an old Turkish cymbal that resided in the sonic ballpark but needed some coaxing. Again, we’re not talking about recent times and the introduction of his (sadly discontinued) K Custom Dry Complex ride. Listen to this one and you’ll hear some of the qualities he was going for, including the high-profile, low-lying pin lathe grooves, and light weight. If you check out the decade old appearance, Bill and trio, at the Modern Drummer Festival Weekend (not the late 2000s version), you’ll see an extra crater in the cymbal on Bill’s far right. You guessed it: home hammer work. Doesn’t that cymbal sound great?

Dyes & Polishes

Currently, these are my favorite (and relatively non-intrusive) means for discoloring bright cymbals. And they really alter cymbal tone. I got the idea at NAMM four years ago. A Turkish cymbal booth featured (actually several booths that year showed variations on this theme) a cymbal model that was said to replicate the look and sound of worn, discolored, aged Turkish Ks.

I’m not referring to an Agop Anniversary, which is a dedicated attempt to combine intensive cold work and stressing with chemical applications to replicate a 60-year-old cymbal. This was another company and, honestly, I’m blank on the name but, at any rate,the cymbals had been colored. I remember exclaiming to the company rep, hoping to elicit a grin and a proprietary process.

Hey, I see what you’ve done. You’ve applied a dye, a tint, to these cymbals, a wash of dark dye!”

He paused and, for a moment, he seemed in danger of breaking his NAMM Smile. A true grin did not ensue and he may have muttered “infidel” and did refuse to entertain further discussion.

No matter, an idea was born. I began what has led to one of my key methods of tainting facade without resorting to chemical patinas, and one that truly mutes tone slightly while injecting lathe grooves with scum, much like that which you see on bottom-of-the-bin used cymbals in a pawn shop.

I began applying various dyes to cymbals (at the time, I had no idea there existed metal dyes and, thus, I used common fabric coloring kits and, in addition, various artist paints, stains, etc) with limited success in terms of tone or tint. Then I tripped over the answer. Shoe polish.

I’ll Take 3 Tins of  Ochre, 2 of Ebony, and 1 of Oxblood

It’s a household item, not currently, or so it seems, in fashion and, furthermore, one that promotes something we don’t necessarily want: sheen! The color and depth can be adjusted to taste, while the tone follows close behind. What’s more, the residue gathers in the tonal grooves just like old cymbals that have seen too many smoky clubs.

My favorite polish is Kiwi in those pocket-sized round containers, somewhat resembling a one-portion metal sardine container. You lift the top, you spread evenly over the surface, going with the grooves and maybe leaving a little extra behind every so often. Then you stop. You do not polish. The stuff dries, you wipe off excess lightly and that’s it.

I’ve had great luck with a combination of black Kiwi wax and brown, although of late I’m looking at various burgundy/Oxblood tints, depending on what I’m after.

I begin with black if I’m using the Kiwi style wax, as opposed to the liquid polishes, which are not that great for cymbals, begging the premise. The black, of course, does not blot out the sun. Rather, the gleaming bronze surface loses a little sheen and black turns to a subtle gray/orange. I’ll take another run if I feel like it. Then I’ll selectively contribute brown, again spreading it thin so that the bronze comes through loud and clear in the mix.

Here, as when doctored photos in Photoshop, a little restraint goes a long way. For example, when you are burning a bright area of a photo, darkening it for creative reasons related to preserving highlight detail, you go with maybe 5% opacity: you don’t want to turn a shining forehead into a matte leather. And you take a break and view it again with “fresh eyes”. What was once moderately darkened now looks like a day at the beach tan.

Now here’s where it gets interesting. I’ve had some success with shoe polish, not that I would polish more than a tenth of my collection, but polish, I figured, would do nothing to liken a home-job tarnish to the shimmering, atypical splendor of a 1930s pre-Istanbul stamp K Zildjian. Many of these are not scuffed, dark, and matte but, rather, brown/green hued and shiny.

The answer is simple: instead of removing the excess polish, wait for it to dry and buff it!

Rivet Holes and Sink Holes

I remember dragging my cymbal bag and a camera case into the “coffin elevator” that serviced Nodar Rode’s former upstairs shop location off 7th Ave in mid-town Manhattan. That was a slow elevator. It was like experiencing a lunar eclipse. You could settle an estate in less time than it took to get to Nodar’s floor. That ‘s where I got some of my other ideas, one in particular.

On separate occasions, spanning a ten year period, I’d trek up to Nodar’s space and he’d open the giant, foot-thick metal door, such as one sees in a safe, and I’d take a stick to a ride, sometimes crash, that resembled a stop sign on a back country road. If you’ve ever fired a shotgun (I have not, but I’ve fired a bolt action 303 and have a fair idea) you’ll know that it’ll penetrate thinner sheet metal and, depending on your aim and proximity to the target, will leave a smattering of punctures.

Similarly, occasionally at Nodar’s I’d find a cymbal dotted with 20 holes, obviously not the result of a shot from a gun but from purposeful blows with some heavy hammer-like implement but more probably a hand or machine drill. The most I’ve seen in any one cymbal was somewhere in the vicinity of 60 tiny holes, the size of rivet holes in a modern day sizzle cymbal.

The perpetrators obviously were clinging to ancient logic, (perhaps revived in the form of Sabian Ozone and Zildjian EFX models) suggesting that the more holes you drill, the more muted and the darker a cymbal becomes. It’s worked for me but it’s not something I’ve tried often. Maybe later today, though.

Nodar remarked to me that he’d heard of old timers who’d drilled their cymbals to “tame” them. It makes sense in that if you remove metal, you alter the fundamental pitch, overtone distribution—and disrupt to the chain of dispersion of harmonics. It makes sense to a person who embraces nonsense, that it. Perhaps the old timers were onto something.!

Drilling eight rivet holes will remove enough metal to produce an effect, although it’s pretty negligible. Placing eight rivets in those holes, however, will do two things: it will cause the rivets to sing and dance when you strike the cymbal; and it will deaden the cymbal, a bit of a paradox, which suggests that you can add rivets to a cymbal, depending on the weight and overtone complement of the cymbal, and the placement of those rivets, especially in that critical area within 2 inches from the outer edge.

I own a cymbal, to which I’d given the urethane/dirt treatment described in this article. The aesthetics were fine but the tone was not what I wanted. I thought of one of Bill Stewart’s old Ks, really brown and grungy and sporting a single rivet somewhere nearer the center than custom would dictate; and my mind wandered to one of Jeff Ballard’s old Ks with its odd rivet configuration, almost as if someone had applied them blindfolded and “pinning the tail on the donkey”.

Revelation time: I took my errant cymbal, drilled four holes in a rough circle approximately two inches from the bell. Presto: all of the high overtones that bothered me were subdued.

I never rivet a cymbal without doing the carpet-thing: placing the cymbal face-down on a rug and tapping lightly with a stick tip until I sense a zone brighter than others, and one near the edge—to me a suggestion that a rivet hole and rivet installed at this place will yield a pleasant, chiming tone. Crazy yes, I admit. And if you’re reading this far, well you’ve got some admitting to do.

Hammering

You really don’t want to hammer a cymbal unless you know what you’re doing. Cymbals have already been subject to hammering, most of them if they’re not artsy/craftsy items or spun-brass kids’ cymbals. Cymbal smiths don’t simply lift a hammer and let the chips fall as they may, to mix metaphors even further. They know what they’re doing, depending on whether they’re hammering an entire cymbal from a flat disk into shape—or—hammering after the fact for tone.

This is especially applicable to new cymbals. Although the metal has not yet settled, they might be hammered, perhaps, but they carry an implicit warning: hammer me and I will crack. Ask Bill Stewart, who has cracked a cymbal here and there, despite the best of intents. Again, I stress what Bill has stressed to me: he doesn’t do this at present.

I shouldn’t do it, either, and rarely do so these days. But there were the young and the reckless years, when after having witnessed real-deal cymbal smiths hand hammering on the factory floor, or outdoors, and figured I’d gotten the gist of it.

I’d inherited an old school, heavy sledge-type hammer. One side of the ancient iron (steel?) head is shaped round, a necessity when hammering cymbals. Hammer with a flat-headed hammer and your cymbal is a goner. At any rate, I had all I needed to do business but required some sort of template or anvil. For my purposes, it wasn’t essential to hammer against an immovable surface; I wasn’t hammering a cymbal to shape, but, rather, seeking to “correct” shape in specific areas of concern. The edge was a usual focus, since hammering a “lip” on the edge will lower the pitch and induce a little China-cymbal trash. That is, at least, the intent of the exercise. In practice, in the early days I’ve cracked vulnerable thin edges. Similarly, I’d move up to zone 2 (sounds like Ansel Adams), meaning the higher ground at the beginning of the descent from the bell to edge, and lay a crack there, too. When it worked, I’m happy to say, it worked well. I urge amateurs (including me, and I hear the small voice admonishing me) to avoid hammering. And if hammering is the only way to go, practice on a $5 cymbal that’s already broken.

What I can tell you, under different cloak, is that there is a vast difference between hammering a flat disk of metal into the shape of a cymbal and hydraulically pressing the cymbal into shape and then dressing it with hammer blows. With my own hammering, again, I address only a few specific areas. My aim is to simply introduce targeted dips and mottling in a modern cymbals such that they will, all things equal, more closely resemble the idiosyncratic profiles—and frequency distribution—of old hand-hammered items. I’ll always have an ancient cymbal handy and attempt to replicate appearance and placement of blows that I feel are relevant to the desired outcome.

The forums are alive with talk about wobbly-edged thinner ride cymbals of yesteryear. If I want to add a little wobble, I’ll turn the cymbal over, sunny side down, and I’ll begin with 10 – 15 blows maximum in one quadrant. I’ve found that hammering on the underside, avoiding the edge, destabilizes cymbals. And I’ve discovered the hard way that hammering the entire underside of a cymbal transforms it into a floppy umbrella in a storm.

In my view, wobbling cymbals are not entirely suited to contemporary music, especially contemporary jazz. You want a stable surface if you’re projecting complex patterns, perhaps with a little wobble. Again, this is personal but I’d rather go for a little dip on the top side near, but not touching, the edge. Again, I model this from a couple of old Turkish cymbals—and ones I’d never hammer. A lot of old thin rides exhibit too much wobble, such that it begins to eat up the stick articulation.

Cymbals that leave the factory have been quarantined for a few months until they settle, but they are still changing. Wisdom has it that you can’t go back much further than 15 years or ask for trouble when hammering old cymbals. You’d be better off to try to reduce, say, annoying wash by clamping a cymbal tighter with felts top and bottom. Sure this is potentially harmful to a cymbal but infinitely less than smacking the sucker with a ball peen hammer.

I’m told, in addition, that B20 cymbals offer a narrow window of opportunity with regard to hammering after the fact. In fact, you can go back further and hammer a B8 cymbal with less risk of cracking. There are not many B8 cymbals I find worthy of second-guessing but I take the point.

This reality of cymbals aging-in and playing-in according to your touch is appealing if you’ve got time on your hands and the patience of a saint. In a rush, a roll of tape and a tin of shoe polish would be the advised starting point of any mission set on altering the natural progression of nature.

If you want to precipitate natural aging, give your cymbal to somebody like Dave Grohl and beg him to use it on a six-month tour. Taylor’d be fine at this, too, great player, and neither’d be as apt to crack your cymbal as the neighborhood metal freak who doesn’t know how to strike a glancing blow.

It doesn’t have to be so radical. I loaned a 22” heavy modern Zildjian K, a replica of an old Turkish “Jon Christensen K” (described in a Modern Drummer article) to Miles Davis protegé Wallace Roney, who took it out on the road for his drummer (s) to use in an effort to determine if a heavy ride would perk up his ensemble sound, given Wallace had literally grown up with Tony Williams’ ride cymbal in his ear. I can’t remember who played it, or for how long, but when Wallace returned my cymbal, it had seen plenty of action, witness discoloration and thousands of stick marks. What’s more it sounded considerably more mellow—incredibly muted in all the right ways. It’s now go-to number three for jazz gigs. There’s nothing like hammering—or riding a cymbal incessantly.

Paper: Courtesy Peter

Common household paper. It reminds me of an article I wrote for MD years ago, “Getting the Right Sound in the Studio”, in which I suggested various grades of paper to muffle snare drums.

Commenting on part I of the current series, a European reader who wishes to be referred to as  “ Pete” says, “Also there’s always the option of placing a piece of paper on the cymbal stand under the bell. Just put a hole in the middle of some loose leaf paper or printer paper and if the cymbal is thin it will have a nice effect. I like this method since adhesive tape always made the cymbal feel different.”

Update March 28, 2011: Pete V-N has just forwarded me this link to Leon Parker; you can see the paper below the cymbal cup. You can listen, as well, to fine musicianship.

Waiting for Nature to Have its Way

You can always put aside a few questionable cymbals, play them occasionally, to be sure, and watch them mature over the years, emphasis on play them. There’s something weird about committing all these perverse acts against cymbals, which, if you’d chosen wisely in the first place would yield a balanced, beautiful package of overtones and all the other good stuff.

Still there’s no repressing the human spirit.

Dave Mattacks used to tell me—scold me—to the effect that if I was nattering on about strips of duct tape and lacquer then I was playing the wrong cymbal. Furthermore, history is replete with examples of master players who, like Elvin Jones (as Terry Clarke told me during an interview) could make a machine-hammered 18” heavy A sound like a 22” hand-hammered old K.

That’s the real deal, here, not to apologize for the excesses and crimes that are the raison d’etrê for this article but offered as a wake up call. There’s a wealth of footage available for you to observe masters truly drawing sounds out of cymbals…the likes of Jimmy Cobb, Steve Gadd, Elvin, Tony Williams, Roy Haynes, John Guerin, Gary Mallaber, Albert Heath, Bill Higgins, and Dave Clark—just checking to see you’re paying attention.

If you’re alert, you’ll witness master drummers accommodating imperfect rides in imperfect rooms, acoustically speaking. You’ll see dead sticking from Cobb and Gadd—meaning that they allow the stick to remain on the surface of the ride cymbal longer than conventional technical protocol suggests, simply to quell overtones.

In your own practice, you’ll develop means of making any drum or cymbal work for you. This article, however, plays to the impatient drummer who has tried all he/she can try and seeks a shortcut. Tinting a cymbal, or oxidizing it, or doing body and fender on it, will never replace the natural combination of playing and growing old. Yet those rogue techniques are as much part of our heritage and provide means to search for the sounds of the future.

I want to apologize to some of my cymbal mentors: Nort Hargrove, Paul Francis, Roy Edmunds. I have, perhaps, breached the bond of trust wherein you fostered/nurtured my eternal respect for cymbals. I did not butcher your work nor sacrifice the integrity of any cymbal you bequeathed me. At least, I don’t think….