What to Listen for in Cymbals

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an interactive discussion/demonstration

Presented by Bill Cahn

Techniques for Listening :

1. Relax (with a deep breath, body tension released, mind cleared)

2. Do not judge what is heard (whether it’s ‘good’ or ‘bad’, or what it means); set aside any

pre-conceptions and biases in order to hear.

3. Notice as much as possible about the sounds you hear:

* components (pitch, volume, rhythm, timbre, etc.);

* changes in the sound that occur over time

4. Ask yourself questions, and think of your own plausible answers:

* What specifically do I hear that is new to me, or that I don’t understand?

* What specific elements of the sound seem to me to be of importance?

* What must I do to be able to understand this sound more deeply?

Listening to cymbals:

Concept 1: Listen to the “white noise” (“shhh” or “sss” sound)

a) notice when the “white noise” sound begins and disappears

b) notice the sound after the “white noise” sound disappears

Concept 2: Listen to the “fundamental” pitch (low tone that you can hear and sing)

a) notice the pitch that is the foremost (“fundamental”); sing that pitch

b) notice when the “fundamental” sound begins and disappears

Concept 3: Listen to the relationship between the “white noise” and the “fundamental” parts of the overall sound

a) notice which part of the sound – the “fundamental” or the “white noise” – is predominant at the beginning of the sound

b) notice which part of the sound – the “fundamental” or the “white noise” – is predominant over time, as the sound continues

Concept 4: Listen to the range of “harmonics” (component “overtones”)

a) notice the sound parts between the “fundamental” and the “white noise” sounds

b) notice how dense (“full” or “thin”) these middle “harmonics are in relation to the overall sound

Relatively bright (“French”) or relatively dark (“German”) cymbal sounds:

Concept 5: Listen to the relationship of the “white noise” and the “fundamental” sounds to the overall sound

a) how would you describe a sound in which the “white noise” predominates?

b) how would you describe a sound in which the “fundamental” predominates?

Concept 6: It’s mainly the sound of a cymbal that determines it’s relative brightness or darkness;

a) notice the differences in sounds produced when a cymbal is struck with a soft (yarn or felt) stick and a hard (wood or metal) stick

b) how would you describe the relative sound of the cymbal when struck with a soft mallet?

The weight (mass) of a cymbal:

Concept 7: The weight (mass or thickness) of a cymbal affects it’s sound

a) after weighing two cymbals ( having the same diameter) on a reliable scale, notice the differences in sounds produced when those two cymbals are struck with the same stick

b) how would you describe the relative sound of the heavier cymbal?

© 2001 William L. Cahn

8740 Wesley Road, Bloomfield, NY 14469 USA


CYMBAL PERFORMANCE

an interactive discussion/demonstration

Presented by Bill Cahn

suspended cymbal(s):

Concept 1: Know/Learn the music and the instruments:

a) know/learn what sounds are appropriate (normally used)

b) know/learn the instruments (cymbals) that are available for you to use

Concept 2: Selecting the cymbal(s):

a) bright or dark

b) high or low fundamental pitch

c) relative length of the desired sound(s)

Concept 3: Suspending the cymbal(s)

a) with cymbal strap(s) on ‘gooseneck’ stand(s)

b) mounted directly on cymbal stand (post or boom stand)

c) holding the cymbal in one hand by its strap

Concept 4: Suspended cymbal “concert” sound options

with soft (yarn or felt) mallet(s):

a) ball of mallet(s) on the edge of the cymbal (single-stroke rolls)

b) ball of mallet(s) on the bow (or near the edge) of the cymbal (single-stroke rolls)

with snare drum stick(s):

a) neck of stick(s) on the edge of the cymbal; (single-stroke rolls)

b) tip of stick(s) on the bow (or near the edge) of the cymbal; (single-stroke or bounce-stroke rolls)

c) neck stick(s) on the bell (dome) of the cymbal; (single-stroke rolls)

d) tip of stick(s) on the bell (dome) of the cymbal; (single-stroke or bounce-stroke rolls)

with special (or designated) beater(s):

a) metal rod(s) or brush(es) on the edge of the cymbal; (single-stroke rolls)

b) metal rod(s) or brush(es) on the bow (or near the edge) of the cymbal; (single-stroke rolls)

scraping the surface with special (or designated) beater(s):

a) scraping with metal rod(s) or brush(es) from the bell to the edge

b) scraping with the tip of snare drum stick(s) on the bow (or near the edge) of the cymbal

scraping the edge with a violin bow or bass bow:

crash cymbals:

Concept 5: Selection of cymbals for the pair:

a) the two cymbals may be similar or different (sizes, pitches, etc.)

Concept 6: Producing the crash sound:

a) relax; avoid tension

b) determine where you want the two cymbals meet/touch

c) determine whether or how much one edge will lead

Concept 7: Crash sound options:

a) normal crash; circular motion is recommended (not a ‘jabbing’ motion)

b) “zischend” – scraping the edge of one cymbal along the surface of the other

c) dampening of one or both cymbals against your chest after the crash

© 2001 William L. Cahn

8740 Wesley Road, Bloomfield, NY 14469 USA

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