Back to Basics: What are orchestral/symphonic cymbals?

D. B. Cooper

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Hey everybody!

Another thread got me thinking about these. I understand a little about them, but what are the differences in their manufacturing from current day cymbals that are made for drum set use?
What characteristics does one look for when selecting them?
I'll probably never play in an orchestra but I'm curious to hear experiences with them nonetheless.
 

JDA

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Ok. I read it once and I believe it.

" All Partials Present".

the manipulative eventage leading to the final product is different
leaning in towards that "^^" direction..
Now don't tell old K that
because they didn't know
the difference ; )
if you run into them you know what I mean..
 
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Tama CW

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I've only owned one. A later 80's EAK 20" Orchestra cymbal. I didn't purposely pick it out for that use. I wanted a jazz ride. But it was the ONLY large K for sale in the music store at that time (early 90's). And in testing it out at the store it seemed worthy enough.

Now having compared it against various other EAK rides I've owned.......the Orchestra model is far washier and explosive. The stick does get easily lost in the wash once you get on it even modestly. Very bright sounding. Really too bright for me. And hard to control as a ride.
Crescendo is no doubt massive, esp. with mallets. Basically meant to be project and accent the orchestra. It does that great. Now some players (like Gadd) have used these for their kit rides in some situations. I tried it but never could
quite accept what I was hearing. As far as look, weight, profile, hammering, bell, and other details.....it looked very much like any other EAK ride I've had. Weight was a medium at around 2350 gm. So in between jazz rides and heavy rides. Might call it a power crash/ride.
 
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Seb77

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Might call it a power crash/ride.
This makes sense. Would be interesting to compare an orchestral cymbal to something like a Rude crash-ride, or use two of these as a pair.
To my mind, orchestral cymbals have "more of everything". For one, the wash has a wider range of tones than a ride. Comparing orchestral cymbals to rides was interesting to me - you normally woudn't think of a ride as having a limited bandwidth, but compared to an orchestral cymbal, they are; the focus on a certain area of the sound spectrum; playing an orchestral cymbal as a ride would mask/cover more of the other instruments.
At the same time, the edge is thicker than with a crash, creating more zing; this also seems to keep them from going into "overdrive mode" with the highest overtones when crashed at the edge the way a crash would.
So in summary, they make neither good rides nor crashes - the definition of a (bad) crash ride :)
 

dtk

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On the zildjian tour there's a whole seperate vault for Orchestral cymbals.

I also ahve a 20" K orchestral which I love as a ride...it does crash easy. Found the same model in an 18 and its washier and crashier (I think Paul Francis said the Canadian Ks had a flatter profile).
I also have a 15" Sabian Banda Turka HHX (used as a top hat)
Meinl 16" Orchestrals (used as hats...very dark)
and a 17" Vienesse Crash/HH Sabian...great crash and maybe a tad fuller than an early think HH crash I have.

James Walker who is sometimes on this board has a decent orchestral background ...he might be able to chime in
 

KevinD

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Ok here is a dumb question that exposes my dumbness. Does "Orchestral Cymbal" refer only to hand held cymbals, (as in 1812 Overture crashes) or does that term also include the suspended cymbal?
SO if I were the Principal Percussionist for the NY Philharmonic (full disclosure, I'm not) and I walked into a music store that a Principal Percussionist might frequent, in search of a suspended cymbal, what characteristics would I look for?
 

Seb77

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Suspended cymbals in early days used to be just that, one of a pair suspended by its strap. There used to be dedicated "suspended" cymbals in the Zildjian catalog, for mallet rolls.
At conservatory, we just used larger crash cymbals such as a 19" A custom; I never saw a "suspended" type. I could imagine a slightly lower sound than what you get from a dedicated crash. Haven't played orchestra for a while, now I might try one of the crashable rides I have since bought.
 

kdgrissom

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Ok. I can speak to this because this is what I have been doing for the last 36 seasons.
First of all, as a orchestral player, you can never have enough cymbals--period. It's about matching the sound to the genre of music (Opera, Tone-Poems, Classical period, 20th and 21st Century modern, Jazz-age et.al.) not to mention the subtleties of country of origin (French, Germanic Russian). Sometimes you need a pair of cymbals that give you a quick decay and other times you need a pair that will have a sustain for two or more seconds (Cr-aaaaasssshhhh). To my ear, Zildjian has just in the last 20 years gotten noticeably closer to the revered Turkish K sound.....but it's still not there. We always hang our suspended cymbals on goose-neck stands for maximum vibration and sustain and we have a 3.5' x 6' cymbal table on stage with slots for storage. This helps when playing say, a Mahler Symphony where it would not be unusual to use 3-4 different hand held crashes and the same number of suspended cymbals to cover the myriad of colors within the music. The beauty of all this is, that the Violinists, (besides knowing they secretly would like to cut our hearts out with a dull spoon) bring the one instrument to work to play Bach, Beethoven and Stravinsky. We get the luxury to choose what instrument we personally think fits the music.
 
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Pedal_Pusher

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I retired from orchestra playing after 31 years but still own all of my orchestral cymbals. I bought them when Sabian was a new company at the Percussive Arts Society conventions. I ended up with sets of their hand hammered models. I agree that the biggest difference is that the orchestra player usually is looking for a more complete frequency spectrum. I found a couple of smaller pre-1930 Constantinople K Zildjians hand cymbals that also work well for pairing with the modern Sabians. The older cymbals seem to me to have a fuller low and mid range (maybe it is the effect of antique dirt?). Some cymbals are identified for use in hand pairs and some are identified for suspended cymbals. The suspended cymbals are played more with mallets than drum sticks. Even if the music states soft (or timpani) mallet, most folks use yarn covered mallets such as marimba and vibraphone mallets. Several companies make dedicated suspended cymbal mallets. If you look at the cymbal company literature you will see the hand cymbals described as French (light), Viennese (medium), and Germanic (heavy) as a guideline. Most symphonies also own regular drum set cymbals and some specialty cymbals such as splashs and small thin cymbals to be attached to concert bass drums so the bass drum and cymbals are played by one person. I used the Sabian Band Turka cymbals once in a while. If you get a chance to see and hear an orchestra's cymbals up close, I would really recommend it. Some of them are ancient instruments and unlike any modern cymbals.
 

D. B. Cooper

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I retired from orchestra playing after 31 years but still own all of my orchestral cymbals. I bought them when Sabian was a new company at the Percussive Arts Society conventions. I ended up with sets of their hand hammered models. I agree that the biggest difference is that the orchestra player usually is looking for a more complete frequency spectrum. I found a couple of smaller pre-1930 Constantinople K Zildjians hand cymbals that also work well for pairing with the modern Sabians. The older cymbals seem to me to have a fuller low and mid range (maybe it is the effect of antique dirt?). Some cymbals are identified for use in hand pairs and some are identified for suspended cymbals. The suspended cymbals are played more with mallets than drum sticks. Even if the music states soft (or timpani) mallet, most folks use yarn covered mallets such as marimba and vibraphone mallets. Several companies make dedicated suspended cymbal mallets. If you look at the cymbal company literature you will see the hand cymbals described as French (light), Viennese (medium), and Germanic (heavy) as a guideline. Most symphonies also own regular drum set cymbals and some specialty cymbals such as splashs and small thin cymbals to be attached to concert bass drums so the bass drum and cymbals are played by one person. I used the Sabian Band Turka cymbals once in a while. If you get a chance to see and hear an orchestra's cymbals up close, I would really recommend it. Some of them are ancient instruments and unlike any modern cymbals.

Great. Awesome info. I hope one day to see and hear some Turkish K symphonic cymbals up close!
 

D. B. Cooper

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Ok. I can speak to this because this is what I have been doing for the last 36 seasons.
First of all, as a orchestral player, you can never have enough cymbals--period. It's about matching the sound to the genre of music (Opera, Tone-Poems, Classical period, 20th and 21st Century modern, Jazz-age et.al.) not to mention the subtleties of country of origin (French, Germanic Russian). Sometimes you need a pair of cymbals that give you a quick decay and other times you need a pair that will have a sustain for two or more seconds (Cr-aaaaasssshhhh). To my ear, Zildjian has just in the last 20 years gotten noticeably closer to the revered Turkish K sound.....but it's still not there. We always hang our suspended cymbals on goose-neck stands for maximum vibration and sustain and we have a 3.5' x 6' cymbal table on stage with slots for storage. This helps when playing say, a Mahler Symphony where it would not be unusual to use 3-4 different hand held crashes and the same number of suspended cymbals to cover the myriad of colors within the music. The beauty of all this is, that the Violinists, (besides knowing they secretly would like to cut our hearts out with a dull spoon) bring the one instrument to work to play Bach, Beethoven and Stravinsky. We get the luxury to choose what instrument we personally think fits the music.

That's so cool!
Can you expand on your reply and give a couple of examples of what kinds of cymbals people use for the different styles of classical?
 

kdgrissom

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Can you expand on your reply and give a couple of examples of what kinds of cymbals people use for the different styles of classical?
I can only speak for myself. The first thing I consider before choosing a cymbal for any particular work is to determine the era of music and what cymbal sound was likely prevalent for the composer at that time. For the Classical, Romantic and impressionistic, the Turkish-style sound would have been dominant. Generally, with the rise of 20th century modern music, the sounds starts to brighten. Today, current young composers generally write for cymbals they grew up hearing, which would be mostly Zildjians and Sabians.
Germanic music from the Romantic period most usually requires a more heavy, thick, and sometimes clangy sounds (i.e. Wagner or Richard Strauss). French music, especially from the Impressionistic period (Debussy, Satie, Ravel etc.), requires a thinner more delicate color with lots of wash in the sound. I have a wonderful 14" paper-thin K from the late-40's that I use for Debussy's "Nocturnes" where I have to coax the color out of the cymbal by using a Timbale stick with thick piece of surgical tubing on the end to minimize the initial contact sound, because using a yarn covered mallet gave a thuddy sound.
All of this nonsense is different for other players because one has to take into account the sensitivity (or lack there of) of the concert hall itself. Basically, as your ears grow as a musician, you perceive what works best for the music.
 
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Tommy D

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I have a 20" Sabian Artisan Symphonic Suspended and a 19" HHX suspended cymbal. Both are great. The Artisan is a slightly dry and a bit quieter cymbal that all my other Artisans. I like it for jazz or lighter music. The 19" HHX is an amazing crash cymbal. Opens up really easy, beautiful decay. You have to be careful with that one, much like my 17" HHX Legacy crash because even a light touch can really make that one explode with sound.
 

Tommy D

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Ya know, I have a 20" Artisan crash that is within 50 grams of my 20" Artisan Symphonic. I should do an A/B test of the cymbals to see just what makes them so different.

In any case, I find these cymbals work well for the drum set, so if you see some orchestral cymbals for sale don't hesitate to buy them.
 

D. B. Cooper

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Ya know, I have a 20" Artisan crash that is within 50 grams of my 20" Artisan Symphonic. I should do an A/B test of the cymbals to see just what makes them so different.

In any case, I find these cymbals work well for the drum set, so if you see some orchestral cymbals for sale don't hesitate to buy them.
Please do!
 


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