Cymbal sound: touch vs stick

marc3k

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Dear DFO members

I noticed that in threads about cymbal recommendations often the argument about improving one's "touch" comes up. Often it is argued that if one has a good "touch", one could make every cymbal sound great. I was wondering what the impact of the stick is in this case. I'm using a regular Vic Firth 5A American Classic, because I thought I should be able to get every sound out of a cymbal with this stick. It seems however that many drummers use a variety of different sticks.

I wonder if drummers are compensating "touch" with sticks specifically designed to lead to certain results. To me this would be similar to using a vater vintage bomber if one is not able to feather the bass drum with a regular felt beater.

So, do you think one is able to achieve all cymbal sounds with the same stick if one's touch is good enough?
 

JDA

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touch and stick go hand in hand doesn't it..
and to your last point/question/ I think Maple is overlooked by a lot of people.
Once you Go maple..
it's a drag- you need a real solid reason- to use (or switch back) hickory.
It's possible but maple makes touch so easy (for me)
It's psychological somewhat but that's how you begin the evening; how it ends up is something different

ps: I have maple sticks that are heavier than hickory sticks so it's not solely a 'weight' issue' it's a 'texture' issue.
 
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JDA

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So, do you think one is able to achieve all cymbal sounds with the same stick if one's touch is good enough?
cymbal sounds within one's own personal parameters; Yes.
 
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Seb77

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You won't get all kinds of sounds possible with one cymbal from one stick alone. Sticks can sound very different - thin, low-pitched or thick and high/bright/heavy etc.
Re: VF5A - they are said to be middle ground, but they can come out very heavy, so much so I couldn't use one pair for quiet fast playing, or getting around the kit quietly. With a medium to light pair of these, I might be able to manage all volume levels, but I might use a bigger or smaller stick depending on the job. The right size hammer for each nail so to speak.
 

EvEnStEvEn

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Vater Sugar Maple "Phat Ride" is a superb model stick for light touch playing.
Highly recommended!
 
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Pretty interesting question. But I think you (sort of) have to define "touch" for an answer. (Sorry.) Or at least try.

For me (!!!) touch comes back to how long your stick comes in contact with the instrument. In real time touch is indiscernible, but in demos like this, I think you can actually see what touch is. (I wish the cymbal one would have a demo of someone playing a ride pattern.)


I believe the natural "muting" that happens when the stick is in contact with the instrument for more or less nanoseconds, as does the amount of velocity in which you use (or don't use) to hit the instrument, has a pretty discernible effect on your sound and really defines your touch.

That's how I define touch. There seems to be a lot of physics (which is way above my pay grade) involved.

How would a stick or mallet affect this aspect of touch? In my opinion, weight, tip size and shape, wood density, and rebound would definitely affect your touch. What angle the tip of the stick hits the instrument, the shape of the tip determining how much wood actually comes in contact with the instrument. I think, the instrument and the sound it creates (when activated) also helps define your touch and your sound.

For me, all of this is encapsulated in "technique." Your touch is created by your own technique (or lack thereof.) I think of technique as "sound" and "control" (i.e. touch,) much more than I think of technique as "speed." Of course there are other things involved in technique as well.

Touch is a subset of control, i.e. how are you controlling the sound of your instrument? I believe your touch does this. How in tune you are with your choice of specific sticks, brushes, or BD beater (the only things that actually touch the instrument,) will affect your touch and sound on the instrument. That's what I call your technique-touch-stick relationship So we're getting closer to your query.

I will disagree with something in your initial question. You state, "Often it is argued that if one has a good "touch", one could make every cymbal sound great." I don't think that true. I think to substitute the phrase "like you" could be inserted for the word "great."

So, instead. Often it is argued that if one has a good "touch", one could make every cymbal sound like you.

You then ask,

I wonder if drummers are compensating "touch" with sticks specifically designed to lead to certain results. To me this would be similar to using a vater vintage bomber if one is not able to feather the bass drum with a regular felt beater.

To answer this I would answer a resounding YES!!! I believe a lot of musicians compensate for hard work (focussed practice) with constantly buying and trying out new and different instruments.

Instead, I believe that spending time with the (quality!) instruments (sticks, cymbals, drums, heads) and developing your technique (determining habits, strong points and deficiencies) in those things FIRST is a better route to happiness, creation, and CONTROL in and of one's own sound.

HOWEVER, if someone can design sticks or beaters to help you achieve a certain sound that combined with a good touch, can help you achieve a certain sound that you hear in your head, I'm all for that! But I will still contend that the sound is still developed and created in your hands (and your technique and touch,) NOT in the sticks.

You then ask,

"So, do you think one is able to achieve all cymbal sounds with the same stick if one's touch is good enough?"

In my opinion, if you have enough control of the instrument through your touch, and your technique-touch-stick relationship is fully realized, I think you should be able to coax a decent sound out of almost any musical instrument (within reason!!!) that you encounter. However,(big caveat) overall musical dynamic is always an x-factor-variable as well.

I hope that helps answer your good question,
MSG
 

NobleCooleyNut

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touch and stick go hand in hand doesn't it..
and to your last point/question/ I think Maple is overlooked by a lot of people.
Once you Go maple..
it's a drag- you need a real solid reason- to use (or switch back) hickory.
It's possible but maple makes touch so easy (for me)
It's psychological somewhat but that's how you begin the evening; how it ends up is something different

ps: I have maple sticks that are heavier than hickory sticks so it's not solely a 'weight' issue' it's a 'texture' issue.
Very correct - maple is the way to go . They don’t chip away , they sent and the stick shock is reduced . I like the feel of the stick impact on cymbals much more with a maple stick .
 

JazzDrumGuy

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Is your 5A wood or plastic tip? Whatever it is, get a pair in the other top. You will note a difference regardless off wood. It plays a part as does feel. If you give a heavy hitter any stick, they will hit hard regardless and I don't think will affect the sound. If you give to someone with a light touch/sound, more likely will have a bigger difference in sound.

I really like the VF SD2 Bolero with the small wood maple pea tip. Very woody sound and it bounces off the ride. Unfortunately, with jazz, I can blow thro a stick in a month and it ends up looking like a spear. I also use the Zildjian Bill Stewart oval wood tip hickory. A little less woody than the Bolero but the tip looks like new and doesn't wear or splinter. It also gives a nice sound, slightly different and the wood is a little harder and you can feel it, plus it's lighter and thinner. Ideally, they'd make a hickory Bolero....still hoping.
 

Pibroch

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The idea that you can get all cymbal sounds with the same stick is akin to saying you can get an acoustic piano to sound like a harpsichord if you have the right touch. A cymbal using one stick is a different musical instrument to the same cymbal using a differently designed stick.

Typically different sticks will activate differently expressed patterns of a particular cymbal’s overtones. For example one stick will produce a cutting high pitched ping with a complex untidy ringing decay, together with a very tidy even sounding low pitched wash. Another stick will produce a compact tidy lower pitched woody “tak” and an untidy complex quivering wash containing more higher pitched overtones.
 
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JonnyFranchi$e

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Very correct - maple is the way to go . They don’t chip away , they sent and the stick shock is reduced . I like the feel of the stick impact on cymbals much more with a maple stick .
I'm with @JDA and @NobleCooleyNut on this one.

After more than a decade loving my hickory Denis Chambers sticks, but lamenting the constant chipping of the tips. I tried some Vater Sugar Maples about a year ago. ("Sugar Maple" is a cool name too I think!)

Good heavens, the difference is shocking to me. The feel, the sweetness of the sound (even on the drum heads it feels different). And honestly they seem MORE durable to me. I don't have the same tip-chip thing going on anymore, anyway.


So it is the sticks or the drummer? YES!


To me it's like golf clubs. Yes, we should all practice and get our technique together so we don't need to "depend on" the sticks. But we play with drums with drum sticks, so it's part of the thing. Similarly, we play golf with golf clubs.

Yeah I could get around the course with ONLY a 7 iron. But having some other clubs sure does help. Or I could get around with a super cheap set of walmart clubs; but some decent, properly fitted clubs tailored for my swing would probably help my game quite a bit.

I'm a hacker all the way - on the course and behind the kit - so yeah, maple sticks are like my super-game-improvement clubs, and I don't care. I play better with em and to my ear they sound a LOT sweeter on the cymbals.

As @JDA said, it's a bummer going back to hickory sometimes. They feel primitive or something, like going back to my Walmart golf clubs.

Also, in prep for a little jazz thing coming up, I got a pair of the Sugar Maple with the teardrop tip and THAT makes a significant difference too.

So, in sum. I think yes technique is important, but it's also important to use the best tool you can afford for the job at hand.

POW!
 

marc3k

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Thanks for all replies - a lot of great insight!

Re: VF5A - they are said to be middle ground, but they can come out very heavy, so much so I couldn't use one pair for quiet fast playing, or getting around the kit quietly. With a medium to light pair of these, I might be able to manage all volume levels, but I might use a bigger or smaller stick depending on the job. The right size hammer for each nail so to speak.
That's true - I have like 5 or 6 pairs and there are significant differences in weight in those! I just noticed that the pair I usually use is rather heavy, but I like the cymbal sound I get with them, especially when playing at lower volume.

I hope that helps answer your good question,
MSG
For sure - it was really interesting reading your thoughts and concepts about this topic.

As @JDA said, it's a bummer going back to hickory sometimes. They feel primitive or something, like going back to my Walmart golf clubs.

Also, in prep for a little jazz thing coming up, I got a pair of the Sugar Maple with the teardrop tip and THAT makes a significant difference too.

So, in sum. I think yes technique is important, but it's also important to use the best tool you can afford for the job at hand.

POW!
That made me chuckle.

It seems that Maple sticks are getting a lot of love here - I have never tried them! Maybe I will pick up a pair the next time I'm in a drum shop. I use only VF5A with regular wood tips, altough I have some 7A Promark sticks around, but stopped using them like 3 years ago.

So I think my question was mostly answered. "Touch" is important, but it seems that different sticks actually have a significant effect on the resulting sound.
 

JimmySticks

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I’m a convert to maple as well, Vater sugar maple, 7A Manhattans. They sound really good on my cymbals and somehow, they really hold up well for such a light stick. No chipping from hitting cymbals to be seen, which sort of amazes me being they seem so fragile and dainty. I was playing the huge VF Buddy Rich hickory 5As and they are all dinged up, like somebody was hacking at them with an axe. Go figure. They didn’t sound very good on my cymbals either.

To sum up, maple is cool, sugar maple is way cool!:cool2:
 

pwc1141

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I switched to small ball tipped sticks long ago as they definitely gave me a more mellow sound on my Bosphorus ride cymbals. ( Promark Micheal Carvin model). But I play jazz in trio settings and am a light player. In my experience, each cymbal has itself a range of sounds from different parts of itself, independent of stick used.
 

noreastbob

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Touch and stick choice are kind of inseparable in my book. I have "evolved" to a place where I use lighter small tip VF AJ6's. They allow incredibly complex and accurate ride cymbal work.
On the other hand I've found one of the biggest differences in ride sound is how you hold the stick. The looser you hold the ride stick the more wood you hear. It's subtle but very definite. So stick choice and touch are both huge on the sound.
Not to mention where you strike the cymbal...
 

toddbishop

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I don't know who decided it was a "vs" situation-- obviously they both affect your sound. There are sticks that will compensate for a bad/too heavy cymbal or not-very-good touch-- the Peter Erskine cymbal stick, or the Vater Sweet Ride-- and there are sticks that won't make a pretty sound on a cymbal in normal playing no matter how good your touch is. Like, I think of those VF American Classics as power sticks. They don't sound real good in situations where touch is a factor-- anything less than full volume playing.
 

chillybase

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This thread influenced me to pick up some maple sticks with my Player Points.

I don’t have a lot of finesse in my playing yet but I do hear differences in sticks when I use them.
 


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