Enlighten Me on Cymbal Design

chillybase

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So I think I know the basics of cymbal design - bells, bows, taper, and weight, hammering and lathing. What I'm not sure about is how each individual part plays a role in the cymbal sound, or at least I think that I don't. I'm sure there are other aspects that I don't know hence why I'm asking for enlightenment.

I am mainly asking because, like others, I am in a position where I can only hear demos online before buying (then searched used). I don't know how often online demos hold up to the in person sound. Like any instrument, it will just sound different recorded. I have an Epiphone acoustic that does just that. The in person sound isn't the greatest but when recorded it sounds like some early Pink Floyd acoustic tones.

I think if I have a deeper understanding of the construction then I may know what to look for if I have a sound in my head.

I only have some Zildjian A's. I guess what I notice a out them is that they don't have heavy hammering (computer aided or otherwise), lathed (but I'm not sure if it is semi-fine or what levels of lathing there are).

I have recently acquired a Ziljian A Avedis (reissue) 18" ride/crash and compared it to my 20" A medium thin crash (2013+) and 18" inch A medium thin crash (80s/90s). I'd say it sounds my like my 20" crash. I don't have the weights in front of me but I have weighed all my cymbals out of curiosity. I found that the 18" A Avedis could probably take the place of either cymbal overall, even though I think the sound leaned closer to my 20" crash.

- Does hammering just darken the tone and shorten the sustain?
- Does the taper effect just the crashability?
- What role does weight play?
- Is pitch determined by diameter and weight? Or one or the other?
- What are the different types of lathing?
- Do you think patina plays that much of a role in the sound?
 

bongomania

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Hard to answer in a way many people would agree on, and I’m no expert, but—

Hammering can have a pretty wide range of results. More trash, more darkness, more dryness; it depends on the specific way and amount it’s hammered.

Patina generally reduces some high frequency content, and in extreme cases can dry the sound.

Pitch is both diameter and weight at the same time. Plus you can have complex sounds like a heavy ride may have a high pitched ping but also a low pitched roar underneath.

The coarser the lathing, the more complex the sound, imo. Don’t quote me on that, because it’s not a “fact”, just my general impression. Of course it depends on the specific case, but when I see fine lathing I expect a smooth clean sound.
 

CSR

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I found the following book to contain a wealth of cymbal information :

 

chillybase

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I found the following book to contain a wealth of cymbal information :

Thanks for the book recommendation. I'll order this and take a look.
 

zenstat

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The coarser the lathing, the more complex the sound, imo. Don’t quote me on that, because it’s not a “fact”, just my general impression. Of course it depends on the specific case, but when I see fine lathing I expect a smooth clean sound.
Couldn't resist. :glasses8:

I've got a few quotes from cymbalmakers about the different lathing styles, but I'm not very well at the moment so I can't work through it all. I don't remember any specific mention of complexity. It is one of those things I'm still trying to get to the bottom of. :dontknow:

As far as the other factors go what you have is a complex web of cause and effect. Other things being equal I've got this so far:

larger diameter => lower pitch
lighter weight => lower pitch
more weight => increased sustain
more weight => increase attack (ping)
lower profile => lower pitch
increased bell size => more overtones (higher frequencies)
decreased bell size => more stick sound
fine lathing => more stick sound
coarse lathing => opens up more easily
increased taper => opens up and crashes more easily
more hammering => increase complexity
irregular hammering => greater complexity than regular hammering
more hammering => increased trash (specific styles of hammering yet to be determined)
more hammering => decrease sustain
brilliant finish => increase glassy sound
brilliant finish => reduce tonal grooves => more stick sound (mimic fine lathing)

The trouble is that other things are not equal. You can change the setting of one parameter (for example more weight which increases sustain) but then do more hammering (decreases sustain). The design for a specific cymbal is a trade off among a number of parameters to achieve a sonic goal.

Next up there are causal chains which influence the outcome. Say

increased bell size => more overtones => more energy in higher frequency ranges => increased complexity

or another chain which goes

increased bell size => more overtones => more energy in higher frequency ranges => higher perceived pitch => perceived as louder

So you can't treat just one cause (cymbal parameter) and one effect (cymbal sound) in isolation.

The above list isn't complete yet. My potential outcome variables list currently includes
  • pitch
  • stick/wash ratio
  • dryness (but I'm not convinced that wash is simply the opposite of dry)
  • ping (stick attack can be woody vs metallic and so on)
  • sustain
  • crashability
  • complexity
  • trash
  • volume
One of the interesting problems in reviewing what different cymbal makers have to say is that they don't all agree on what causes what. This makes the job of bringing it all together into a coherent whole rather challenging.

Pinksterboer is an excellent place to start. It is also 25 years out of date.
 

DrummerJustLikeDad

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So, this feeds a question I've been ruminating on for a while.

_If_ we can assume physical treatment of a cymbal creates "consistent" sound characteristics, does anyone know (or even have evidence of) "recipe cards" or pages in the manual which Zildjian foundry workers would have consulted when creating a specific type? I.E., "I'm about to make an A medium ride, therefore, here's where I press it this much, make the bell according to these size and thickness specs, get out the calipers and make sure the taper goes from thickness X to thickness Y down the shoulder, set my lathing grooves this far apart, etc.?

How could they possibly know how to mix, cook and bang the bronze into a specific target (when outcomes seem loose and subjective at best), _without_ following some kind of set of standardized techniques for each type? If not, what's a cymbal maker's procedure when setting out to make a specific type?
 

zenstat

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So, this feeds a question I've been ruminating on for a while.

_If_ we can assume physical treatment of a cymbal creates "consistent" sound characteristics, does anyone know (or even have evidence of) "recipe cards" or pages in the manual which Zildjian foundry workers would have consulted when creating a specific type? I.E., "I'm about to make an A medium ride, therefore, here's where I press it this much, make the bell according to these size and thickness specs, get out the calipers and make sure the taper goes from thickness X to thickness Y down the shoulder, set my lathing grooves this far apart, etc.?

How could they possibly know how to mix, cook and bang the bronze into a specific target (when outcomes seem loose and subjective at best), _without_ following some kind of set of standardized techniques for each type? If not, what's a cymbal maker's procedure when setting out to make a specific type?
Yes there are specific methods (recipes, specs) for specific models based on the information I've got for Paiste, Zildjian, and Sabian. I presume (but don't know) the other factories have the same approach. Independent cymbalmakers who work on their own have a bit more freedom. The production details are a commercial secret, but the cymbals which result are able to be analyzed. In addition to the recipes there are test cymbals (master cymbals) which are used as a sonic standard and testers assess individual cymbals against that standard. We can't access their brains to see what criteria they are using to know what is "close enough" to the design standard. It's more of a gestalt thing. It's the vibe of the vibrations...


Efficient production means you don't want to reject cymbals at the end of the process (old style quality control) but are better off making small corrections along the way to get them all to the desired sonic outcome (new style quality assurance processes).
 
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zenstat

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What are the different types of lathing?
I'm still in the process of putting together the wiki page on lathing styles. Here is my list and some (not all) of the illustrations. I'll put in the rest as I have time to assemble them.

fine tonal groove

18-1490-top.jpg

coarse tonal groove

bos21bot.jpg


variable rings of coarse and fine (see next post)




turk (unlathed Bosphorus except for a little bit at the edge) and you can also have turk bottom or turk top with the other side lathed normally.

20-1676-top.jpg



unlathed bell (Bos Antique, also has an unlathed band)

bos21top.jpg



unlathed band (Sabian 3 point)

21-3point.png

unlathed inner bow and bell (sabian duo)

20-duo-ride.png


skim lathing (Paiste Traditionals bottom)

18-trad-cr-bot.jpeg


and an Agop 30th skim lathing (also serves to show variable width lathing bands)

22-2330-top.jpg


spiral (pin) lathing comes in two styles. One is shown on the left side of the Agop 30th image below. They have cut into the oven crust leaving a spiral pattern. The track is flat. It is actually very similar to the skim lahting example on the bottom of the Paiste Traditional, and I might need to fine up my naming and criteria.

22-2672-lathing.jpeg


The other form of spiral (pin) lathing is done on a fully lathed cymbal as a final pass. It is like a record groove on this 22" K Constantinople Bounce. You can also see the clusters of hammering which are added to "trash it up" according to Paul Francis. Cue link to discussion on hammering and trash.


22-2472-top.jpg


Many of these can be combined in one cymbal. For example, the A Avedis series you mentioned uses fine tonal groove lathing top and bottom. A previous series Armand (which survives only in the Beautiful Baby) had fine tonal groove on top and coarse on the bottom. Later 1950s A Zildjians tended to have fine lathing on the bells, combined with variable rings of coarse lathing on the bow (top and bottom).
 
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zenstat

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Ran out of attachments allowed in one post before I got to this example of variable width lathing with rings of coarse and fine. This is a late 50s A Zildjian and it also shows the common style of coarse bell lathing part way up the side and then fine on top.

20-1835-top.jpg



I've got more specific examples comparing coarse and fine tonal groove lathing and how to use that to tell different 602 models apart. First two large (aka coarse) examples

18-1419-large.jpg



18-1920-large.jpeg


And then fine tonal groove

sss-fine-lathing.png


sss-fine-lathing2.png


And here is a Paiste with an unlathed bell plus skim lathing which doesn't get into the bottoms of some of the hammering marks because it is so shallow

21-2167-top.jpg
 

chillybase

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I knew I came to the right place. :)

So just based on the above characteristics and putting together a hypothetical formula -- if I wanted a crash/ride cymbal with a little bit of complexity I would want:

a mix of fine and coarse lathing
a medium-size bell - perhaps a raw bell
medium thin to medium weight
larger diameter for volume and lower pitch - 20"+
some irregular hammering to bring out complexities
a thinner taper to bring out crashability

Something like that? Obviously, I'm just working through an example.

Now I've heard of people saying they had to break in their cymbals. Do you think this actually happens? (Assuming the stick hasn't cracked, dented, or otherwise changed the shape of the cymbal) Or do you think it is the ears that are readjusting to the new cymbal in the arsenal?

I practice on the Zildjian L80 cymbals at home, I'd say 90% of the time. When I do play my other cymbals, I find that my ears to need to readjust and perhaps my playing does a little bit too. With the L80s, you can pretty much use any stick and it will basically sound the same. As my playing and my ears refine, I am learning the differences between stick sound on cymbals. Something that I probably wouldn't have noticed before. I suppose sticks play into part of this whole equation of cymbal design as I imagine stick type will help give the optimum sound based on the cymbal.
 

REF

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- Does hammering just darken the tone and shorten the sustain? *******Hammering shapes the disk and tempers the metal. The more you hammer the metal the more you weaken and lessen its brightness as a metal object.

- Does the taper effect just the crashability? *******Rides tend to have more of a bow to them, which is why they sound more "gongy" when crashed but, more sustain and ping. Crash cymbals are generally flatter but, variations on the themes abound in crash/ride, ride/crash models, and all other categories, company to company.

- What role does weight play? *******Generally speaking more weight equals higher pitch. The thicker the disk, the higher the pitch, or even a block of wood: the more dense the species, the higher the pitch. That is all things being equal - size, hammering, etc. More weight/thickness also means greater durability.

- Is pitch determined by diameter and weight? Or one or the other? *******Both. Cymbals do not have a determined pitch because of all the tones produced, both overtones and undertones. They have relative pitches that can be determined by size: a 16" medium crash will have a higher relative pitch than a 17." But, a 16" "thin" crash may have a lower pitch than a 17" rock crash. Thickness/weight means pitch, just as much as diameter. And all companies have varying benchmarks for how they grade their cymbals.

- What are the different types of lathing? *******Traditional bits have been used for a century to create traditional lathing, say 1/8" grooves +/-. A's, AA's, 602's generally have the brightest sound and wide open sound because of that lathing and machine hammering. Point or pin lathing mellows out a cymbal's response a little. No lathing at all produces the calmest metal when struck. Again, variations abound. Personally, I think UFIP Class series have the most interesting lathing patterns, using different tools in the process, and their sound, for me, is the richest and fullest. Paiste Signatures also have that same character of sound, which also employ original tooling and lathing patterns.

- Do you think patina plays that much of a role in the sound? *******I have purchased cymbals with the worst green oxidation grunge on them, decades of hand oils, french fries and who knows what else on them, cleaned them to new finish and they sound a little brighter, nothing dramatic. Patina is said to effect sound. Not that I have ever noticed in any way one would hear when a whole drum set is engaged.

I would say two things. 1 - Machine hammered cymbals will generally sound the most consistent model to model, and among all those heard and owned over the years Paiste manufacturers the most consistent cymbals. What you hear on line will be the closest to what you purchase. Especially will that be the case with their special alloys, and B8/B12 models. B20 bronze can have more character, which causes the differences cymbal to cymbal within the same line, model, and size. Hand hammering is a mixed bag, literally. The cymbal you hear on youtube may sound different than the one you purchase. You will get generally character but, not exact, which is why, or one of the reasons players like hand hammered cymbals. Dream cymbals can vary so much one should expect the one they purchase to sound different than the one they hear online.

2 - Tony Williams was interviewed. It was mentioned he crashed his 22" K a lot. He replied he does not see rides or crashes. He sees a cymbal, and he can do whatever he wants with it.

Everybody has different ears when it comes to cymbals. My ears like bright sound. My ears like med-thin crashes and pingier rides with both stick definition and some wash. To my ears, a medium crash sounds on the dull or boring side: typical. A rock crash sounds weird with lingering undertones, and a thin may sound nice but, may not hold up to the velocity of strikes it receives from me and my chosen sticks, in the music I play. Paperthin models just sound weak to me. Those are general rules of thumb. Same with hats, which I match with a smaller bottom than top cymbal, 12/13, 13/14, 14/15. I just prefer the chick sounds and my sticks don't get chewed up as much, either. But, any thickness and lathing, and technique can produce perfect cymbals for different situations. I make accent cymbals from broken cymbals I get off ebay. I take a 20" B8 ride, cut it down to a 10" and stress from the hammered bow bends it backwards and I get a piercing china bell that sounds totally unique.

The next guy has an entirely different pair of ears and rules of engagement. Sound is anything but, typical when it comes to cymbals.

Years ago I began lathing cymbals. It's an interesting hobby. I've learned a lot. I don't re-hammer cymbals. While I own some hand hammered cymbals that are not my favorite sound so, I don't get into hammering.
 

Barden

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Not to oversimplify, but it may help to think about a single bar of metal resonating with one fixed node in the center. You can start to answer some of your own questions by imagining changing only its aspect ratio (long and thin vs. short and thick). If struck in the "same spot", you will get different resonating frequencies. So you can't isolate weight alone because this comparison is the same weight. If you think of the bar having two nodes nearer the ends you now have an example like a xylophone which gives you an example of what to do to the bar to get higher and lower notes.

As for hammering, the single bar now has ripples like a wiggly noodle. As it vibrates, it excites the air around it, but due to the ripples, points on the noodle near each other have different directions of normal. This gets you constructive and destructive interference. The spacing and size of the ripples effects the frequencies of interference. You could have a fundamental hum not be interfered, but no predominant ringing frequency above a particular threshold due to the general chaos. That is exactly how I would describe a trashy cymbal.

When you expand from the one dimensional example, you can have vibrations radially on the cymbal too. This is where the bell becomes interesting. Would a thicker bell on a thinner cymbal not resist transferring waves of vibration and force the energy back and around the bell?

I think less excited mass in a cymbal, with lots of internal interference, makes for a faster dryer, trashier sound.


We also know that we can get a thicker cymbal with a piercing ringing sound regardless of patina or polish. Not to say that patina vs. polish have no effect, but it can be dominated by other factors.
 

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I second the The Cymbal Book recommendation- a fun place to start. Talk to cymbal-smiths if you can, they often have an interesting perspective on how to achieve certain sounds. There are a lot of basic rules that are mentioned above, but sometimes that goes out the window in practice and you just have to listen to the cymbal. Many of the characteristics mentioned interact with each other in weird ways. Ultimately, one has to develop the ear to pick out the stick, the wash and all the other overtones and hit the cymbal in all sorts of different locations (bell, edge, shoulder) and also in different patterns and speeds. Sometimes, strong overtones only come out after a cymbal has been repeatedly vibrating for a bit.
Also, there are some things that just don't play by the rules, particularly with older K's, that I don't think anyone has quite figured out yet- something about the metal they used or the aging.
 

Seb77

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How could they possibly know how to mix, cook and bang the bronze into a specific target (when outcomes seem loose and subjective at best)
Note the alloy is the same for many different kinds of cymbals. There's basically B20 (all Zildjians except for beginner models, All Turkish cymbals), B15 (Paiste signature) and B8 (Paiste 2002 et al.). Those are things explained in-depth in the cymbal book, (and not much has changed in that respect since the book was written I think.)
 

zenstat

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Note the alloy is the same for many different kinds of cymbals. There's basically B20 (all Zildjians except for beginner models, All Turkish cymbals), B15 (Paiste signature) and B8 (Paiste 2002 et al.). Those are things explained in-depth in the cymbal book, (and not much has changed in that respect since the book was written I think.)
Also, there are some things that just don't play by the rules, particularly with older K's, that I don't think anyone has quite figured out yet- something about the metal they used or the aging.
We do have better analysis now than Pinksterboer had. This has allowed us to debunk some of the myths, particularly about B25 and the "secret of old Ks". It has also allowed us to leave behind the myth which puts the sound of old Ks down to impurities in the alloy.

 

zenstat

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- Does the taper effect just the crashability? *******Rides tend to have more of a bow to them, which is why they sound more "gongy" when crashed but, more sustain and ping. Crash cymbals are generally flatter but, variations on the themes abound in crash/ride, ride/crash models, and all other categories, company to company.
There has historically been a mix up of terms between taper and profile. I think that may be happening in your answer. I've traced the mix up back to some Avedis Zldjian literature in the 50s and 60s, but they have since come down on the side of the definitions I am using here. Taper is the thinning of the metal towards the outer edge which happens when the cymbal is lathed. Profile is the curvature of the bow which is created be pressing into shape (the North American method since the 1970s) or hammering into shape (the Turkish and European [Paiste] method).

Machine hammered cymbals will generally sound the most consistent model to model, and among all those heard and owned over the years Paiste manufacturers the most consistent cymbals. What you hear on line will be the closest to what you purchase. Especially will that be the case with their special alloys, and B8/B12 models. B20 bronze can have more character, which causes the differences cymbal to cymbal within the same line, model, and size.
As I mentioned above Paiste cymbals are hammered for shape from a flat blank rather than hydraulically pressed into shape. A crasftsman at Paiste guides the cymbal by hand although the force is machine generated. At Zildjian they use hydraulic pressing into shape followed by computer controlled hammering. If you put the consistency of Paiste cymbals down to the alloy you have failed to account for their B20 cymbals, and you have failed to explain the awkward fact that the additionial machine steps at Zildjian and Sabian haven't created a more consistent product. I put the difference down to quality assurance.
 

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You might be better off to tell a cymbalsmith ( like Matt Bettis) what you want and have him or her create the cymbals you want. Some of those people can do amazing things, fairly precisely creating a particular sound when making one cymbal at a time.

Paiste production methods tend to produce a very consistent line where, say, one 18" crash of a certain model will sound very much like any other cymbal of the same model.

This is less the case with cast B20 cymbals where there is usually some variation cymbal to cymbal, even if they are the same brand and model. I'm sure they are able to get them ever closer to spec as the technology improves but I still hear differences when testing various cymbals of the same model. I might be extra particular, but only about one in five cymbals of a particular type will sound good to me, maybe two or three of that group will be "okay" and typically one will be " no way would I buy that". Of course that might be the one that someone else loves the sound of. All this complicates buying cymbals online where you can't hear them in person, although some sellers produce high end demos that demonstrate the sound of a particular cymbal pretty well.
 

REF

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There has historically been a mix up of terms between taper and profile. I think that may be happening in your answer. I've traced the mix up back to some Avedis Zldjian literature in the 50s and 60s, but they have since come down on the side of the definitions I am using here. Taper is the thinning of the metal towards the outer edge which happens when the cymbal is lathed. Profile is the curvature of the bow which is created be pressing into shape (the North American method since the 1970s) or hammering into shape (the Turkish and European [Paiste] method). *******I would agree with that terminology, technically speaking. Thus taper effects crashability, traditionally speaking but, I side with Tony Williams. I play it the way I want to, regardless of catalog listing or model specifics. Every company has its own "ears" of design in what should be the sound and feel of rides, crash-rides, crashes, and effects. Model listing, company to company seems less than ultimate help in purchasing cymbals. It's ballpark, at best.



As I mentioned above Paiste cymbals are hammered for shape from a flat blank rather than hydraulically pressed into shape. A crasftsman at Paiste guides the cymbal by hand although the force is machine generated. At Zildjian they use hydraulic pressing into shape followed by computer controlled hammering. If you put the consistency of Paiste cymbals down to the alloy you have failed to account for their B20 cymbals, and you have failed to explain the awkward fact that the additionial machine steps at Zildjian and Sabian haven't created a more consistent product. I put the difference down to quality assurance. *******I'm not sure of your point here, in reference to my comment. I believe 602's can have variation like any other B20 cymbal. When it comes to other Paiste alloys, they craft cymbals very consistent in tone cymbal to cymbal, moreso than others in my experience. The reason I do not know - hammering, lathing, which you do not mention in your reply, or whatever they do. You would also have to define "quality assurance." Is that the space they allow for tone and relative pitch cymbal to cymbal, closer than other companies? I do not purchase new B20 Zildjians anymore. I have purchased too many that had defects, like cracks from the factory, or they were just dead metal. If that is lack of quality assurance, I heartily agree.
 

Cliff DeArment

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Now I've heard of people saying they had to break in their cymbals. Do you think this actually happens? (Assuming the stick hasn't cracked, dented, or otherwise changed the shape of the cymbal) Or do you think it is the ears that are readjusting to the new cymbal in the arsenal?
In my case, there's a ride I often use for recording (K Custom Dark). Got that in the 90's and it's very reliable as a standard. In the first few years, once it was into the mix process I'd find that there would be a little build up. I wouldn't notice it otherwise. Microphones show it all very clearly. It would need to be taped up a bit to keep it in check. The longer it went through the years it needed smaller and smaller bits of tape (about 2 years). Now it doesn't need anything but playing naked and settles in very nicely as it should. It just depends on how long it takes to find it's groove. If I played it more often (only use that for recording), I'm pretty sure the break in period would have been faster.
 
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