I recently bought a Paiste black label 2002 20″ crash from a colleague. I will probably write more about that later. However, my friend threw in a cracked 20″ A. Zildjian & Cie Constantinople ride cymbal for free. This cymbal apparently used to belong to USC, at least from the inscription scratched under the bell, and dates from the early 1970’s. It has a grommet in the center hole, which probably indicates some keyholing from being played on a stand without a sleeve. It had a network of cracks that someone had unsuccessfully tried to stop by drilling holes. Here is a picture of the cracks:
And here is the stamp, which unfortunately is now gone:
The cymbal had character, but I was afraid to play it much for fear it would crack more, or even shatter. I posted pictures of the cymbal on the Drum Forum site (www.drumforum.org) and asked what people would do about it. Was it salvageable?
Drum Forum, otherwise known as DFO, had a lot of refugees from the Cymbalholic site on it at the time because Cymbalholic was going through massive changes and was inaccessible. There was a lot of esoteric cymbal expertise available. Some people said it was a lost cause. One said to cut it down to a 16″. Others recommended a user called “Premier Player” who did wonders with a Dremel machine. Premier Player (Premier is a brand of drums) contacted me and offered to work on it. I sent him the cymbal and he proposed a plan for repair, which was essentially the “Cookie Monster” repair: take a big chunk out of it. I knew this was a gamble. There was no way to tell what it would sound like. He said sometimes they come out better than ever before, even magical, but other times not so much. I decided to go forward with it. Here is the repaired cymbal. The repairman calculated that the bite out of the edge is about 5% of the total cymbal area:
Here is a clip of what it sounds like. Unfortunately I don’t have a before clip to go with it, but I think it sounds very similar to what it sounded like when I got it, but perhaps slightly lower in pitch. I am using a Vic Firth AJ2 wood tip.
It is not what I would call “magical” but I think it sounds pretty cool. It is definitely a jazz cymbal, and I will find uses for it in recording and maybe even in coffee house gigs, where it is sure to be a conversation piece!
I recently bought some 2.3 millimeter drum hoops for the snare and the 10″ tom on my Tama kit. To get free shipping I needed to buy something else, so I added an 18″ Wuhan China cymbal. When the cymbal arrived, I hated it. I thought it was the worst sounding cymbal I had ever heard. I was going to send it back, even though it really wasn’t worth it because the shipping would cost almost as much as the cymbal. However, others told me it was interesting. They were right.
Here is a picture:
Wuhan 18″ China Cymbal
Here is a track using the cymbal. It is one of those long explorations I do that really set a mood, but don’t go anywhere. The guitar is my Agile LP through a jazz guitar patch in Guitar Rig 4. The synth is the “Dungeon” patch on Absynth 5, slightly modified. The ride cymbal is the 20″ Wuhan, the hats are 14″ Armands, and then there is the China cymbal.
The China is trashy and loud. It sounds different any place you hit it. In this clip, I use it both as a crash and a ride.
Oh, I forgot to add: The synth is also played with the Agile LP using a new VST plugin from Jam Origin called Midi Guitar. This plugin allows you to play midi software synthesizers WITHOUT a midi pickup or any special hardware. You just plug any guitar into your mixer, route the signal to the plugin, and it generates midi information to trigger any midi instrument. Here I am just playing two note chords very slowly, but this plug tracks past passages better than my Roland GR-20. It is completely polyphonic too. The only thing that the GR-20 can do that this can’t, at least that I have discovered so far, is assign each string to a different instrument. I played the demo for 30 minutes and was so impressed that I bought it for $99, even though it is still in beta.
Craig has a new Magic Amp Vibro Prince. It is beautiful in appearance and in sound. We grew up playing Fender blackface amplifiers–Twin Reverbs, Bandmasters, and Deluxe Reverbs–so the blackface sound is what guitar amplifiers should sound like for our sensibility. This one is blonde, but it SOUNDS like a blackface Princeton Reverb, so it is right. It is extraordinary!
Craig is playing my Agile LP-style guitar through the Vibro Prince. I am playing the Tama Metro Jam kit with the Zildijian 14″ Armand hats. I am using the 12″ Tama snare that comes with the kit. I have moved everything into a much drier room. The first track, “Ebony Aviary,” (Hint: It’s a Beatles song) also has my Wuhan 20″ ride.
Update: Here is a remixed version with a touch of reverb (MVerb, a free plugin) on the guitar and with the drums mixed a little softer.
The second track , “Excellent Reverberations,” (Hint: It’s a Beach Boys song) has my Sabian HH Raw Bell Dry Ride. We are playing at very low volume so I used a lot of rim clicks on the snare.
We tried several times to record Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together,” which is an excellent song, but I couldn’t quite get the drum part. I have to work on that.
The first is a Frank Sinatra song, of course. It has a jazz beat, something I am just getting used to. All of these are just Craig and I with no overdubs, and Craig’s arrangement is amazing as usual. It is hard to believe that he can sing something with such difficult phrasing and play those guitar parts at the same time. I am basically trying to survive. The ride cymbal is my Sabian HH Raw Bell Dry Ride, though I kind of wish I had put the old Zildjian “K” up that one of my colleagues loaned me. There is also a 15″ Sabian HHX Studio Crash that is discontinued, so they were blowing them out and I got a very good price. It is a dark crash with a nice bell that sounds like a bigger cymbal than it is.
The next one is Craig’s arrangement of “Song for Elizabeth,” a jazz instrumental written by Jonathan Butler. I am using brushes, another thing I am just getting used to.
Lastly, a Johnny Cash song. I asked to do this because I wanted to try a “train beat.” Again with brushes.
By the way, although it sounds like Craig is playing some kind of arch top jazz guitar, it is actually my Fender Telecaster with the Tonerider pickups through my Fender Super Champ XD on the clean channel with just a little amp reverb.
Yet another rehearsal. Craig said my drumming was 45% better than last time. The last song was a 17 minute jam that started out as Purple Haze, morphed into Taxman, and ended up somewhere else. I have cut it down to a little under six minutes.
This is just the “somewhere else” part. Craig is playing the Agile LP. I have the Wuhan hi-hats and the Wuhan 16″ crash up. There is also a Sabian SR2 10″ splash cymbal, the Sabian HH Raw Bell ride cymbal, and a wood block. My kick drum is a little vague in parts, but I am getting better and the track is pretty steady, at least for me, throughout. The most interesting sounds are at the end where I am trying to be really quiet. Craig is riffing off of Taxman, but at points he seems to be channeling Manuel Galban.
The track is mono, recorded with a single overhead mic. The drums are too loud, but with one track there is no way to fix that. This was recorded through my new Yamaha mixer, an MG102c, which has a great deal more clarity and presence than my old Behringer. I am happy with it.
After many months, Craig Saxon and I got together again to jam at my house. Mostly I played drums. I have improved. I got a pretty good one drop reggae beat going on “No Woman, No Cry,” but the fills were pretty lame. It was something of a victory anyway because I used to play a standard rock beat on this song. The one drop beat with the kick on the 2 and the 4 with the snare makes a world of difference. We did some jazz beat stuff too. I might post some of that later. But the last thing we did was all guitars. It was one of those jams that is like free flowing currents of water interweaving and changing, with intertwined melodies and phrases. It doesn’t really go anywhere, but it has some interesting moments. It surprised us. We weren’t recording, but the computer was all set up and I happened to be sitting in front of it, so when I realized that what was happening was interesting, I hit the record button midway through.
I am playing a Telecaster through my Super Champ XD and Craig is playing my Agile LP through the tiny Vox Mini 3. It’s in mono recorded with one mic because my M-Audio Mic Preamp died a few months ago and my Behringer mixer seems to be going out too, leaving me with only one mic preamp, a cheapo ART Tube MP, which seems to always come through in a pinch. There is some noise from the snare drum resonating with the bass notes. Sometimes it sounds like someone is playing brushes, and sometimes it sounds like noise.
Because the piece doesn’t really go anywhere it tends to stay in the moment. It does establish and explore a mood, not sad, but reflective, maybe a little resigned. Or maybe it is just background noise, or elevator music for aliens.