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  • Writer's pictureJoe Hamm

Rainforest of Tones

Have you ever covered your camera in dirt, buried your laptop, or tossed your phone in the mud to make it better? These are the kinds of things that drummers do, talk about, or debate about when it comes to cymbals.

Cymbals might be some of the most earthly sounds I have ever experienced. The closer I listen to cymbals, and the more I understand them, the more appreciation and love I have for these instruments. They are forged of copper and tin, pressed, lathed, and hammered into cymbals. There is a wealth of history, tradition, and lore.

One ongoing debate or conversation, is whether to clean cymbals or go even further and bury them, in effort to improve the tone.

I decided to clean the hell out of my Zildjian 21" A natural finish Sweet Ride. I'm wanting more sparkle out of the cymbal, and for it to sit higher in a mix, as if to fly over the top of a group, while also delivering the rainforest of tones and textures. The 21" Sweet Ride has a prominent bell, which I always admired Art Blakey's style and use of the bell. I love it's direct and forward presence. When I play the sweet ride, my sound has an assertive stance, yet also includes subtle complexity, as opposed to a clear smooth tone.Lately, I've been feeling like my 21" K Special Dry Ride and the A Sweet Ride are not getting along. I've been performing almost weekly for the past few months, and there's something I can't quite put my finger on that's not complementing one another. Two ride cymbals set up in the same kit need to get along, with contrast and complement. So I decided to clean it and give it a restart.

Part of me was terrified that I was ruining part of my sound, but it's time for a change and there's something thrilling about going for it. This will brighten things up just a bit, probably clarify the tone slightly, and enable it to bounce through the music, like someone quickly mingling through a party on the way to the bar.

So we'll see if these two cymbals can get along now, and I'll continue to clean it over time. Like a time capsule, my Sweet Ride will be consistent as the world around it changes.

My K Special Dry Ride however, has an unfinished top with light lathing on top, and is developing a beautiful patina. I'm not going to clean it, ever. It's sound will change slightly over time, as will I, and I'll take that change with me along for the ride.

Don't bury your phone, or your laptop, or anything else you depend on for work. But if it makes your voice better, maybe give it a try!

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