Category Archives: drums

Ride Cymbal Terms, What Do They Mean?

In my opinion choosing the right ride cymbal is one of the hardest cymbals to choose for your kit. There are so many sounds and one that doesn’t vibe well with your ears can quite literally ruin your fun playing.

There’s so many different sounds out there, and there’s so many terms used by people to describe them like, washy, pingy, dry, dark, clean, and more, then there’s also the bell sound which can greatly vary from ride to ride. Not to mention there can be a ride that is washy and dark, or a ride that’s dry and dark. However there most likely won’t be a ride that’s washy and pingy, but there can definitely be one that’s clear and pingy. Confused?

Let’s go into a little more detail as to what most people mean by using these terms.

  1. washy – washy usually refers to the attack as well as the sustain of the ride. For example when you hit it, the sound has little attack and a long sustain with a strong white noise sound. These types of rides are most similar to crashes. Examples of rides that could be described as washy are the Paiste PST7 Lite Ride or the Zildjian Sweet Ride. This sound is heard most often in 60s rock and some jazz and are usually light in weight. The bell sound can vary on a washy ride from strong to soft.
  2. pingy – pingy can be most easy be understood as the opposite of washy and are usually heavy in weight. When you hit the cymbal there is a strong attack (ping) sound. There’s still a long sustain, but with less white noise than a washy ride. There’s usually a noticeable note to the sustain. However this may not be the case if a ride is pingy, but dry. Some good examples of a pingy ride are a Paiste Alpha Metal Ride, and a Zildjian Megabell Ride
  3. dry – Unlike the first two examples dry almost only refers to the sustain of the cymbal. Dry means short sustain. Unfortunately the company Meinl has been trying to redefine the meaning of this term and produces a lot of cymbals under their “extra dry series”. These cymbals, even though excellent sounding are in actuality not dry at all. A more appropriate way to describe them would be dark and trashy. The term trashy does not mean bad, but refers to the sustain of the cymbal having a lot of dissonant undertones, much like a china cymbal giving them an almost gong-like quality. Zildjian are one of the only manufactures of true dry cymbals, like the K Custom Special Dry, or the Zildjian Earth Ride (which is also very pingy)
  4. dark – dark is quite popular these days. As I mentioned before, Meinl’s “extra dry” line, would be more appropriately described as “extra dark” but I guess from a marketing standpoint, there were already a lot of “extra dark” lines on the market, so they wanted to stand out, and it worked! However, dark usually refers to the pitch. It’s usually lower and trashier. The undertones are more dissonant and complex. This sound is very popular in all forms of music these days, though in the past it was more popular in Jazz. Good examples of dark rides are the Dream Energy Dark Matter Ride or the Meinl Extra Dry Ride

Anyway, I hope this helped you understand what people mean with these terms, and happy music making!

How To Choose a New Snare Drum

The snare drum along with the kick drum are the two most predominant sounds on a drum set. Having that perfect sound for your snare can literally define your drumming and give you your signature sound. But how do you select one?

Well first you should determine if you actually do need a new snare. In all actuality there are very few snares that sound bad, aside from ones that have some design flaws or damaged parts. If you have the right heads and know how to tune, you can make nearly any snare sound good for what it is.

Most people’s problem with snare drum tuning is they try to make the snare they have sound like a different snare. For example one may like a deep snare sound, but have a 14×5″ snare. 5″ is not very deep, and it’s not going to sound deep. Loosening the head to where it’s floppy on the drum is just going to sound bad. If you want a deep sound, get a deep shell. You have a little more options for a tight sound even with a deep shell, because it’s easier to tune up than it is down.

Also, be very careful where you get your tuning advice. There’s one absolutely terrible tutorial on YouTube that has millions of views where a guy is unevenly tuning the lugs on his snare to get rid of overtones. First off, you get bad overtones from improperly tuning. Secondly, if you are constantly banging on a drum with 2 or 3 lugs completely loose and the rest tight, you’re going to warp your rim, and then eventually start tearing through heads.

So rather than trying to make your snare sound like something it’s not, learn how to make it sound as good as it can that is appropriate to it’s size, or if you don’t like that sound…. then it’s time to get another snare. 

Let’s talk about materials

Quite simply snares can be broken down into 3 types of material.

  1. Wood
  2. Metal
  3. Synthetic

There are many different types of wood, and several types of metal, but only a couple of synthetic drums. Drum manufacturers and guys that spend hours reading drum forums and reddit would like you to believe there’s huge differences in sound between different types of wood. There’s not. It’s a lie. Sorry. I’ve been playing drums for 30 years, and I can honestly tell you the difference in sound between poplar and maple is next to nil. What really changes the sound is shell thickness, treatment of wood (whether it’s finished inside, or raw) bearing edges (this is the part of the drum that touches the head), snare tension, depth and diameter, and of course heads!

There’s a lot of variables in wood manufacturing, and sounds can very from drum to drum, but in general a wood drum will have a warmer, drier sound than a metal one. Metal on the other hand is far more consistent than wood. Most steel shelled snares have the same thickness and edges are bent, not cut. Most of them are bent in the same way too. Metal will generally give you a brighter tone but deep metal snares can have a nice meat to them that seems to lack in wooden snares.

Finally synthetic snares are ones like Vistalites, or Piglite snares, most often made from acrylic, and then some very rare carbon fiber snares. The acrylic drums tend to have a very sharp attack and if you’re looking for a loud drum that can really penetrate, acrylic drums can have a serious bite. However they tend to sound a little thin.

When it all comes down to it, even with all of what I just said. You can have two of the same exact model snare drum, with the same heads, and tuned the same, and they can still sound different. This is because the tiny variations in manufacturing, head seating, room sounds, and the way one plays all can have an effect on the way they sound.

The first thing I would do is experiment with heads. Try different coated or even some clear heads on your snare, and see what you like best.  Also, don’t be afraid to change tuning of your bottom head.

Some things to consider if you do want to purchase a snare:

  1. deeper shells = lower pitch
  2. thicker shells = less sustain
  3. smaller in diameter shells = higher pitch
  4. wood = drier, but warmer sound (most of the time)
  5. metal = brighter, but meatier sound (most of the time)
  6. acrylic = sharp attack, thinner sound

Some things to remember with heads:

  1. medium thickness = most sustain
  2. thickest heads = lower pitch, less sustain
  3. thinnest heads = higher pitch less sustain
  4. coated heads = drier tones
  5. clear heads = clearer tones

Finally here’s some snare recommendations:

Steel Pork Pie Lil’ Squealer

Pork Pie’s snare drums are absolutely killer. They’re durable, made with amazing consistence, and sound awesome. I used one of these when I played with a post hardcore band, and it really cut though the mix. Pork Pie also makes great wood and acrylic snares.

Tama Metalworks Limited Edition Steel Snare 14×6.5 in. Satin Bronze

Tama makes some of the highest quality drums on the market today. Their craftsmanship is nearly flawless and you get some very professional features such as diecast hoops and a pro throw off on their Metalworks series.

Yamaha Stage Custom Birch 14×5.5 Snare Drum, Honey Amber

If you’re looking for a wooden snare drum, Yamaha’s Stage Custom series is great deal for the money. Yamaha is one of the most widely trusted names in drums.

Selecting your first cymbals – Guide for new drummers

If your just learning how to play drums, selecting your first cymbals can be a bit overwhelming. There’s literally thousands of options out there, and a lot of manufacturers making all different kinds of cymbals these days. To increase the complications, there’s many brand loyalists out there on the internet and YouTube who think their particular brand are ‘the best’.

I’ve been playing drums for 30 years now, and I’ve owned all types of cymbals, from dirt cheap to ridiculously expensive. And I can honestly tell you there is no ‘best‘ cymbal out there. There is simply what you like, and what you don’t like. However, this takes time to figure out. When you first start playing drums you haven’t really developed your own style yet, and like wine-tasting, you need some experience before you can really know what is good for you.

There’s also certain types of cymbals that lend themselves to certain types of music. But again, this is still a subjective subject, and just because most people agree on something, doesn’t make it a fact. When you’ve been playing as long as I have, I tend to judge a cymbal based on a particular application and how I can use it in regards to my own personal tastes and creativity. I may use a cymbal considered very bad by some in a way that fits my form of expression and it’ll work exactly as I want it to.

But when you’re first starting, there’s some information you should know BEFORE spending a dime on a single cymbal. There are a lot of falsehoods and myths out there about cymbals and I’ve decided to put together this little guide to help all the new drummers out there make up their minds.

  1. Cymbal Alloy – Alloy refers to the type of metal a cymbal is made out of. Most cymbals are made out of Bronze, but not all. Also, there’s several different types of bronze. These are usually identified by the letter B and a number, like : B8 B10 B20 etc…. There are also cymbals made out of brass, and more rarely, nickle-silver (sometimes called ns-12), and even more rarely, steel.
    THE MYTH: B20 bronze is the best alloy, B8 Bronze is cheap, All other alloys suck. This is just not true. It is true that there are entry level cymbals made out of B8 bronze, but there are also high end cymbals made from B8 by manufacturers like Paiste and Meinl. To my ears many of these cymbals sound better than some of the high end cymbals made out of B20 bronze by other manufactures. There are Brass cymbals out there today that make great special fx cymbals, and there are some vintage ns-12 cymbals that sound beautiful.
  2. Brands – There used to be something called The Big Three, referring to Zildjian, Paiste and Sabian. But now this is turning into The Big Four, because of the recent surge in Meinl’s popularity. Aside from those popular brands there is also some reputable Chinese cymbal makers like Wuhan and Kasza, as well as Turkish manufacturers like Istanbul and Bosphorus.
    THE MYTH: (BLANK) is the best brand. There is no best brand. Every manufacturer will makes some cymbals you’ll think sound great, and every manufacturer makes cymbals you’ll think sound bad.
  3. Price – cymbal prices range from moderate to insanely expensive.
    THE MYTH: More expensive means sounds better. Again just not true. Once again I need to remind you that all opinion of sound quality is subjective. If you like it, it’s good.
  4. Cymbal Types – Crash, ride, hi hats, splash, china, stackers, bells, fx etc…. The most commonly used cymbals you will want for a basic setup are hi hats, a ride and a crash. Hi hats are the two cymbals that are on top of each other with the bottom one inverted and there is a pedal to operate them to open and close. They are one of the most commonly used cymbals on the kit. The most common sizes are 14″ and 15″. A crash is a cymbal that is used to create an explosive sound to designate ends of fills or to add power to a part of a song. They’re size usually ranges from 14″ to 20″. A Ride is a cymbal that is used to keep constant patterns and rhythms on, much like the hi hat, but creates a more open and sustaining sound. Splashes, Chinas, Bells, stackers and other fx cymbals, are more popular now than ever and are used mostly for special accents and fills in drumming to create more color and fun.
    THE MYTH: Rides must be used as rides, crashes as crashes, hi hats as hi hats etc…. Not true, but usually is the case. However in the past there were no such names. Cymbals just came in weights like, heavy, medium, and light. At one point I used two 16″ crashes as hi hats and loved how they sounded. Many rides make awesome crashes. For example Wuhan’s Medium 20″ ride makes a completely powerful crash, though it’s not bad as a ride either.

So how do you select? Well…. listen!  Watch YouTube videos, but don’t base opinions on ones recorded with built-in camera microphones, this is not a good way to judge. Also, visit the websites of the major manufactures like Paiste, Zildjian, and Meinl. All of them have extensive sound rooms to listen to and compare their cymbals.

My personal recommendations are:

If you’re on a very tight budget and want to get a lot of cymbals in one big pack, Meinl offers this amazing cymbal pack at a very good price (pictured above) that give you a lot of sound choices for very little money. I prefer these to entry level cymbals by Zildjian or Sabian. The HCS Super Pack comes with a ride, two crashes, a china, hi hats, and a splash, and is only $299 total.

If you have slightly more to spend I highly recommend Paiste’s PST5 Line.In my opinion these are the nicest sounding cymbals at an entry level pricepoint. Some of them sound so good they can be used on a professional level. I have a PST5 Crash that I bought when the line was first introduced, and I’ve used it on countless recording sessions and gigs. In this pack you get two crashes, a ride, and hi hats for $399. 

If you want to move up from there, I would consider Zildjian’s A series. The Zildjian A line is their most classic sound in my opinion. They will work with all styles of music and record beautifully. This A pack will also give you two crashes, a ride and hi hats, but it’s a little more at $699.

I personally very much like Paiste and Meinl cymbals, remember though, these are my personal subjective opinions. I highly encourage you to just spend a week or two online researching and listening to samples by all manufactures. Trust your ears, not other’s opinions!

Using cheap automotive covering as drum wrap

One of the oldschool ways to cheaply re-wrap drums was with contact paper for shelving, but this always looked pretty poor and styles were pretty non-drum looking and very limited. Recently I was putting together a drum set from random drums I’ve collected from the trash and Craigslist, and was trying to think of ways I could re-finish it without spending a lot of money. After searching through Amazon, I found a very cheap way to rewrap drums that looks very nice!

This stuff is apparently for covering automobiles as an alternative to painting them or for adding details. It is definitely not as durable as real drum wrap, but this particular one I purchased was only $5 per roll! One roll is quite large and I was able to cover two toms with a single roll. It’s also wide enough to use on the kick drum. It is pretty thin however, so I don’t expect it to be very strong or resistant to tearing. You could possibly put a clear coat on top of it to strengthen if needed though.

The drum set you see above was re-wrapped with this exact wrap, except for the two 14″ and 15″ slingerland toms on the left above the floor tom. They match incredibly well and the chrome finish is surprisingly good! The cool thing about this stuff is there’s also some pretty exotic styles out there that would make very interesting looking drums, like Carbon Fiber.

If you want to see the full process of rebuilding this drum set and wrapping it with the $5 auto wrap, check out the YouTube playlist below.

Bonzoleum is doing a drum clinic in Lancaster, PA

If you’re a fan of Paiste cymbals and been on youtube, chances are you’ve seen Bonzoleum’s Channel. He’s a John Bonham nut and a charismatic weirdo who I never get tired of watching. I mean that in the nicest possible way too, since in a world this mad, only the weirdos are the good people.

Anyway, if you’re in the Lancaster area, go check him out.  If not, check out his youtube channel, it’s very entertaining.