Hey all! Hope spring has sprung, wherever you are.
I retired two broken cymbals recently (19″ Stagg VB crash and 18″ riveted Wuhan). Nothing unusual for me; I believe these are broken cymbals number 52 and 53, which rounds out nicely to about 1.8 cymbals per year broken since I started playing. Of course, they didn’t break with linear regularity; it wasn’t until Plow started really thrashing about in the mid – 90s that they went down semi – annually (or more often).
I would break them with even more regularity as I play with Necktie Killer, as, since their songs are fairly slow comparatively, I have enough time to wind up and turn on the full Tommy Lee attack. But, since I play/practice with Necktie so infrequently, the glam effect is offset (the cracks in the Stagg and most recent Wuhan started after the Plow shows in February).
Anywho, I just wanted to share a few things I’ve learned over the years as I painfully spent thousands of dollars on these brass beauties (not to mention the small forests I’ve reclaimed with the drumsticks that break in tandem with them):
1) I was told by a sound engineer during the latest NTK recording session to “hit the drums hart and the cymbals gently”. If you can follow that advice (I can’t), I imagine that you’d go longer between replacement.
2) Back in the day, my cymbal of choice during the Plow years was the Sabian 18″ Crash/Ride. The reason, to my mind,m was simple: it was a) cheap and b) heavy. It would take the abuse, and, when it was done taking it, not break my bank with replacement. Well, half of that argument (part b) is correct. The truth, for me at least, has been to buy slightly lighter crashes. This seems counter-intuitive, until you realize (like I did, a few years back) that a lighter cymbal will “give” more, thus absorbing the strike and dispersing it throughout, like a skyscraper that bends in the breeze (I remember standing at the top of one of the World Trade Center towers during a school field trip back in the 80s and being amazed at this fact…unfortunately, I didn’t make the connection to cymbals until much later).
3) Speaking of the strike…try to hit with a glancing blow, instead of straight in. I know, I know…”practice what you preach, Rule!”. Trust me, I’m doomed. I’m just trying to save you some money.
4) Don’t buy the cheapest line of your chosen brand. As I mentioned before, I swore by Sabian B8’s for years. Not because they sounded good, but because they were cheap. I thought my logic was reinforced when, in 1994, I went into my local bike shop to purchase a new rear derailleur to replace one that I had sheared off. The guy in the store told me to buy cheap, low – level rear derailleurs; that way, when they shear off, they’re cheap to replace. “That’s what I do”, he said. What he didn’t tell me is that these “not really made for riding” parts don’t work all that well, either; they shift poorly, and are hard to adjust. Also, as you get better at mountain biking, you tend to crash the ass end of your bike into things less, so you can afford the better stuff.
A somewhat parallel argument applies to cymbals; I’ve been having better luck with slightly more expensive cymbals, sometimes. For example, I’ve got an XS20 18″ medium crash that has survived for almost 2 years. Maybe it’s the fact that slightly more expensive cymbals are cast (vs. stamped), or use a slightly more tin (any chemists out there that can talk about 80/20 vs. 92/8 bronze?). At the same time, I tried a Zildjian ZXT 18″ crash (sheet stamped) that lasted 4 months. Who knows? I’ll let you know as I experiment more.
5) If you can, buy used cymbals. Your local stores might have a great selection. Mine don’t; I live in a tiny town where they charge me $14.50 for a pair of drumsticks. Sure, used cymbals can be a roll of the dice, but, on average, it pays off for me. I get to try more expensive models you wouldn’t ever think of trying new, and they seem to last about the same length of time before breaking (I keep waiting to find a RUDE crash around $100…apparently, that was the line designed in response to punk and metal!).
6) I was told, years ago, that you can stall the spread of a cymbal crack by drilling small holes in the end(s). This never seemed to work for me; in fact, the holes seemed to create micro spider cracks which spread off in different directions (to me, this process now seems like pruning a tree and expecting the branch that you cut to not grow again).
6a) A guy who ran a store called “Steve’s Drum Studio” in Bend (unfortunately, it’s closed now) used to cut, circularly, around the circumference of a radial crack, if it wasn’t too far toward the bell. Thus, he would turn, say, a 16″ crash into a 14″ one. He would then file the cut down so it was smooth. He claimed great success, but he’s also someone who plays the drums, vs. beating the crap out of them, like I do (he also used machine – shop tools to make these cuts, where I would use a pair of tin snips).
7) One last note…if you need a good China, Wuhans are the best. Their 20″ will set you back about $80, and it’ll break quickly, but while it’s not broken, it roars. Perfrect trashcan – lid obnoxiousness. And Wuhan’s 16″ crash is not a terrible sounding dark crash.
Hope this helps some of you drummers out there! Any other hints/tips/tricks/strategy?