The Continuing Myths about Cymbal Alloys & Hammering - Part 3
Big Companies vs One Man Operations
There is a proliferation of cymbal makers out there today. It seems every other week there is a new company coming out of Turkey, saying “we make them the old way.” And now the Chinese companies have invaded, making Western style cymbals that get better every year. It’s a regular cymbal renaissance out there! As drummers, this is great. Never before has there been so many great cymbals to choose from! When I was a budding young drummer, there was just A. Zildjian in the US, K. Zildjian in Turkey, Paiste in Switzerland, and various Italian cymbals coming out of the UFIP consortium. And there weren’t all the different models & sizes either. Yes, these are great times for drummers & percussionists.
But to me, the most exciting development is the rise of the individual cymbal maker. These one man operations are doing things the bigger companies could/would never do. The sort of do-it-yourself cymbal revolution was started by Welshman, Steve Hubback. Steve started making cymbals & Gongs for himself, then attracted the attention of various European percussionists who asked if he could make something for them. Musicians such as Carl Palmer, Evelyn Glennie, Paolo Vinaccia, and others play his instruments (I have 2 Gongs and a shell chime of his). And things have grown from there. The beauty of Steve’s work is that it’s often done with whatever scrap metal he can source. He works in bronze, brass, nickel-silver, stainless steel—whatever he can forge into a musical instrument.
And that’s what’s so cool about Steve and his creations is that, while all the big companies wage ad campaigns about how their alloy and process is better than everyone else’s, Steve just makes the most incredible sounding and looking instruments out of anything! He completely blows away all the big companies cymbal propaganda. And Steve has no permanent workshop, as he keeps moving around Europe, forging as he goes.
Following this trend are a growing group of cymbal & Gongsmiths:
- Michael Paiste in Switzerland
- Matt Nolan in England
- Matt Bettis in the US
- Craig Lauritsen in Australia
- and both the late Mike Skiba (US) & Johann VDS (Netherlands)
What’s interesting is how each of these cymbalsmiths has brought new and different ideas to the table. They are able to even custom tailor cymbals to a buyers specs. I encourage you to check out their websites. Each person has their own particular style and designs. Each one makes fantastic instruments.