Ride Cymbalist

Part 1

Introduction and Inspiration

While listening to jazz tunes in my music room,  I play jazz ride cymbals.  I'm not a drummer — I just like the sound of ride cymbals and enjoy playing them.



Above — The 2 ride cymbals in my music / hobby room.

Since first listening to jazz music, I've felt a strong penchant for the sound of ride cymbals.  Jazz drummers players play "spang-a-lang", or "shut-the-door" on the ride, while further accenting the 2nd & 4th beat with the chick of the high-hat plus a light, or 'feathered' touch of the bass drum pedal on off-beats 2 and 4.

On the ride cymbal you hear the drum stick sound,  the drone of the oscillating cymbal underneath with perhaps some vibrating rivets in the mix.  Cymbal sounds vary widely: bright to dark, dry to sustained — or perhaps, you'll hear a complex array of overtones to delight your ear.

In 2018, it occurred to me that I could just play the ride cymbal and omit the bass drum + high-hat, plus snare drum comping we normally hear on jazz records.

The first order of business was to find a cymbal I liked. This proved difficult. The market boasts a vast array of manufacturers and products. I felt overwhelmed. I spent many days on the web reading,  listened to YouTube videos and made a small list of ride cymbals I liked.

I live in a small city in Canada . Local drum or music stores seem to cater to the rock drummer.
We don't enjoy a big jazz scene around here, so it made sense that rock rides get emphasized at music stores.

If you become a ride cymbalist, you'll have to make that journey.  Figure out what ride characteristics you like — and then try to find a cymbal that resembles that "ideal jazz ride sound" that lives in your head.

You'll find several on-line discussion boards that cover jazz ride topics, specific cymbals and such. These gave me ideas. For example, this link: Drummerworld

After months of reading, thinking and listening to cymbals online and in person, I purchased my first ride cymbal.


Above — I bought a 20 inch / 51 cm Zildjan Custom Dark K as my first ride cymbal. I placed it on a Yamaha CX755 cymbal stand that I purchased on sale. To my ear, it gives a fast attack, lots of sustain, a fairly dark wash -- and a clear stick sound.  The bell ping sounds lovely. I wanted a cymbal with lots of sustain so I could experiment with a home made cymbal sizzler.

Many of the Blue Note records of the 50s and 60s ( and probably many of the hit jazz records of all time ) feature a sizzle sound provided by rivets placed in holes drilled into the cymbal.  Not wishing to drill into my cymbal, I made a bath tub chain sizzler for about $3.00




Above 4 photos —My home made bath rub chain sizzler.  I simply place the shower curtain ring over the felt when I want to employ some sizzle.  The chain really drys out the cymbal -- meaning it kills the sustain. However, now I have 2 distinctive cymbal sounds to work with when I played along to recordings. I love the sizzle sound in a ride cymbal and this informed my next cymbal purchase.


Above — My second cymbals is a Istanbul Mehmet 21" Turk Jazz Ride Sizzle weighing 2164 grams.  This thin cymbal sounds very dry; plus very dark. However, when you get it vibrating, the rivets add a cool sizzle into the wash. To me, it does not crash that well. On the other hand, the K ride crashes delightfully.


Above — My 2 cymbals next to a music stand. These 2 rides sound very different and allow me to mix it up.  Sometimes I even use the K as a crash cymbal on a few tunes. I've got them tilted at a high angle like Al Foster does. This allow efficient use of space, plus the sound bounces off the back wall and sounds great.  I can hardly walk by my cymbals without playing them.

The ride cymbalist — call me crazy!

When I first started testing cymbals, I felt surprised how loud that can sound, plus how much I sucked at playing them. By listening to, or studying master drummers and practicing with and without a metronome, my accuracy & ride technique slowly blossomed. Every month or so, I improve my maximum tempo. Playing a ride cymbal at fast tempos may prove vexing and tiring.

Playing my ride cymbals also improved my time keeping and swing at playing jazz guitar — my main instrument.

I'll show some videos that inspired me — and also that I play to.



Above — This video by Nielson Manapat shows what you can do with just a ride cymbal.  This video inspires me —and for me, legitimized ride cymbal only playing as a bonafide hobby.
Link to Video


Above — The drumming of Al Harewood ( especially playing with pianist Horace Parlan ) serves as my favorite example of how to lead the band with a ride cymbal.  He swings so beautifully. His  22” riveted K Zildjian ride also sounds sublime.  I love riveted ride cymbals and  1 day hope to find 1 that sounds like Al's ride.

Songs I play to

I've extracted several songs from videos, plus purchased CDs and ripped songs from them. I generally select tunes that feature great ride cymbal playing and put them in my play lists. I also have some recorded jazz tunes that lack drums —  so that I am the sole percussion player for those songs.

I'll list some of my favorites that appear in videos on YouTube, however, these should only serve as a starting post — find songs that inspire you and that you enjoy.

I also bought some Jamey Aebersold Play-A-Long books with CDs, some Mel Bay publications and so forth. I now prefer faster tunes, however, it's good to mix up tempo.

I tend to avoid songs with too much high-hat playing, although some tunes have both high hat and ride cymbal time keeping and work OK for playing along with just a ride cymbal. Tunes with varied tempos, lots of accents and great melodic playing provide much pleasure. I often lock into a trance when grooving along with my ride cymbals.

Note:  If you click on a video and shows up as unavailable, then click on the Link to Video provided to launch it your web browser in a separate Tab.  The video will look larger for easier viewing too.



Above — Horace Parlan Featuring. Stanley Turrentine - Speakin' My Piece - Remastered 2016.  Go to school with Al Harewood's ride playing on this project from 1960.  I've got the album  & removed all the slow songs from it.  Link to video


All my ride cymbal play-along songs are kept in unique folders on my computer.


Above — Horace Parlan. On The Spur Of The Moment,   A Blue Note Records Release; (1961) . Al Harewood just bounces along on his lovely ride cymbal.  Link to Video


Above —  Curtis Fuller - Blues-ette (Savoy, 1956). Harewood sound great playing with these master musicians.   Link to Video


Above — Arnett Cobb, Eddie Lockjaw Davis and Johnny Griffin in "Bag's Groove" (recorded in Nick Vollebregt's Jazzcafe in Laren, in the Netherlands, March 1984). This is my current favorite album to play ride to.  The legendary Butch Miles on drums.  This man can swing.
Link to Video



Above — Miles Davis - Walkin' (1957). I bought this CD many years ago as I am a huge fan of Miles Davis. Kenny Clarke 's drums and cymbal playing sound fantastic at many different tempos.   Link to Video


Above — The Great Jazz Trio at the Village Vanguard (live, 1977).  Pianist Hank Jones, bass player Ron Carter & drummer Tony Williams fire on all cylinders.   Link to Video


Above —Jack DeJohnette, Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock, Woody'n You Standards - Live in Tokyo (1986). Jack DeJohnette knows how to swing the ride. I've got several CDs that feature his amazing talent.   Link to Video


Above — Jazz Video Guy shows Billy Higgins and 3 others clicking along. No high-hat playing; just some amazing ride cymbal work. This video is more for inspiration and also to show fast tempo ride playing. Higgins groove simply amazes me.  Link to Video

I'll add part 2 to my blog in the future.


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