Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Beyond the Kit: Suspended Cymbal

I once got offered a college scholarship based solely on how I played a suspended cymbal roll. True story. I was a senior in high school and it was the only part I played at one of those senior invitational bands.

The only thing I can remember is that I was annoyed that all the other percussionists were playing back and timid, so when I got my chance I let it rip. The Graduate Assistant that was working with us pulled me aside at that rehearsal and asked if I might like to attend there on scholarship.

It was sort of odd at the time, but at this point I've coached enough percussionists to know that I probably would have offered me a scholarship, too. Not that I'm all that amazing, but suspended cymbal rolls are a big deal. They're a make or break moment in many pieces of music.

So, what is a suspended cymbal? (Just for fun, type, "suspended cymbal technique" into a search engine.) It is one cymbal hung by a strap or mounted on a cymbal stand. It is generally played in an orchestral or concert band setting, and is usually played with soft mallets.

A suspended cymbal roll is produced by playing fast single strokes on the cymbal to create as smooth a sound as possible. It might be the easiest percussion instrument with which to create a perfectly smooth crescendo, diminuendo or sustain.

Soft yarn mallets are usually used, but I've seen good percussionists get amazing rolls with cord wraps and snare drum sticks, too.

For some very detailed information on technique and maintenance of suspended cymbal, click here.

Happy rolling, pinging, swishing, scraping and crashing!

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