Saturday, November 02, 2013

A few new vintage Paistes

I guess the 80's is vintage now. In the past few years I've been rebuilding my cymbal collection, after ruthlessly disposing of a lot of things during a lean patch, and have largely been focusing on older Paistes. After years of listening to Billy Higgins, Jon Christensen, Paul Motian, Al Foster, and ECM recordings in general, much of the sound in my head calls for them. And, as I've written before, I've also been on a clarity kick for several years, and the 602 and Sound Creation cymbals definitely fulfill that. The thin, warm, dark, lush, pretty-sounding, quiet cymbals jazz drummers have been favoring of late, while great for recording, I've felt have led to stage volume issues— mainly, a death-spiral of quietness— as well as being-heard-by-the-audience issues. I'm still generally playing these heavier cymbals quietly, but there is enough sound here to keep players from weirding out at their own finger noise competing volume-wise with the actual music. I believe a pianissimo on these cymbals gives you a true stage pp, which is louder than a practice room pp, where your ear is a couple of feet from the instrument.

That's the back story. These tend to be expensive cymbals, but through some very patient, unemotional shopping I've been able to get them very reasonably— for about half the expected price, actually. Here they are:

14" Sound Creation Dark Sound Edge Hihats — Black label, 1978

The sound here is dark and fairly complex, but these are very powerful cymbals, and high-pitched, the loudest hihats I've ever owned. The wavy sound edge bottom cymbal gives a very crisp, cutting foot sound. One of our local jazz guys, Ron Steen, has been using these exact cymbals and sounding great with them for years, in all settings— dinner music, vocalists, and everything. Players used to stomping on their hihat pedal would have trouble using these when any kind of delicacy is required; I've found it relaxes my whole physical set to just be able to step on the pedal and have the cymbals speak. They don't sound especially pretty by themselves from the playing position, but they blend nicely with the entire drumset, and with the rest of the ensemble.

20" 602 Heavy — Blue Label, 1985

I've been proceeding on the assumption that there are no bad 602s, and haven't been much disappointed so far. I saw Art Blakey playing what I guessed was a 22" heavy 602 back in 1985— his ride cymbal was extremely cutting. I don't feel this cymbal fits that profile at all; it's not overpowering or especially bright, despite its weight, which actually seems to have a dampening effect. It has that very refined 602 sound, and is not too bright. It is difficult to get a clean crash out of it, which I suppose you would normally expect, except that I can get that out of my 22" Dark Rides, which are not any thinner than this. Here the crash is long, without much of a peak, and you don't get much volume. It's obviously not a quiet cymbal, but it's not really a high-volume one, either; you could hurt yourself and the cymbal trying to play it really loudly. It would probably make a beautiful sizzle cymbal, but I'm going to take a break from drilling things for the moment.

I don't know the weight in grams— maybe around 2700-2800. Close to the weight of an A. Zildjian Ping Ride, but without that model's offensive qualities.

22" Sound Creation New Dimension Dark Ride — 1984, drilled for rivets, 3220 grams

 With the acquisition of a second one of these monsters— the other being a very early 22" 602 Dark Ride— I guess I'm officially an “SCDR” guy. Certainly Paul Motian's statement that “I’ve got a few of those…” has been working on my mind. I got a very good deal on this, mainly due to the fact that it has been played a lot; the top logo is worn away, there is a keyhole that appears to have been professionally drilled, and one minor nick in the edge. Plus cymbals drilled for rivets tend to sell a lot cheaper than “virgin” ones. People are silly that way. This is a creative tool to me, not a decoration or a vanity item, and I don't give a crap about any that stuff, so I was able to pick it up for about half of the normal low-end cost for this model.

This is the New Dimension model, and I don't know how those are distinct from the regular SCs— it's an addition to the line they introduced in the 80's. There are several iterations of 22" darks at cymbal smith Matt Bettis's site, and while he notes differences, he doesn't seem to particularly value one line (602, transitional, SC, SCND) over another. Compared to my 602 Dark, the ND is darker sounding, lower pitched, and more complex, with a fatter, gong-like overtone cushion. There's a fairly pronounced shoulder built in to the cymbals profile, which gives some distinctly different-sounding playing zones— you can draw a lot of sounds out of it. Like the 602, it is capable of producing a fast, explosive crash. It's rather an intimidating cymbal— when you first sit down with it, it feels like driving a large, 70's-vintage Cadillac. It handles like a boat at first, and you definitely have to find the right touch for it.

These Dark Rides were created by Paiste in partnership with Jack Dejohnette, and I wonder if the sound he was going for was not that of Jon Christensen's famous, heavy 22" K— it seems likely they crossed paths a fair amount in Europe in the early 70's— at least they were both being produced by Manfred Eicher a lot. It's remarkable how well the Sound Creations— heavy cymbals— handle in all sorts of situations. There's a lot of hype about them; maybe it's justified, and/or being what they are, maybe I give them a chance in settings where I would normally use something lighter.

By the way, if I've talked you into spending a lot of money on these types of cymbals— well, first think twice about it; they can be very challenging cymbals to work with— and then reread my tips on buying used cymbals online, then visit the following page by Zenstat, a moderator at the Cymbalholics forum who has compiled eBay sales statistics for Paiste 602 and Sound Creation cymbals from 2006-present. That should give you a ballpark idea of what you can expect to spend, keeping in mind that used prices are trending precipitously downward from the high points in his stats right now.


  1. John Olson9:24 PM

    Just bought a (my first) 20" SC Dark Ride on eBay this evening. You'll get the blame and the credit.....

  2. All right, John, good luck— it's going to sound pretty barbaric to you at first if you've been playing Ks/HHs/Istanbuls/Bos, so don't panic if it doesn't work for you right away. The real test with these is in actually playing with a group.

  3. John Olson9:40 AM

    Thanks for the advice Todd - it's supposed to arrive today, so I'll try it on the gig tonight and let you know the results. Keep up the great work - I really enjoy your blog!

  4. John Olson12:15 PM

    Wow....Definitely different from what I'm used to (I typically play Istanbul Agop Mel Lewis Rides, Old A's, K's and a couple of Paiste Flat rides I love). When I first hit this, it felt like I was playing on a 20" Hi-hat bottom! It sounds better in a musical context within the group (the quartet liked it) and seemed a little less brash when I hung a sizzle chain on it. I didn't have a chance to hear it with a drummer sitting in, so I can't pass ultimate judgment yet....It's a unique voice that has now piqued my interest in other Sound Creations.

  5. John Olson10:50 AM

    Just picked up another Sound Creation that I absolutely love - a 20" Mellow Ride. Very close to being a Flat Ride, with just enough of a (tiny) Bell to open the sustain a bit. It was perfect behind piano solos last night. The quest continues!....

  6. Hey John--
    Yes, and the SC Dark 20's are supposed to be a little bit-- more brash?-- than the 22's... though the 22's are very imposing. I just played the tour with that 602 heavy, and it seemed like a strong cymbal from the playing position, but I'm convinced that it worked well in the room. I think getting away from balancing strictly based on what we hear-- and more based on what we know the audience needs-- is a good thing. More on that later...

    Those Mellow rides are supposed to be pretty cool-- I think I want one. I also had the 18" 602 flat with me on tour, and it developed some funny overtones when played strongly...

  7. Anonymous9:26 AM

    Hello Todd,

    I picked up a SC 22" Dark Ride for myself for Christmas and can't wait to try it on my quartet gig tonight. Yes, it was imposing in my practice room, but I'm amazed at the amount of different sounds I can get from a single ride. It definitely reminds me of a Heavy Old K. I like your thoughts on clarity and have been realizing that my beautiful, light, Turkish made Rides produce somewhat of an indistinct, washy blur when I hear other drummers play my kit. It makes me think about how Stewart Copeland changed his drum sound to much higher tunings when he started playing larger venues with the Police, to add clarity and articulation to his drum sound. I'll get back to you after I get a chance to play the new Ride tonight....And I'm absolutely loving the 20" SC Mellow Ride I recently purchased - highly recommended!

  8. John Olson8:11 AM

    Hello Todd - John Olson here (didn't mean to be anonymous on the last comment...). Played the new SC 22" last night and loved it. Much heavier than what I've been used to playing jazz with, so it's going to take some adjustments to get everything figured out. It makes my other cymbals sound rather timid by comparison. Now to find some hi-hats...


  9. Thanks for the field report, keep them coming! I found that my 70's New Beats, which sound kind of clunky next to my more delicate K-type cymbals, are very servicable played along with the heavier Paistes... something to think about, at least as a stop-gap.

    This 22" ND cymbal from this post also is working quite well in an ensemble-- I was a little worried about it, honestly. And I got a good comment from a bassist about the 22" 602 Dark, which I'll take as a positive sign that I'm not doing something totally insane with these things.

  10. John Olson7:44 PM

    Hello Todd,

    Last night, I finally had a chance to hear another drummer play my kit giving me an opportunity to listen to the 22" SC Dark Ride from the audience perspective.....and that's all it took. I'm sold, converted, obsessed, etc. I'm fortunate to be able to play the same room 3 nights a week with a rotating cast of amazing jazz musicians in Northern Colorado. (
    This affords me the opportunity to try lots of different cymbals in the same setting to see what best fits the room. For the past couple of years, I had been very satisfied with various combinations of Istanbul Agops for primary and left side Rides, with a variety of different Paiste Flat Rides under my primary Ride on the right. My SC 22" is from '81 based on the serial # ....for the past couple of weeks, I've been equally intimidated and in love with the sound of it from behind my kit. Hearing another drummer play it from the audience perspective completely blew me away. The ride sound was articulate, low-pitched, clear and dark. Not pingy or brash at all, which is how it tends to sound from the drum throne. When the drummer switched to riding on one of my standard favorites (a super-thin 21" Agop Special Edition Jazz Ride with two rivets), it sounded like he was playing with Q-tips instead of sticks! I've been playing with the same bass player at this gig for nearly 4 years and he LOVES the new SC 22", as does my Thursday/Saturday piano player. I definitely think you're on to something here....I just bought a 22" SC Transitional Dark Ride (1977) with the thought that I'll add a couple of rivets to whichever one seems most receptive. It won't be here until later this week and I can't wait to hear it!