Sunday, April 11, 2010

Some of my favorite cymbals: Zildjian Armand Series

At one time the focus of my gear acquisition was the quest for the cymbal sound. I somehow managed to acquire 85 (mostly Zildjian) cymbals, new and vintage, before the obsessive-compulsive side of my nature turned to snare drums. That triggered the great cymbal sell-off to fund my snare drum addiction.

The first step was to satisfy myself that I had the cymbal sound I was seeking. Cymbal sounds actually, because I wanted cymbals that would work with jazz, blues and classic (1950s/1960s) rock. As I culled the cymbals I wanted to sell from the pile I discovered some gems that were keepers.

The first ones to go into the keeper pile were my Armand series. Specifically, the 19" Beautiful Baby ride, a pair of 14" Armand hi-hats, and a 21" Armand ride. I almost always use only a single ride and a pair of hi-hats when I am playing, so the 18" Medium Thin Crach and its 16" Medium Thin sibling went into the sell pile. I managed to acquire the entire set in a trade I had done.

What I love about the Armand series is they sound very similar to the cymbals that Joe Morello used on the 1959 Time Out album. Although Zildjian advertises the Armand series as a cymbal that captures the classic 60s rock sound, they also represent the sound of the 1950s Avedis cymbals.

In particular, the 19" Beautiful Baby ride has a shimmering sound (thanks in part to the three-rivet cluster) that works beautifully in jazz, R&B and classic rock ballads. As I write this, that is the cymbal that is currently mounted on my 1961 Slingerland kit - and it is all the ride cymbal I need at the moment.

The 21" Armand ride still shimmers, although without rivets, and has the right balance of brightness and wash, which makes it one of the most versatile ride cymbals in my arsenal.

In the 21" Armand ride you can hear Mitch Mitchell backing Hendrix, John Densmore backing the Doors, and even some of the classic jazz drummers.

The 14" Armand hi-hats, like the rides, have a vintage sound and feel. I like the action of these hats, and when you have your clutch loose you can get a great sizzle sound for playing big band and jazz, as well as getting a nice "chick" sound. You can use these hats in just about any musical situation and be pleased. They have a lighter feel than modern Zildjian New Beat hats, which have grown heavier over the years, but are close to the original New Beats designed by Louis Bellson, and are nearly identical to the Zildjian hi-hats that preceded the New Beat line.

The key to these cymbals is the umbrella like profile that characterized the Zildjians made in the 1950s and early 1960s. If you study vintage cymbals - and a good place to start is The Vintage Cymbal Guide - you will see how closely the Armand rides resemble the vintage Zildlian rides, especially the profiles and bells. Zildjians cymbal anatomy briefly describes the parts of a cymbal and how it affects the sound:

In addition, I recommend this page, which includes a more detailed description of the anatomy of a cymbal.

If you are looking for a versatile set of cymbals that will work with just about any genre (metal, perhaps, being an exception), check out the Armand series. I am pleased with mine because they have worked in every scenario in which I've used them with the exception of low volume acoustic work.