Don't Cheat And Scroll To The Bottom, Just To Get To The Secret Formula... Read The Whole Story, You'll Be Intrigued.
I often get asked; what cymbals should I choose, which is best Zildjian, Sabian or Paiste?
I can only tell them about my experience.
The fact of the matter is, it’s a preference choice, and very much depends on whether you have an ear for pitch or not.
Or to put it another way... if you can’t much tell the difference between various brands, then it doesn’t really matter which type of cymbals you settle on.
There are two burdens I personally have to struggle with. One is perfectionism and the other is a keen ear for tonal nuances... Believe me, that's not a good thing when you're trying to choose cymbals, in fact it’s a real curse, a nightmare in fact.
For those of you who suffer the same fate, you'll know exactly what I’m talking about. Nothing seems to be quite correct or sound good enough... Every cymbal you try seem to be flawed in some way. Too much clang, too bright, too many overtones, too tinny and the list goes on.
recently I got lucky! My business took me to Turkey. Great!... I thought, that’s the birth place of cymbal making, that's where the art was perfected. For days I scoured the back streets of Istanbul, looking for musical instrument shops, asking questions about where to find old Turkish cymbals.
Finally I was introduced to an old guy who told me about the ancient secrets of the cymbal craftsmen of Turkey. I was both thrilled and shocked at what he revealed, about the process and the alloys used by the old artisans. I also discovered how and why, modern cymbal makers either cheat in the process, or simply don’t know how those legendary cymbals were truly made.
This old guy was a wealth of knowledge, together we toured around and visited 3 local cymbal manufacturers. Then he revealed, "Only my friends workshop knows the secret formula, the others have no clue"
. Being brutally honest, I said, "look I don't mean to sound rude, but to me they all sound like cheap crap"
. But I had to admit the cymbals from his friends workshop sounded... yeah... OK, but not brilliant that's for sure.
I half expected him to take offense at my comments, Instead he replied. "My friend is getting old and his five sons have taken over the business, they don't listen to him anymore"
. "Also they play with the formulas too much, cutting too many corners, always looking for cheaper ways... And not one of them have a single musical bone in their body."
Now that was funny.
Hmmm... So the top manufacturer of cymbals in Turkey has cloth ears, has a cheap mentality and won't take advice from the old artisans.
The biggest secret I learned while traveling around with this old guy was, everybody had there own little secret alloy combination and percentages. Without doubt there was more to be learned. My quest for the truth had really only just begun.
I decided to invite these two old Turkish friends out for dinner. That evening turned out to be the most intriguing part of my trip. I heard tales of ancient sects, mystical practices, 600 year old traditions. And hey!... we were talking about cymbal making. I must have shown a ton of enthusiasm about their favorite subject, because once they started, I couldn't shut them up.
Suddenly there was a brief moment of silence... they both looked at one another for a second, and then dropped a bombshell....
"There is an old rumor that the Whirling Dervishes used Gold as part of the mixture in their cymbals"
. I put down my glass a beer... and believe me
... it takes something shocking for an Australian dude to ignore his beer. They continued... "If you go to the old city of Konya, there is an old mosque, you can see two cymbals the Whirling Dervishes used, to put themselves into trance like spells"
. They continued... "These cymbals are so old, nobody really knows exactly... but some scholars claim them to be 300-400 years old"
How many still believe the myth, about the Zidjian family having passed on down the secret formula of the ancient cymbal makers, and today only the 3 remaining Daughters know of it? WRONG!... Their secret is simply about the effect zinc has in the mix. LAME!... Kernel Sanders and his finger licking secret mixture of herbs and spices, can do better than that.
Only the Whirling Dervishes knew the true secret formula.
The two men drew me a map of where to find the old mosque, and told me where to catch a bus to get the ancient area of Konya. I could hardly contain my excitement, I felt like Indiana Jones in the Raiders Of The Lost Ark or something, but without the hot chicks.
The next day I traveled to Konya. Just as the two old friends had said, inside this ancient mosque I spotted two huge cymbals attached by a rope, high on the walls of the Mosque. When the imam told me the history of these ancient cymbals, I begged him to bring them down so I could examine them. He refused saying, "What! I can't do that, I'm just their caretaker, I don't have authority to touch them, they've been there for hundreds of years."
So every day I would return, and he would tell me a little more about the the traditions of Sufism and the Whirling Dervishes, who kept the secret of their cymbal making, because of their high gold content. They were obviously worried about robbers and thieves.
It turns out, 600 years ago this actual location, this Mosque, was controlled by a religious sect called Sufism (Whirling Dervishes). They were the original artisans who had hand crafted these two amazing cymbals that hung on the walls of this ancient Mosque. Hand forged, and folded over and reforged many times for strength, much like the way ancient Japanese made their Samurai Swords.
I must have warn him down with my persistence, because eventually the imam gave in, because suddenly he told me to come back the following day. He said he would bring one of the old cymbals down for me to get a closer look at... Frankly, I think my daily visits, and all the talk about secret formulas had fired up his imagination. I believe he was just as curious as I was at this stage.
The following day I arrived at the rear door as he instructed. I banged, he opened the door looking really nervous, “I’m only a caretaker of these treasures”
he proclaimed. “We must not take too long... these cymbals have not been removed from these walls for more than 300 years”
. Yet, I thought... they looked so shinny and bright... So the stories I was told were correct, they must have used a very high content of gold, which was added as part of the secret alloy mixture, because they were sparkling. I could see no evidence of tarnish or oxidizing at all.
As he held it up, I struck it hard, without asking his permission... he was shocked, mortified in fact. The look of horror on the mans face made me step back. Then a huge smile lit up his whole face. Neither of us could conceal our utter joy. The sound was orgasmic, rich and deep with a shimmering after glow. Spiritual is the only other way I could possibly describe the experience. As the sounds reverberated around the domed building, I could imagine those Whirling Dervishes getting into a head space and spinning for hours.
The Imam thanked me profusely. Thank you, thank you he repleted. "Now I know there truly is a God, my job here has just became one thousand times more important"
. "Now I must put it back where it belongs... and may it remain there for another 300 years"
So this was the magical sounds the Whirling Dervishes danced to and which sent them into a trance like state. I can only describe the experience as being better than my first sexual experience.
At last, my epic quest was over, I had managed to piece together the ancient formula that has intrigued and puzzled cymbal makers down through the ages.
So for the first time, right here, right now, I will reveal what I discovered.
The metals and elements that make up the alloy, used to make those two 300 year old cymbals, hand crafted my Sufi artisans was:
Zinc. ( the so called Zildjian family secret)
Gold. (the real secret held by the Sufi)
Zinc is added because it enables the molten mixture to flow together better. But it's no big secret... Jewelery manufacturers have used it for centuries, when they add copper to gold, for exactly the same reason.
However... the true secret is in the percentages.
Remarkably... because no two cymbals had exactly the same formula... the Sufi Craftsman had the foresight to inscribed the formula on the back face of the bell on those 300 year old cymbals. So with the help of the caretaker, and his ability to translate ancient text, we were able to deduce their mystical recipe... including the essential percentages.
Just as Indiana Jones had found the "Secret Of The Lost Ark"... I had re-discovered the secrets of the ancient Sufi cymbal makers.
Finally my quest is over, and this is my first documented account of that quest. That secret remains with me.
I am currently saving up my pennies to purchase ??? ounces of gold. I will then contract my old Turkish friend, to hand beat my new 25" cymbal, to the exact re-discovered Sufi formula.
Sufi Whirling Dervishes of Istanbul