by Dr. Colleen Clark

installment FIVE:

In this lesson series, Zildjian artist Colleen Clark provides a historiographical and musical analysis examining the jazz ride cymbal pattern, from its inception on woodblock, small accessory cymbals, hand cymbal mechanisms and brushes through what becomes known as the modern-day ride cymbal pattern. This research examines a wide array of drummers and bandleaders, with the objective of identifying the earliest recordings of this important addition to jazz drumming, and popular music history while analyzing the ride cymbal pattern’s evolution through definitive recordings.

Zildjian’s Influence on Jazz: Working with the Top Artists of the Day

The Avedis Zildjian Cymbal Company established its American company in Quincy, Massachusetts in 1929. Being a fan of jazz music, Avedis began working with the top drummers of the day to develop new products that fit the emerging style of music. Artists such as Chick Webb and Papa Jo Jones often visited Zildjian to share their ideas on creating the sounds they were wanting to explore.

In 1930, “Avedis developed a life-long relationship with Gene Krupa, who helped Avedis adapt marching cymbals to the emerging drum set by encouraging Avedis to make thinner cymbals.” The relationship between Krupa and Zildjian became important for the continued use of the pattern because of the emphasis on the innovations regarding the ride cymbal. There was an important series of developments that occurred at Zildjian within the span of 1936-1939.

As a result of this close relationship with drummers, the ‘paper thin crash,’ ‘ride,’ ‘splash,’ ‘hi-hat’ and ‘sizzle’ cymbals were all developed and named by Avedis.

As drummers started transferring the time-beat from the hi-hats to their top cymbals, the then popular 12” to 14” thin, top cymbals proved to be too small. Gradually Zildjian made them larger but still fairly thin.

The top cymbal referred to above means a single cymbal that was placed on top of the bass drum. The evolution of the top cymbal became important in Zildjian’s history. Zildjian helped make the cymbals larger so that drummers could have the ability to ride them. The smaller the cymbals the more difficult it is to control playing the pattern on them without the help from the left-hand dampening as well.

As the new style progressed, thin cymbals, essentially made for crashes, failed to pin-point the sound enough. It was then that Avedis created and introduced Bop-Ride and Ping cymbals were produced in sizes up to 26” diameter. Gradually, the choice of size settled into a range of 18” to 22” in diameter.

Cymbals larger than 14” served as ride cymbals in the late 1920s. The average size of a small cymbal that could be choked with the left hand was anywhere from 8-12” in diameter. Because of this history, it was important to reach out to Zildjian CEO Craigie Zildjian, granddaughter of Avedis Zildjian.

There are no sale records for this time period that could prove the date of the larger cymbal innovations. That said, another helpful tool is advertisements. Here is an advertisement from Bucharest from 1926-1927. The Bucharest advertisement shows that Zildjian was selling cymbals up to 50cm or 19.7 inches in Bucharest.

Craigie Zildjian, 14th generation and first female leader of the Zildjian company.

Another example is an early advertisement from Zildjian in America. At the bottom of the advertisement, the text includes, “larger sizes can be supplied on special order.” It also shows that Zildjian was making 18” cymbals. The larger the cymbal is the more difficult it is to dampen, as opposed to the small cymbals, which were much easier to control.

The demand for larger cymbals can be confirmed by the advertisements supplied. The Avedis Zildjian Company directly influenced how drummers would advance the pattern in the music. The path that Zildjian began in 1926 was supported by the drummers in the United States. The relationship between the company and its endorsing drummers helped define what became the new normal on drum-set, the ride cymbal.



Interested in learning more about the evolution of the ride pattern?

You can view or download a copy of Colleen Clarks’ Doctoral Dissertation from U. North Texas HERE!

Drummer, composer and educator Colleen Clark is vibrant on the scenes in NYC and the southeastern United States. Clark has guest performed with the 8G Band on NBC’s Late Night with Seth Meyers and can most recently be heard playing on the co-led project with Sharel Cassity, ALLIANCE, which received a 4-star DOWNBEAT review, Michael Dease’s “The Other Shoe” (Origin), and upcoming releases by CC+ The Adelitas, The Southern Pines, Michael Dease and Matt White.

She has shared the stage with jazz luminaries including: Branford Marsalis, Rodney Whitaker, Catherine Russell, Camille Thurman, Rudresh Mahanthappa, and Mimi Jones. Clark has been featured in DOWNBEAT magazine and is also an ASCAP winning composer. Clark was invited by the ASCAP Foundation to lead her band at the Kennedy Center. She is also the Founder and Artistic Director of the University of South Carolina’s Jazz Girls Day. Dr. Clark is the first woman and only drummer to earn a doctoral degree in jazz from the University of North Texas. 

Connect with Colleen!
IG @ colleendrums

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