There is a basic set of tools that you usually use in your drum beats when you are starting out with drumming. That set probably includes the famous “bass drum + hi-hat + snare drum” triangle, and you have also probably played the different basic cymbals and toms of your drum set.
You might have noticed that cleverly incorporating non-obligatory elements in your usual beats gives them an extra touch, an addition to the groove.
I remember the first question I asked from my first drum teacher: “So here are these cymbals. I guess that depending on where I hit them I can get a whole range of different sounds”. The answer was affirmative, and one of the examples he showed me was the different sound of the bell of the cymbals.
Using your ride in your beats makes the whole groove richer. This does not mean that you should always be playing the ride because it is richer. It means that there are situations when the musical atmosphere becomes more accurate if the drummer uses the ride instead of the hi-hat. Playing the ride’s bell is easiest when you are following your rhythm on the ride, so you only have to make a small movement.
The bell produces a higher, shorter and brighter sound than the body of the cymbal. You can use the different character of the bell for accentuating, for varying the groove of the rhythm. For starting out, you might want to replace the last stand-alone ride hit with a ride bell hit in a 4/4 rhythm.
By stand-alone, I mean that you are only hitting the ride during that eighth note, not hitting it together with the bass or the snare. The effect of the change will be similar to opening the hi-hat while playing with the hi-hats, even if the change in tone will not be the same.
The ride is not your only cymbal which has a bell. Actually, apart from some unique effect cymbals, the majority of cymbals feature a bell which can be played. The different bells have a role of adding power and variety to your beats or your solos. Also, one thing that I highly enjoy playing around with is creating short solos of only playing cymbals softly.
In those solos, the incorporation of the different bells double the potential of the whole composition. There is one thing you have to keep in mind: even if its sound may seem strange at first (because the difference between the bell and the body is not the difference you are used to), feel free to play around with the bell of the hi-hat.
There is a special “breed” of cymbals that are similar to splash cymbals yet they only feature a large bell and almost no body if at all. Just like in the case of the bells of other cymbals, the name speaks for itself. Bell cymbal or bell splash cymbals, as some people call them, have a sound reminiscent of bells.
An interesting fact about these cymbals is that the earliest bell cymbals were made by individual drummers who were curious what it would feel like to have only the bell of a certain cymbal. As the result was highly interesting, big brands also started to incorporate bell cymbals in their product line – nowadays you can see bell cymbals even in the top product lines of top manufacturers.
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