We’ve all felt the wrath of a well placed cymbal.
A proper cymbal choke, when enunciated with a single bass drum kick, can be like a kick in the gut. It is devastating, sudden, and leaves a lasting impact.
But how exactly does cymbal choking work?
A cymbal choke is when you strike a cymbal with one hand, and immediately after grab it with the other to silence it. This may sound simple, and that’s because it is. The hard part is learning when and where to add cymbal chokes.
Cymbal chokes can be used to accent important notes, or bring attention to notes that you feel are important. One of the ways to do this is during a section with rests. In between each rest, performing a cymbal choke on the notes can bring the listeners attention to that specific note.
When cymbal choking, be sure that you have proper timing. It may help to use a metronome to practice, and as always start off slowly, at a comfortable tempo. The reason this is so important is that if your cymbal choke is off, not only will the note not be properly enunciated, but it will also throw the rest of the band off.
Another important aspect of cymbal choking is power control. If you strike too softly, your cymbal choke will come off as weak and feeble. To the contrary, if you strike with too much force, you will not only struggle to choke the cymbal, you will also hurt yourself grabbing the sporadic cymbal.
Be sure to pay attention to stick height as well as your choking hand. You want to have your hand almost cupping the cymbal’s edge so that you can make a quick grab and silence that cymbal.
Cymbal choking is a very versatile technique, so when experimenting, try adding it in different areas of your music. A neat technique is to use a cymbal choke directly before a break or a pause in your song.
This will add a dramatic feel to your music, which will in turn lend depth. Listeners will not only be excited for what comes next, but they will also begin to craft their own ideas of what may come next. That is where versatility takes part, and you can genuinely surprise your listeners.
Once you have experimented with basic cymbal choking, try to utilize the technique on different cymbals. This will widen your technical know hows when you learn how to play drums on different equipment.
One thing a lot of musicians tend to forget to do is to emancipate a technique. Don’t designate cymbal choking to only one cymbal. Try different sounds and different variations. You can perform simultaneous cymbal chokes on two simultaneous notes, giving a double punch feel.
Also, don’t get overly cymbal choking happy; keep your usage tasteful and modest. If you begin to use cymbal choking in every song, your listeners will come to expect it, and you will no longer be using the technique to make your music more interesting, but more monotonous.
As with all techniques, no matter how simple they are, proper application takes time and experimentation. Have fun, work hard, and try new things!
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