Scoring for Cymbal Line

Here's a question for all of the experts lurking around here: How do you score for cymbal lines that you want to utilize the different ";pitches"; of the different sizes?

When I got VDL:2, I was very excited about the multitude of cymbal sounds available, and went crazy... all on one staff (for six different players). The result was that their music was jumbled with a ton of abbreviated explanations of which technique to use and which player it was intended for. Also, the playback wasn't tremendously realistic, because they could hear all of the techniques, but the only ";tonal"; difference was for solo or unison crashes.

Later in the season, I wrote a little cadance and decided to alter my approach. I was writing for 6 pairs of cymbals (Zildjian Stadium series, 2 16";s, 2 18";s and 2 20";s -- differing weights on the doubled sizes resulting in six different sounds) and notated it with three different staves (for each size of cymbal). This worked well, but still only had solo or unison timbres for each size of cymbal.

What do you guys do and what sort of things have you heard of that have worked?


When I'm writing, I typically have two scores for each thing that I write.  One is for print and the other is for playback.  The playback scores will typically have 3 staves for cymbals and I'll load each cymbal size into its own channel like you mention doing.  For the print score, that is when I'll move the notes around on the staff.  My entire cymbal line is given a chart at the beginning of the season that list what noteheads mean what.  They are expected to know that list by the next rehearsal.  Many times however, I'll put a H.H. for hi-hit, or Cr for Crash or C.C. for crash choke above a note the first time it appears in the score.  After that, it's up to them to remember the difference.
Hey Eric,

Yeah, the notational challenges with cymbals are somewhat the nature of the beast. Bill's suggestion seems to be a popular method.

Regarding getting different tones, you can easily choose between 16";, 18";, 20"; plates within the same channel. Use the [b]Cymbal Line All (MW)[/b] instrument. Then, by simply entering a mod-wheel command in your score, that staff can switch between the three sizes. It's a larger instrument and will have a longer load time, but it's pretty powerful stuff.

Your method described also sounds very effective (three staves, one for each size). Naturally, your *exact* setup won't be able to be emulated (2 players each on 16's, 18's, etc), but i've found it generally suffices to just use my ear when choosing between unison or solo articulations. If the part in question is more ";split"; in nature, solo sounds might give you more nuance, whereas the uni sounds will have more fullness. To my ear, the multi-pitched instruments is a more important thing to capture than whether there's one or two players on any given note.

If you REALLY want to try to emulate that, try this. Load up a 16"; cymbal line and an 18"; cymbal line in VDL2, but assign them both to the same midi channel. Doing this, they'll both trigger at the same time. Here's the important thing . Tune the 18"; cymbal line up a couple semi-tones to put it closer into the pitch range of the 16"; line. Doing this, you have a way to synthetically create two ";players"; playing the same sound on different instruments. If you like this, then I'd do the same for 18's (using an 18"; and a 20";...tune UP the 20 - assign both to the same channel), and the 20's (also using an 18"; and a 20";, but tune DOWN the 18). That's a lot of cymbal instruments loaded, but if your cpu can handle it, it might be an alternative for you.
Login or Signup to post a comment