EP 65 - The History of Cymbal Making with Nick Margarite (NickyMoon)
Nick takes us through an in-depth look at the full history of cymbals, bronze, the iconic brands such as UFIP and Paiste, and all of the processes that are used around the world to create cymbals through time. The episode starts 7000 years ago and works up to the modern revolution of independent cymbal makers like NickyMoon.
Nick is a master cymbal maker that has a deep passion for preserving the history of this art form. Not only does he tell us about all the milestones throughout time in China, Turkey, Europe, America and South America - but he also teaches us all of the terms and processes that are used in the process across the globe.
Here is a link to the Chinese cymbals from 1200 AD:
Learn more about Nick at his website: https://www.nickymoon.com/
And find him on Instagram at @nickymoon_cymbals
Here is Nicks great outline that he made covering the history of cymbals:
Primary sources - Smithsonian, BBC, Encyclopedia Brittanica, The Cymbal Book,
personal interactions with Turkish, Chinese and Brazilian cymbal masters and time spent
working in a Brazilian foundry/cymbal factory
IT ALL STARTS WITH BRONZE
Ore - naturally occurring rock with metal inside
Smelting - the extraction of metal from ore
Melting - liquifying solid material via fire
Casting - pouring molten metal into a mold
Alloy - a metal made by combining two or more metallic elements, especially to
give greater strength or resistance to corrosion.
Forging - make or shape a metal object by heating it in a fire or furnace and
beating or hammering it.
-Simply put, the mechanical properties of the material allow for vibration - internal
damping is minimal compared to other materials. Iron doesn’t ring at all, brass
(copper/zinc) rings somewhat and bronze rings freely.
-The earliest bronze artifacts were found in the Middle East and China nearly
7000 years ago with additional artifacts being found in parts of Serbia.
-One theory suggests that bronze may have been discovered when copper and tin-
rich rocks (ore) were used to build campfire rings. As the stones became heated by the fire,
the metals contained in the rocks were melted and mixed. Since tools and weapons were
formerly made of stone, these accidental discovery of bronze is likely, as tools containing
the accidentally smelted ore would contain some bronze alloy and have been stronger.
-Tin must be mined mainly in its’ ore form, cassiterite and then smelted separately
before being added to molten copper to make the bronze alloy.
-The oldest tin alloy bronzes data back around 4500BC and were found at an
archaeological site, Pločnik in Serbia.
-Around 3500 BC the first signs of bronze usage by the ancient Sumerians started
to appear in the Tigris Euphrates valley in Western Asia. During the Bronze Age, two
distinct forms of bronze were commonly used: “classic bronze” (which contained ~10%
tin and was used in casting) and “mild bronze” (~6% tin and was hammered into sheets
from ingots). Weapons were cast mostly using classic bronze, while armor and helmets
were hammered into shape from mild bronze.
-1200 BC Asia Minor (present day middle east) the goddess
Cybele was worshipped in a ritual accompanied by cymbals
-1050 BC cymbals are mentioned in the Bible in a passage where David transferred
the ark of God to Jerusalem.
1 Chronicles 13-15
David also commanded the chiefs of the Levites to appoint their kindred as the
singers to play on musical instruments, on harps and lyres and cymbals, to
raise loud sounds of joy.
-China Western Zhou period, from 1050 to 771 BCE, an experimental phase of
bell-making. Set of 65 bells was found in the Marquis Yi of Zeng's tomb - that collection
shows categorically that they were being used musically, they have notations that name the
tones the bell should make. Those inscriptions were cast into the bell itself, not added
-700 BC Babylonian picture depicts cymbals with a bell, Flat shape and even
grooves hinting at rudimentary lathing
-pair of cymbals in existence in Chinese Museum from 1200 AD Chinese Jin
-word cymbal is derived from the Greek word ‘kymbos’
-the oldest church bells were cast from 80/20 bronze, the oldest surviving being the bell of
Abad Sasnson in a monastary in Spain, cast in the year 930 AD.
-Ottoman Empire began 1298 AD
-Decline of Ottoman power began in 1400’s with Albanian Revolt lead by Georges -
Katrioti aka “Skanderbeg”
-Ottoman Dynasty abolished by Republic of Turkey 1922
PRE MODERN ERA 1600-1900
1623 Zildjian - Armenian named Avedis Zildjian allegedly altered the process in a unique
way that allowed his bronze to become better quality
Between this time and early 1900’s, there’s not much evidence of who did what at what
time. Developments were likely being made in multiple countries concurrently and it is
unlikely that a consensus on timeline will ever be reached. The modern era of American,
Italian, Swiss/German, modern Turkish and Chinese cymbals all emerged at relatively
the same time.
MODERN ERA 1900 - present day
-Early 1900’s Paiste owned a music store in Estonia and making cymbals out of the
-Russian Revolution and both world wars caused the Paiste family to move around
Europe and Asia as refugees
-First exports began around 1920
-1947 established German plant
-1957 Swiss plant established
-*interesting fact about Swiss/German cymbal production - use of B8, Nickel Silver,
etc was often because they had to use whatever was available. Has since become
-Early 1900’s Tronci family in Italy was manufacturing church bells and began
making Tronci cymbals 1910
-After period of intense competition between several independent Italian cymbal
smiths, they formed a union
-1931 UFIP formed in Pistoia, Italy
-*interesting facts -
Mussolini declared jazz to be taboo. This certainly stunted the potential growth of
Italian cymbal making
-Italians are responsible for the concept of independent cymbal smiths, Roberto
Spizzochino being the first of significance
-1928 Aram came to US to teach Avedis III and open Zildjian USA. Birth of Jazz in
USA largely responsible for the popularity of cymbals and American/Turkish style
-1953 Roland Meinl began making cymbals from Swiss/German (B8) alloy due to
availability of material but also German mindset of modern technology and
-1964 hired their first employees and were exporting globally
-Around 1960 - Cultural Revolution in China - Gaohongtai factory in China
renamed Wuhan, despite being in use for 1900 years
-Chinese history has been largely erased and rewritten so details are very unclear
-1981 - Istanbul company established in Turkey by Mehmet Tamdeger and
Agop Tomurcuk. This factory has since spawned scores of modern day
Turkish cymbal factories
-1981 Sabian established in Canada
-2015 Domene Cymbals factory established in Avare, Brazil
-2018 Myzuck Cymbals factory established in Bogota, Columbia
Pre electricity - all done with fire and manual work. No rolling mills, electric lathes, power
hammers, industrial presses, etc.
Ingot was forged into sheet/plate by hand hammering
Early lathes were manually powered (foot pedal or crank)
Turkish Method - Cast, roll, temper, hand hammer, lathe
Chinese Method - Cast, forge, temper, hand hammer, lathe
Italian Method - Rotocast, temper, hammer, lathe
Swiss/German method - Malleable bronze either pressed, hammered or spin formed into
*both Italian and Swiss/German companies utilized spin forming, as well as some
Worth noting - “Traces of silver” claim - no silver is added to cymbal bronze. It exists
naturally in the copper in extremely small amounts. Trace amounts of metals, including
silver, are in everything including in your body, in food, etc
CAST VS SHEET
All bronze must be cast in order to become bronze, therefore this argument is inherently
flawed. It comes down to semantics.
B8 - B15 Malleable bronze -
Copper and tin are melted in larger quantities and then cast into bars, then
rolled into giant sheets, which individual discs are cut from.
B20 Cymbal bronze
Copper and tin are melted in smaller quantities, poured into multiple small pans
and individual ingots are formed after it cools. These ingots are then rolled or
forged into individual discs.
Enjoy this episode!