Thursday, December 18, 1997

Of Sizzle Cymbals and Horn Sections
by Mike Williams (

Warning: this Fribble is not about investing; it’s about music... sort of.

If you’re younger than twenty-five you might not be familiar with a sizzle cymbal, but as a musician growing up in the Seventies, no self-respecting drummer would be caught dead without a sizzle cymbal and roto-toms. The cymbal was produced by taking a regular cymbal, drilling several holes into it, and inserting loose-fitting rivets. (Just forget the roto toms; if you want to hear them, borrow your parents’ "Dance Fever" album.) When the cymbal is played, these rivets vibrate and produce what we thought was a very cool (or should I say "groovy") sound.

I hadn’t thought about sizzle cymbals in about fifteen years or so until last week. I purchased a new CD of the greatest hits of Chicago because I wanted to use their horn section as inspiration for a project I was working on. I was listening through the CD when suddenly I sprang up out of my chair. I thought my CD player was broken or the CD was defective because there was an annoying noise underneath the music. Suddenly I realized that the annoying noise was rivets dancing on a vibrating piece of metal. Danny Seraphine was playing a sizzle cymbal! What was "cool" twenty years ago had become an irritating background noise today.

The moral of the story? Fads come and go but quality stays. Yesterday’s cymbal with holes drilled in it is only good for scrap metal today while Chicago’s horn section is still selling CDs (to me, at least). If you purchased a good trombone, trumpet or piano while in high school, the chances are that it’s worth more now than it was when you bought it. Buy quality, not the latest "hot" thing, and you’ve spent your money well. Hey, maybe this Fribble is about investing after all!

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