by Dendy Jarrett
When I was first contacted to do a review on cowbells, I thought: “Oh, great…like watching paint dry!” Interpretation: What can you say about cowbells?
I started thinking about the Saturday Night Live skit about Blue Oyster Cult with Will Ferrell and Christopher Walken. In the skit they're playing the song “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper,” and I thought I'd come up with some clever pitch using that skit to make it interesting because I feared the reaper would come for me after trying to write about cowbells.
Well, let me tell you: I got a fever and the only prescription is … MORE COWBELL!
Before these things arrived, I wanted to reach out to my buddy Glen Caruba who develops most of this percussion gear for Pearl. He is also their National Sales Manager, but to me he is just 'Caruba' — percussionist for the likes of Glenn Frey, Jimmy Buffett, SheDaisy, Trisha Yearwood and scores of others.
I asked him for some history on why Pearl decided to do a series of five cowbells. It turns out there's some background here that's worth telling: Pearl already had a series of signature cowbells with percussion great Horacio Hernandez “el Negro,” but while they did have a feature we will cover below, it wasn’t quite the "unique selling proposition" that would make them stand out in a crowd. Glen and Horacio sat down one day to determine what they could do to create something that would be different enough to really make these cowbells desirable. And boy, let me tell you…
The original Horacio cowbells were a “bronze” finish. These new bells are black powder-coated with a slightly textured finish that's about as tough as I’ve seen on a cowbell. Their unique clamp is done in a striking bright yellow powder coating, giving them a distinctive look.
Two Distinct Playing Surfaces
The original series of Horacio cowbells had this feature. One side is flat for playing on a drum set with the bell facing the drummer. The other side is rounded to accommodate playing the bell sideways, like when mounted to a set of timbales.
And here's what really sets these cowbells apart! The quick release clamp is sheer genius.
On the back of the cowbell (butt end), there are two brads (Pearl calls them pins) that are welded through the bell's shell. The bracket slips onto those two brads. While it sounds potentially unstable, it's quite stout. A rubber bumper separates the bell and clamp providing isolation and as far as I can tell, it does nothing to hamper the bell's tone in any way. Because the posts that accept the clamp are centered on the butt of the bell, you can use the bell flat side up or curved side up.
The clamp has a receiver bracket that works with any 3/8” post. That bracket is offset (e.g., on a slant) to allow for the next feature.
That clever feature allows the tightening mechanism that keeps the cowbell on a post to swivel. This lets you stack multiple bells on a single post without “wing-nut” interference! The entire clamping/mounting system is brilliant and a radical improvement to the cowbell.
Bells 1, 2 and 3 are a pitched to a major triad. Bells 4 and 5 are pitched to a minor second.
HH-1X BELLa — This bell is the high-pitched Cha-Cha bell. It is quite piercing. Dare I even say … it’s cute-sounding. As a reference, it reminds me of the high bell on a set of Agogo bells.
HH-2X ClaBELL— This bell has been developed specifically for playing with a foot pedal, but it's not limited to that application at all. It's a great-sounding bell.
HH-3X ChaBELLa— This bell is the low-pitched Cha-Cha bell and is fairly cutting. It reminds me of the low-pitched bell on a set of Agogo bells.
HH-4X IsaBELL— Mambo! This bell would be your more “general purpose” cowbell. It has a nice deep latin sound. Just a beauty!
HH-5X MaryBELL— This bell is a deep bell with a great throaty tone. It's designed specifically with timbale playing in mind, but isn’t limited to that role.
Think about the possibilities. You can mount a bell flat surface up or curved surface up. You can mount multiple bells on one post stacked, but wing nuts staggered. And you can play with the cowbells mounted or you can lift the cowbell off the mount and play it while holding it, but not have that aggravating mount in the way of your hand playing.
You can use one of these bells or all of these bells in your setup. They're voiced to accommodate any style of playing.
And a huge bonus is that you can mount all your bells how you want them on your kit or percussion setup and leave the clamps when you pack up! Just remove the bells and pack them away, but your clamps are right where you want them for the next gig.
I GOTTA HAVE MORE COWBELL (yeah, I went there)
These cowbells simply aren’t your momma’s standard cowbell. They offer a very innovative approach to what was once limiting. Glen and Horacio are to be commended for what developed out of a brainstorming session of two guys trying to build a better cowbell. And they work whether you're looking for multiple cowbells to get your Latin on, or one cowbell to add to your drumset for that Blue Oyster Cult song.
If you’ve got a fever and the only prescription is more cowbell. The El Negro series (one or all) is your cure!
To Purchase any of Pearl’s El Negro Signature Cowbells
HH-1X BELLa - MSRP: $59.00 Street Price: $37.99
HH-2X ClaBELL- MSRP: $67.00 Street Price: $42.99
HH-3X ChaBELLa MSRP: $70.00 Street Price: $44.99
HH-4X IsaBELL MSRP: $75.00 Street Price: $49.99
HH-5X MaryBELL MSRP: $82.00 Street Price: $54.99
To read about the previous version of these cowbells:
Want to discuss cowbells and the use of cowbells in your set up?
Dendy Jarrett is the Editorial Director and Director of Communities for Harmony Central. He has been heavily involved at the executive level in many aspects of the drum and percussion industry for over 25 years and has been a professional player since he was 16. His articles and product reviews have been featured in InTune Monthly, Gig Magazine, DRUM! and Modern Drummer Magazines.