WWBW Review: Zildjian Gen16 Cymbals - By William Leather
By Ara Ajizian |
Zildjian Gen16 - Low Volume Acoustic Cymbals
By William Leather
Director of Jazz and Percussion
Penn High School
Zildjian’s Gen16 line of cymbals broke into the marketplace as a innovative alternative to traditional electronic cymbal pads. With the feel of traditional cymbals and 50-60% less volume, Gen16 gives performers the ability to provide a live feel, while not sacrificing the digital quality in which they were originally intended. Over the past two months at Penn High School in Mishawaka, IN, we had the opportunity to use the Gen16 14” hi-hats, 14” crash, 16” crash, 18” crash and a 20” ride in purely acoustic settings. These rehearsal and performance settings included Percussion Ensemble, Musical Pit Orchestra, Concert Band, and an individual practice rooms.
As an addition to small practice or rehearsal rooms, the Gen16 cymbals provide an acoustic alternative to traditional cymbals, allowing for the performer to practice with full intent, without sacrificing feel or sound quality. In a Fine Arts Department setup like ours, having the ability to be versatile with space, while not adding to the production of noise is a huge benefit. Students practicing drum set solos or with a small jazz combo were able to use drum pads and the Gen16 cymbals in virtually any room without disturbing musicians in the same area because of the reduction in volume these cymbals provide.
In many years past, as the director of the Penn High School Musical Pit Orchestra, I consistently have felt the cymbals over balanced the rest of this small ensemble, causing the performer on drum set to have to sacrifice technique and the freedom of playing with full strokes. This spring for our musical “Man of LaMancha”, I added the Gen16 20” ride and 14” hi-hats to the setup to see how these cymbals would respond in this setting. I was pleasantly surprised with their ability to provide just enough texture without over-powering the ensemble.
The application of the Gen16 cymbals into the middle school and high school concert band setting was extremely beneficial. At the middle school level, one of our band programs has a very small band room, causing concern for noise-induced hearing loss for the students. Having the option of using the Gen16 line of cymbals in a small band room environment provides students opportunities to practice performance on cymbals with great technique and appropriate stroke styles for the intended dynamics without compromising hearing safety.
At the high school level, we discovered the Gen16 cymbals to be a valued asset to performance in professional level concert band literature. Brian Balmages’s piece “Metal” was a contest work that our top concert band at Penn performed this spring. The piece is characterized by the use of several metallic textures in the percussion section as well as its “heavy metal” feel at times. The Gen16 14” hi-hats and 20” ride cymbal provided the perfect timbre to blend with woodwinds and muted brass throughout the ensemble’s performance. Many times when hi-hat and ride cymbal parts make their way into the concert band setting, it is difficult for the performer to balance playing with confident feel and technique while blending well with the wind parts. Gen16 allowed our drum set performer on this piece to provide the necessary musical drive behind the ensemble, while not over-balancing the woodwinds and brass.
In addition to Zildjian’s Gen16 cymbals providing endless possibilities through digital performance, the acoustic applications have proven value on many levels in the traditional middle school and high school band program.