Istanbul: Cymbal Capital of the World

This week Lodo Drum Guy is featuring a special guest blog post from my web designer Trevor; he's been backpacking across Europe while maintaining the site since the end of November and has been checking out new and awesome gear for me the whole time. You can check out some of the interesting stuff he's run into below.

 An amazing selection of Turkish bronze!

An amazing selection of Turkish bronze!

Istanbul, Turkey is undoubtedly the world capital of the cymbal with tons of brands and styles to choose from and not a single brilliant finish sheet bronze plate in sight. Pretty much everything here is hand-hammered and custom and has been for generations back.

Most of the companies go for the darker wash of cast bronze cymbals that higher end Sabian HHs and Zildjian Ks feature as a premium. When you consider that many of these companies even have their own secret alloy mixtures it's easy to see how a drummer could dial in a seriously unique sound with these brands.

The list of Turkish manufacturers is as varied as the lines which include Agean, Amedia (located in Istanbul itself), Bosphorus (and the more custom off-shoot Impression), Istanbul Agop, Masterwork/Orient, the Turkish/American Supernatural and many, many others.

 Reproductions of the legendary Constantinople from Zildjian are still available with a stamped instead of engraved brand mark.

Reproductions of the legendary Constantinople from Zildjian are still available with a stamped instead of engraved brand mark.

Ever since Pete demoed a Zildjian K Constantinople for me in the loft the darker sound of the handmade Turkish cast cymbals has been a standard for me (even though Avedis Zildjian moved from Turkey to Massachusetts over a century ago). Because of this I was surprised to find similar sounds in so many of the cymbals in the music shops around Istanbul at much more affordable prices, including brands that are seemingly unavailable in the U.S. except through online orders from the manufacturers themselves or other sites.

 Istanbul Mehmet manufactured "El Negro" custom cymbals designed by drummer Horacio Hernandez.

Istanbul Mehmet manufactured "El Negro" custom cymbals designed by drummer Horacio Hernandez.

 Zildjian's Gen16 low volume cymbals with electro-acoustic pickups.

Zildjian's Gen16 low volume cymbals with electro-acoustic pickups.

One of my favorite brands in the shop are the hand-made Istanbul Mehmet cymbals. In general, they follow the same standards as most Turkish cymbals by starting with a thin plate that responds quickly to sticks but has a short decay so each stroke can be heard with definition. The bell isn't as loud as most cymbals and has a much darker sound that doesn't stick out in comparison the sound of the body. They maintain the deeper, heavier sound of 18" and larger cymbals but respond astonishingly fast for such a large piece of metal. I also like the rough brush approach to the finishing of the cymbals which the shop owner told me was completely unique to the "El Negro" line. The dark and sometimes rusty finish is all part of their unique handmade feel.

Overall, the selection and sounds available in these cymbals are epic; it's good to know the tradition of the Constantinople is alive and well even if Zildjian is moving in different directions (see their low-volume electronic friendly Gen16 cymbal to the left). If anything, the Turks are spoiled for choice in great sounding, hand forged cymbals and will be for generations to come (both Istanbul Mehmet and Agop learned their trade directly from Zildjian's lineage).

By the way, if you're ever in the neighborhood the cymbal prices are definitely worth the plane ticket especially when you factor in a visit to the amazing city of Istanbul as well!