There aren’t many instruments that have had such an impact on jazz music, and jazz ride cymbals are arguably one of the most distinctive sounds of the 60’s era. They have played an important role in the history of the instrument and they can greatly impact the overall sound of your kit.
But, if you’re looking for a jazz ride cymbal, you’re facing a crowded market with many manufacturers offering cymbals in various sizes that can give you vastly different sounds.
Size, thickness, and material are all important factors when choosing a cymbal that is going to suit your playing style.
To help you make an informed decision, I have selected four jazz ride cymbals worth considering. All of these cymbals are perfectly suited for jazz, with subtle differences between them that will have you leaning closer to one product than the others.
Best Jazz Ride Cymbals to Add Some Groove to Your Tunes
Here is the handpicked list of my favorite jazz ride cymbals.
Founded in 1981 in the small village of Meductic, Canada, Sabian quickly made a name for themselves in the music industry by producing quality cymbals that range from budget-friendly to top-tier products. The SBR2012 Pure Brass falls into the first category but still offers a lot of bang for your buck.
Although it’s not designed to fit jazz purposes specifically, the brass-driven bright sound of this cymbal makes it perfect for less aggressive genres like blues and jazz.
Its lathed and hammered surface makes it look as good as it sounds, while the pure brass gives you a well-balanced and focused sound.
If you’re not willing to spend a ton of money on your ride cymbal but you still don’t want to fit just any product on your drum kit, this is a great choice.
A true homage to the art of cymbal making, the “Beautiful Baby” is a replica of Armand Zildjian’s favorite cymbal he kept on his own kit. It features his laser-engraved signature, along with the words “Beautiful, Baby” – his favorite expression. Give one listen to this cymbal and you’ll instantly feel why Armand had a soft spot for this ride.
It packs a musical and bright vintage Zildjian sound with just the right amount of sustain and sizzle, thanks to the three-rivet cluster along its edge. It’s very versatile – medium thin, low-to-medium pitch, and solid volume make it easily adaptable to every genre and, more importantly, your style of playing. However, its stick definition is voiced for jazz ride patterns, which is great news if you’re looking for a jazz ride cymbal.
Its price is still in the “premium” category, but it is a bit cheaper than the Kerope above. So, if you’re looking for a great cymbal that won’t completely deplete your pockets – this is it.
Another big name in the cymbal industry, Zildjian has an abundance of quality cymbals in their portfolio suitable for many different genres. The Kerope Ride, however, is perfect for jazz players because of its dark, warm, and complex sound.
Although heavier than earlier Keropes, these cymbals still have the vibrant sound of the vintage K series that encompasses everything Zildjian has learned in their 390-year long history of cymbal making.
Each one of these cymbals is hand-crafted through a 14-step process which results in every cymbal being slightly different from another, but they all give you a traditional finish and great sustain.
If you’re serious about your drumming, I can’t think of many better ride cymbals for jazz.
Istanbul Agop's Signature Series now includes a lot of famous names like Matt Chamberlain and Cindy Blackman, but their first ever endorsee was Mel Lewis. His signature series included a set of very impressive models and the 22’’ ride certainly deserves a mention.
Dark and warm with a woody stick definition, this cymbal is a great example of classic jazz sound from the Turkish cymbalsmith.
It may be a bit quiet by modern standards, but if you’re playing jazz, this shouldn’t concern you. It is also a great crash, as it shows no piercing frequencies or gong tones, just how Mel Lewis liked it.
Thickness of a Jazz Ride Cymbal
As you might have noticed, all of these cymbals are medium or medium thin. There is a good reason for this – jazz music is very dynamic, with a lot of intensity and volume changes, so choosing a medium cymbal allows for more versatility.
Thinner cymbals may give you a tone that is too dark, while thicker ones can be too loud and require a lot of force to produce a clear sound. On the other hand, medium cymbals adapt to your playing style and give you a lot of room to dictate intensity and volume with ease.
Jazz is a highly progressive style of music, meaning some cymbal quality preferences will vary from drummer to drummer. One quality that this is true for is the size of the ride cymbal. There’s no specific size that your ride needs to be to play jazz.
However, most ride cymbals are 19” to 22”. Anything smaller than that would be considered as a crash cymbal. Anything bigger would have a tone that is too washy and better suited for a style like worship.
Multiple Ride Cymbals
Most drummers use one ride cymbal in their setup. That’s what the majority of musical styles need and having more than one wouldn’t make much sense. Jazz is a bit different.
Since you’re going to spend most of your time playing the ride cymbal when swinging, it’s highly common for jazz drummers to use more than one ride cymbal in their setup.
Having a second ride cymbal gives you a different voice to play around with. If the second ride has a good crash sound, it can be used as a crash cymbal as well.
If you watch some of the most popular jazz drummers play, you’ll notice that they often have ride cymbals available to play on both sides of their kit.
If you’re going to be playing any sort of Latin jazz, the sound of the bell on the ride is massively important. It should have a strong enough sound to be heard through a mix of horns in a jazz band. A bell with a subtle bell will blend and be nonaffective in the music.
That’s why it’s great to have two ride cymbals. You may have a beautiful sounding ride with a weak bell sound. Your auxiliary ride would need to be the stand-in replacement when the bell needs to be played.
Value for Money
Your ride is your most valuable cymbal as a jazz drummer. So, it’s better to invest as much as you can into getting a great ride cymbal than it is for any other cymbal in your setup.
You could play a jazz gig with only a ride cymbal and hi-hats, showing you how important the ride is to the music.
If you need a set of cymbals for jazz, I’d suggest getting the best ride you can get while saving costs on the hi-hats and the crash cymbal.
The Final Word
So, there you go – my ultimate list of the best jazz ride cymbals money can buy. I hope this list helps you find your perfect ride that you can enjoy for years to come.
Have in mind that a great jazz ride has to have a perfect balance of dark and warm tones without being too loud or aggressive. When you find a cymbal that fits these criteria, only then should you consider adding it to your kit.