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For the past nine years, the Meinl Sand Hi-Hats (14″) and Sand Ride (20″) cymbals have been my go-to-versatile combination for a variety of the recordings and gigs I’ve played.
With an all-terrain signature sound unique to all of the Benny Greb cymbals, the 14″ hi-hats and 20″ ride provide stick definition and tone necessary to work in a jazz and fusion scenario while having decay and dryness to make them also suitable in funk, R&B, hip hop, and rock situations.
Great all-around dry cymbals with beautiful overtones
Meinl Benny Greb Sand Series Cymbals
Meinl’s Sand series cymbals are engineered to “sit perfectly in any mix,” designed in conjunction with drummer Benny Greb—perfect for a cymbal upgrade.
The cymbals, both from the Byzance Vintage line, are made of B20 alloy and have a sandblasted surface that gives them a vintage patina and dry tone. The 20″ presents a medium weight with a partially lathed bottom and a sandblasted top surface that after years has aged beautifully, having the sides of the cymbal in which it’s played the most slowly, showing its differentiated wear.
On the other hand, the 14″ Sand hi-hats consist of a pretty heavy bottom cymbal with a surface similar to the sand ride—the likes of a traditional sandblasted cymbal.
The top cymbal is very thin and unlathed, similar to the extra dry look. Both have different hammering that creates its unique sound. Both cymbals are sandblasted; they are prone to have the unique signature look that a lot of Meinl Cymbals have, with not one cymbal looking the same as the other.
It would also be best if you didn’t clean any cymbals in the Byzance Vintage, as the process will get rid of some of the sandblasted patina that gives the line its dry yet full of tone sound.
Lastly, after coming across some other drummers with the same cymbals, I can ensure that they age beautifully. Comparing them to some other drummers’ same cymbals gives an inspiring insight into how one musician to another plays these cymbals.
As beautiful as they are, the sound is what matters, and there’s a lot to say about this line.
The Sand Hi-Hats
After being used to your typical mid-range brilliant finish hi-hats, getting this pair was a change of feel and sound that took me a while to get used to, but the payoff was worth it.
At that time, I was usually playing in rock, funk, and fusion settings and was used to the bright sound of the hi-hats I previously owned. My lack of proper technique at that time usually went under the radar, as the overall brightness and lack of tone gave the illusion of more even strokes than they were.
The Meinl Sand hats amplified the areas in which my playing lacked. I started noticing it when playing double strokes and higher subdivisions on the hi-hat. My lower strokes seemed way more sloppy and uneven than they did before with other hi-hats.
It took some time to get used to them. Still, after some weeks, I started seeing the benefits of playing them. The pair’s dryer and darker sound accentuated some more subtle flaws I wasn’t paying attention to in my playing.
That’s not to say that some other dry cymbals might introduce similar situations to drummers accustomed to that bright hi-hat sound. Still, these cymbals, combined with the thinness and fast decay of the cymbals, provided an enriching experience that enhanced my awareness of my playing flaws.
After some time of playing the mentioned genres, my taste in music and opportunities changed a bit. It started shifting more towards jazz and hip hop. These two musical scenarios give a very different approach and role to the hi-hat. That’s where I began to realize the potential of the pair.
When playing in jazz settings, the Sand hats didn’t provide the typical noticeable hi-hat pedal sound I was looking for while comping. The top hat’s dryness and thinness created a very dry and low volume chic sound when comping. Even though they’re perfect for subtleties between strokes, if used as a pulse while playing around the kit, they don’t have a lot of presence.
I discovered how versatile the pair is when playing the bottom hat on top and the top hat on the bottom. What was a very dry and low volume hi-hat sound becomes a girthy hi-hat sound with more presence, comparable to that classic “K” sound.
When playing the bottom cymbal on top, you also gain a bit more stick definition while compromising the controllable and pleasant dry open sound the thinner top cymbal offers.
But certainly, what the bottom cymbal adds on top is a very non-intrusive yet present hi-hat pedal sound, with a low-pitched tone that, for a 14″, mixes beautifully with the rest of the kit. The chic sound is very much felt, while not being annoying or piercing, though adding quite a bit of weight to the cymbal.
On the other hand, after getting to “know” the cymbal and all of the possibilities it has when used the top or bottom side, it’s clear to me that playing in genres such an RnB, hip hop, and funk is where these cymbals shine on their “original” position—having the thin and dryer cymbal on top with a non-intrusive low pitched cymbal sound that I relate more to 15″ cymbals.
It mixes perfectly with both super low and fat snares and high tuned, poppy snares very present in classic hip hop albums and today’s contemporary jazz scene. While having the dryer thinner cymbal on top, phrasing and opening the hi-hat also benefits from its low decay and dry sound.
Overall the cymbal pair offers various possibilities that I haven’t quite come across with other hi-hats, benefiting aware and tight playing, and punishing uneven and sloppy technique. It takes some time to get used to the feel of the cymbals. Still, the vast host of possibilities using the hats in both configurations will give any player all-terrain sound and feel that can fill an enormous array of musical situations.
The 20″ Meinl Sand Ride
Moving on to the 20″ Sand Ride, it offers the same versatility characteristic of the hi-hats and the rest of the line. I have used it for funk, jazz, rock, pop, and even metal gigs, performing and fitting in in all of them.
The nuances and more exciting characteristics of this cymbal affect when and where you use it, for better or for worse.
Starting with the benefits I’ve seen from using the cymbal for almost a decade now, its medium thickness and sandblasted surface make it have a very earthy tone. It’s a very non-intrusive cymbal sound that doesn’t take over the rest of the kit’s sound when playing at high volumes.
The signature patina makes for a short decay, that as we will mention later, for me, ended up being one of the flaws of the cymbal. For live settings where you have to use the cymbal both as a crash and ride, it works either way, as the crash itself goes out quickly.
Much like the versatility of the hi-hats, original position or inverted, the Sand Ride can be modified to each player’s needs without losing much of its identity.
I wanted a bit of dryer sound and stick definition in some recordings or gigs without much harmonics. With just the minimum amount of tape on the underside, you can achieve a very similar sound to a Meinl Extra Dry cymbal while keeping the Sand line’s earthy tone.
One of the selling points for me about this cymbal is that it has one of the best bell sounds I’ve ever heard, if not the best—especially when hitting the bell with the stick’s shaft. You get beautiful and defined bell sounds that never sound too loud or “pingy,” that mix perfectly in live and studio settings, and one that compliments the ride sound.
With some other cymbals, I’ve experienced excellent stick definition and tones. When hitting the bell, you get this annoying, high pitched ping that doesn’t sit in well with the drums and moves all of the focus to its sound.
With the Sand Ride, I haven’t heard a bell sound that mixes in better with the drums, and that doesn’t sound like a gimmick or unmusical choice, but a color in itself that can have its own musical purpose.
Now, this is not a ride for everyone, as it’s impressively versatile, but I’ve seen that it trades many specific attributes of other types of rides to meet in a middle ground in which it fills the general function of most of them.
I like to think of this ride as a middle ground between an extra dry cymbal (like the K Custom Dry Cymbals from Zildjian or the Extra Dry Line from Meinl) and the dark full of tone rides from lines such as the Zildjian K or Constantinople. It does the job for both, yet it compromises some of the mentioned lines’ unique attributes.
On one side, it delivers a short decay and earthy that would make it fit in situations in which you need a ride with few harmonics and a dark tone. Yet, at the same time, it’s tonal qualities, and vintage sound make it “too” musical for those trashy qualities.
Its tone and stick definition, in conjunction with its beautiful bell sound, presents many possibilities for using it as a very melodic and dark ride. It can be your main cymbal for recordings and gigs in which you want that classic old K sound. Its short decay and general dryness disable it from achieving that spotlight.
It may be a ride that is hard to get accustomed to, or it could be the most incredible sounding cymbal you’ve heard. After spending many practice hours and gigs/recordings, you start developing a very keen ear for what it can offer.
In my case, I’ve found that it’s the perfect “quiet” ride. It has subtleties and low volume details. You can take advantage of its beautiful tone and bell and its short decay, providing enough space to make it shine in situations when needed.
After some years of using it, I drilled three holes and installed some rivets. Much like when I found out about the possibilities of putting the hi-hat upside down, I found this tweak (Meinl does this on their 22″ Sand Crash/Ride) enables the cymbal to gain a little bit of needed decay and body to its strokes. I now get enhanced stick definition between the notes, reduced harmonics when crashing, and a gentle sizzle that gives the cymbal just a bit more presence.
In conclusion, I’d relate both of these cymbals to versatility. The hi-hats are an all-terrain beautiful pair that can deliver in any situation. Inverting its position makes it a 2×1 pack. The Sand ride, while being a cymbal that can take some time to get used to, provides a middle ground between dryness and tone, making it a handy tool when having limited options.
About the Author
Joe Sturges is a drummer and composer. Merging classical, jazz, hip/hop, and a variety of other influences, he creates a unique and honest sound in his compositions, always aiming to tell a story with his music.