Don’t try to put Antonio Sanchez in a box. When he isn’t playing drums for his longtime friend and musical mentor Pat Metheny, he’s writing film and TV scores (Birdman, Get Shorty), issuing electronica-laced solo albums (Bad Hombre), and leading his own contemporary jazz outfit, Antonio Sanchez And Migration.

One thing that has remained a constant in Sanchez’s musical world over the past few years is his main drum setup and his collection of cymbals. In his view, the drums themselves produce the “dry” sounds, while his unique array of cymbals are the “wet” sounds. Here are his five essential cymbals. 

Zildjian K ride_web

1. Zildjian K Ride Cymbal

“It’s pretty old. I think it’s from the ’50s, and it’s really beat up. It’s got this big triangle-shaped chunk taken out of it. And the hole where you put it on the stand is a mess. You literally have to position it a certain way for it to sit correctly. But that’s kind of cool because it doesn’t rotate, ever. It has this incredibly dark, luscious sound. It’s got its own personality, and it’s unlike anything I’ve ever played before. Depending on how I hold the stick, its sound changes in really musical ways.”

Zildjian hi-hat_web

2. Zildjian K and A Hi-Hats

“I have a few sets of hi-hats that I rotate. One is a pair of old K’s, and then I have two pairs of old A’s. They’re very thin, very light, and very dark. What’s funny is, they’re all mismatched — no two cymbals are from the same pair. They have this fantastic chk sound to them, they’ll respond to anything. Even if you step on the pedal lightly or splash them very softly with a stick, they’ll just sing. They have tiny little cracks and imperfections, but that’s okay — that’s what gives them personality.”

A Custom splashes_web

3. Zildjian A Custom Splash Cymbals

“I started thinking that the most prominent ‘wet’ sound was the hi-hat, so I came up with something different, which is a combination of two 8″ splashes, but I have them flipped  inside-out. They’re like two hi-hats facing opposite directions. I played  so much Latin music for a while, and I used to have a cowbell on my bass drum. But after a while I started playing music that didn’t call for a cowbell so much. I needed something a little different, so I put these cymbals between the mounted tom and the first floor tom.”

Trashformer-China crash_web

4. Zildjian Trashformer and Oriental China Cymbals

“I needed a counterpoint to the A Custom splashes, so under my main right cymbal I have a Zildjian 12″ Trashformer. It’s a really weird cymbal it’s purposely all bent out of shape. On top of that I have a 10″ Oriental China crash. I tighten them really hard, and it gives me another trashy kind of hi-hat. In Birdman, when Michael Keaton is trashing his dressing room, what you’re hearing are these cymbals.”

6-inch A Custom splash_web

5. Zildjian A Custom 6″ Splash

“I put a little 6″ splash upside-down on the crash to the right of my main right cymbal. So I’ve got the two bells pressing against each other. I can hit the top of the crash, and the two bells create this really distinctive sound. It’s a very short burst that’s perfect for accents. It’s become a real signature part of my sound. You’ll hear it on pretty much every record I’ve made over the past 10 years.”

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