BY AJ DONAHUE
Ray Byrne has been fascinated with the sounds of cymbals since childhood. The Illinois-based builder lathes and hammers out beautifully crafted instruments from B20 blanks under the Byrne Cymbals brand. His creations have earned significant acclaim throughout the drumming community, and it’s clear he’s established himself as one of today’s preeminent cymbal smiths.
But that’s not enough. Byrne doesn’t just want to make your favorite ride cymbal—he wants to help you understand why it’s your favorite ride cymbal. Enter the Cymbal Builder app, a multi-faceted cymbal design utility for iOS users that explains how weight and shape affect sound for drummers to better understand how to select cymbals best suited for their desired application.
We reached out to Byrne to learn a little bit more about his goals for the app and what went into its creation.
Drum!: Can you give us an overview of all the app’s features?
Ray Byrne: The Cymbal Builder App provides two functions and covers three of the most easily quantifiable aspects of a cymbal: weight, bell, and bow.
The first function of the app is the cymbal weight calculator. The user enters the cymbal diameter in inches and the cymbal weight in grams, then taps “build cymbal” to get a readout of its weight category relative to its size. This is one of the most commonly understood ways to categorize what a cymbal’s overall characteristics might be.
The second function an educational tool meant to round out the misconception that a cymbal’s weight is the end-all. It has two options that provide generalized descriptions. The first is the bell selector, which goes from flat to a large bell, and includes categories for how bell size influences a cymbal’s sound; the second is an animated slider that provides three descriptions across the range of how a cymbal bow influences sound characteristics, from totally flat all the way to a steep bow.
Of course, none of these are exhaustive. The things that the app does not help measure are the manufacturing techniques, hammering, alloy variations, and lathing, which all play a major role in how a cymbal will sound.
What inspired you to build the app?
Cymbal weight and shape characteristics are something I deal with a lot as a cymbal maker. It is also something that many drummers write to me about with questions. Creating an app that addressed at least the most common questions of cymbal design was a way to give a free resource to the drumming community while also having the benefit of raising awareness for the cymbals I am making.
What kind of challenges did you encounter while designing and building it?
I am fortunate to have friends that were generous with their time and skills. The animation slides were made by a friend in design school, and all the heavy lifting of coding the app was done by my dear friend Will Hindenburg. He has done some really incredible things in his career in the field of coding, including a few things that many of us use every day. He was very kind to dedicate some of his evenings and a lot of conversations to making this possible.
What’s the early feedback been like?
The drummers that are keen on the importance of cymbal weight and profile have been very appreciative of the app as a free tool and I am thankful for their support. The only disappointments have been that it is only currently available on the App Store, since making it available for Android would require coding the whole thing from scratch again. However, it is available for both iPhone and iPad, making it available to a slightly larger audience than iPhone only.