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The cowbell

The cowbells

The cowbells (simply "campana" ("bell") in Spanish) struck by stick are used in all black African music for a long time. They are painted steel for a more dull sound or chromed for a more brilliant sound or even copper, brass or bronze, for a richer and more shimmering sound. Their shape is globally parallelepiped, but extends when approaching the opening (actually it's more of a truncated pyramid with a rectangular base). From 4 to 9 inches long, they are usually made in thick steel, which makes them more dryness and power. Most of them also have a clip with wingnut opposed to the opening, for fasten them onto a rod ("bracket" or "stem") attachable on a timbales stand or a cymbal stand , for example.

cow-bells practical arrangement
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The sizes and models are usually designated according to the player, who usually plays also another instrument: example: "bongo bell", "timbale bell" (see at those instruments for their use). Lot of rock drummers plays a cow bell fastened to a clip with vertical rod attached to the rim of bass drum, between the two mediums toms (suspended).

Some timbaleros like Tito Puente play on several bells to create melodies or polyrhythms, or combine them with the drums in their solos rolls.

Virtuoso drummers as Vince Cherico (Ray Barretto ), Horacio "El Negro" Hernandez (Michel Camilo) or Robby Ameen (Dave Valentin) play with a bell mounted on stand and struck by a bass drum pedal mallet ("beater"), to the left of hi-hat, to make a "beat", an "afterbeat" or the rhythm of the "clave".

The cowbells can make three distinct sounds: a soft and dry stroke with the tip of the stick on the flat (widest face, always positioned horizontally), a loud stroke with the shaft of the stick on the flat or a stroke with the shaft on the edge of the opening (or "mouth"), the most powerful stroke.

Bongo bell struck on the opening Bongo bell struck on the opening

Bongo bell struck on the flat Bongo bell struck on the flat

Finally, some recent models of cowbells are equipped with a plastic band, for a more soft sound, and avoid the damaging of the stick.

Marc De Douvan, November 2005, translation in English: May 2013.

© 2005 Marc de Douvan Crédits Mentions légales