Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Hammer Pads

I've had an ongoing quest for years, to find just what I'm looking for in 'soft' hammers. I have to say, I'm not that thrilled with the sound of leather hammers, even though they are quite popular. I suppose it's good for backing, but otherwise the leather dampens the tone too much for my tatse.

Years ago I heard Malcolm Dalglish say during a concert that he wrapped yarn around his hammers for dampening. I tried that briefly, then finally settled for a long time with a thin layer of flannel glued onto a pair of hammers.

This wasn't bad, but there was still a sound I was going for that I couldn't seem to get. It was a subtly that I heard on some of Dalglish's recordings, particularly the Windham Hill albums (probably because the recording quality was so good on those). At times the hammers sound like hard wood, while at other times (within the same song) they sounded softer.

One day, a month or so ago, I noticed the detail on the Bob Bedard hammers I've been enjoying lately and I had a mild brainstorm, that perhaps I could wrap yarn around one small part of the hammer head, so that the surface was both hard and soft. The result is that I can fluctuate between a harder or softer sound with a simple change in angle of the hammer. sometimes this happens unintentionally, but still seems to yeild a really nice textural complexity to the sound of the note.

So far I'm pleased. The dampening is not as severe as leather, so you can also acheive a harder sound simply by using a harder strike. This gives more options for dynamics within a tune. The one drawback I've noticed: The yarn eventually breaks due to all the abuse it's receiving. It only takes a couple minutes to wrap new yarn on, though. Perhaps I will play around with stronger yarns.



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