Timbales are more ubiquitous today than back when legends like Tito Puente first brought the Cuban invention front and center during the mambo craze of the late 40’s and 50’s. Drummers and percussionists of every style from pop to hip-hop employ versions and variations of the traditional timbale setup to enhance their tonal pallette, and to add a touch of Latin or a splash of reggae to their sound. But how to go about choosing the right drum (or drums) to add to your rig? What choices are available for those aspiring to add a little ritmo to their rock, or some cascara to their country backbeats? Never fear, dear reader, we are here to help, and so is a certain German percussive instrument manufacturer known for their innovative and affordable products.
Meinl has stepped-up to provide several new drums to fill various roles in both the drum set player’s and the percussionist’s sonic arsenal. Time for a Meinl timbale roundup (yee-ha!).
The first of Meinl’s latest offerings is the Professional series timbale set. While these drums could be incorporated into a drum set or multipercussion rig, they seem to be aimed at the serious Latin aficianado who is looking to inherit a bit of “El Rey’s” bombastic flavor. The first impression that one gets when taking these drums out of the box – they are big! The head diameters are a pretty standard 14" macho and 15" hembra, but the shell depth is the real story here; 9.75" on each drum.
The larger drums are an apparent addition to the original Professional series line, which come in standard sizes. The added shell depth provides for both an extended low end and an overall increase in volume. Featuring solid steel rims and extra-large six-lug construction, this set of timbs is built to take a beating and stay in-tune, and both the shells and rims sound great when playing cascara rhythms on them. Not only that; they look great, too, with a beautiful bronze finish and large silver-and-black Meinl logo badges.
The bronze finish is not just a lacquer color; these drums are made from German B8 cymbal bronze! No need to worry about playing on the sides of the shells, because the Pro series is designed to withstand your rhythmic onslaught, and to keep on sounding and looking great. They will definitely catch the audience’s collective eye as the stage lights come up while you begin your third timbale solo feature of the evening (or of the set – whatever, it’s your dream gig sequence).
A double-braced heavy-duty stand with a swivel mount that allows for a full 90 degree rotation of the drums completes the package, so you’ll never have to worry about whether or not you’ll get your timbs set at the perfect angle ever again. The kit also comes with a handy (and solid) mounting bracket for a mambo bell, a pretty common accessory that is not included with this particular package. If you were expecting it you might consider that an oversight, but otherwise there’s not much that isn’t awesome about this truly pro timbale set.
Next up we have Meinl’s Drummer timbales. Two versions of this drum come in 8" and 10" diameters, with a much shallower shell depth of 4.5". These are small drums that could fit into any number of spaces and fill a variety of percussion nitches, from drum set accessories to percussionist’s accent drums, to perhaps a small percussion rig for a very rhythmic lead vocalist.
The same solid construction and extra-large lugs are a feature of the Drummer timbs, although the shells have a subdued matte-black finish, and only have room for four lugs instead of six. The unique thing about the Drummer timbales is that they are fitted with an internal snare mechanism – with the flick of a switch, you can go from a timbalito sound to a very convincing piccolo snare, or even a more samba-oriented repinique tone! The full name of this model is the Meinl Drummer snare timbale, and now you know why. The snare feature is what garnered Meinl a patent on this very creative timbale design. Here’s a neat trick that the Drummer timbales lend themselves to – Try moving the snare switch on and off the drum while playing with one hand. With practice, it’s possible to flick the switch in-time with the rhythm you are playing, and you can even slowly bring the snare up for a wide-range of tones between “snare fully on” and “snare fully off.”