Creating communities through products, content and ideas is always healthy. It is never a bad thing when a product or an idea sparks interest in groups of people and creativity is the byproduct and Guy Juravich, inventor and owner of Spinbal, has done just that. Since the launch of Spinbal three months ago, millions of people have seen examples of what can be done with Spinbal. All of those views get brains moving and now people are figuring out different ways to use it. Eventually this movement creates a community of like minded people who can share their experiments with one another and all the while Guy can watch his single idea unfold into something meaningful.
For Guy it must be rewarding to see people having fun with this product and using it in ways that HE may not have even thought of. Artists all over the world are embracing something new for drumming and there is a small movement happening with soloist creativity and for me as an Instagram user, I am enjoying watching the videos that people are making with it. It’s something different! Even drummers that don’t process incredible skill on drums can obtain more popularity by thinking outside of the box with their videos to create some buzz around their channel. Spinbal utilizes social media in a very friendly, non competitive way and I like to see that sort of thing frankly. I am personally thankful that Guy spent all this time creating a tool for us drummers and artists to find new ways of expression.
So I personally own Spinbal and I have been using it on and off for almost three months. It is always on my cymbal stands and every now and again I begin dreaming up a new way that I can use Spinbal to create something of interest, which also changes my reason for using the drums. My experience with Spinbal seems to keep increasing in depth as time goes on. Initially I took them at face value and spun them up and played and that was cool. However, I am now thinking much more about how I can come up with sounds and ideas that I haven’t seen yet from other users and that is a lot more fulfilling. Currently I am obsessed with sound. I am interested in how sound motivates my interest in playing and now with Spinbal I am becoming interested with manipulating sounds. I can see myself pondering casually in day to day life, “what can I do with it next?” and that excites me as a player.
Beyond the applications, which are seemingly endless, we also need to discuss the quality of the Spinbal product. All of the materials used in this product appear to be made from very high grade materials, even down to the felts. The whole product is very well put together and it is clear that a lot of effort and thought was put into making these and it is worth noting that Spinbal is patented as well. In the interview below Guy breaks down, in incredible detail, what went into developing them and the materials that were used in creating them.
Lastly, we have to discuss the patina solution Guy brought on as a secondary product to compliment Spinbal. It was shortly after the Spinbal was released that we were seeing interesting patina finishes on cymbals, and when spun, created kinetic art. Through reading the captions in these particular posts I had learned that we as consumers could buy this pre-made solution that is super easy to use and safe as well. For me, this is the icing on the cake. It further encourages the creative aspect and thus, strengthens the potential community of people who wish to do rad shit with the patina solution and of course the Spinbal itself. At the end of the day, you can’t really go wrong with having some fun by experimenting with your cymbals. Also, both the patina and the Spinbal units are not expensive at all and the return on your investment is great when you consider the pure enjoyment of experimentation. This, along with the strong social media support and community of users makes Spinbal a hands down winner.
So it is fair to say that I had a lot of questions about Spinbal, from the creators point of view, and what the journey has been like forming this company and developing this product. So I caught up with Guy Juravich recently to talk about all things concerning Spinbal and it turns out there is quite a story to this whole thing.....
DG:What was your inspiration in creating Spinbal?
GJ: It really came to me at a concert in Texas where the opener for our show was a lasso thrower. This man was a proper wizard, spinning lasso circles over the crowded theater audience. That circular motion got me in a particularly theatrical mood, and when it came time to begin our set, I spun my cymbals! I was playing with a Burlesque/Side-Show act known as the Pretty Things Peep Show and our band (the backing band) was just a 3-piece; there was a lot of room to experiment. The sustain I noticed in the spinning cymbals, the unique visual engagement, was just perfect. I got a standing ovation at the end of that concert so throughout the rest of the tour I continued the method and audiences loved it! The only problem was that regular cymbal seats/mounts/holders just aren't designed to spin. It was like I had a taste of the method/sound, and I chased that in my designs all the way to the final model we released in May.
DG:From the time that you thought of the idea, how much time passed before you proceeded with prototyping?
GJ: Three whole years! The tour where I recognized the value of spinning cymbals was in early '13, after which I came back to Philadelphia and got a day job. I settled into this corporate sales gig selling medical alert buttons to senior citizens and although the paychecks were decent, man, was I miserable! I took that extreme amount of free time to work on ideas of how to get a cymbal to spin. I literally tried everything: oils, lubricants, lazy susans, record spindles, toy motors, drills, so on and so forth. Really, none of these ideas translated well to a product, business or brand (and most were crazy dangerous). My friends and neighbors all thought I was an insane tinker!
It took a skater to literally knock me over to make the realization that those bearings (size 608, the most common in the world) are the same size as most cymbal stands. After extensive research I was able to begin prototyping, a process that involved many of my friends including mechanical engineers, drum industry professionals and most notably, my dear friend, astrophysicist Dr. Ilana MacDonald of the University of Toronto. The final prototype I designed myself in a freeware CAD program: That very first 3D print was as efficient as our current model and we've not deviated from the incredibly simple design so as to keep Spinbal analog, affordable and small.
DG:Spinbal appears to be made from quality materials. What materials were used for making this product?
GJ: Thanks for noticing! We worked really hard to find reputable US manufacturers and are proud to say that the main component, the bearing housing/seat/sleeve, is made in Arkansas. The company primarily works with medical/aeronautic/military clients, clients who require radical precision, and we get the benefit of all those years of experience. The housing is made with 100% pure, un-cut Nylon 66 (plastic): If we had opted to use cheap overseas manufacturing (or even a bargain company stateside), the material would likely have been recycled product or cut with fiberglass, etc. This uneven distribution of weight would have had a radical impact in our spin-time and evenness of spin. I mean, I got an astrophysicist friend to help me with the design; may as well use those standards of manufacturing precision, too!
The bearings we chose are size 608 double-rubber-shielded-greased bearings. Once again, it took months of research to settle on this selection. Initially I had used skateboard bearings and they worked great at the get-go, but not for too long after. After reading up on the subject and speaking with seasoned professionals, I learned that those bearings (in vertical applications) use oil as a lubricant, as it continually cycles through the roller balls when spun. However, in horizontal applications (such as Spinbal), grease is required in lieu of oil so no lubricant migrates out (thanks gravity). We purchase these bearings from a reputable US distributor known for strong quality control. We've had no 'duds' out of the thousands we've procured.
Finally, the felts. Yes, I really do adore our felts! They're not only well-cut and aesthetically pleasing, but super consistent in weight distribution. This is because once again, rather than purchasing from an overseas overstock distributor, I decided to work with a Pennsylvania-based flooring company. Did you know that the felts under our cymbals are also under our feet on many carpets? This 1/2 inch felt is incredibly common in the field and the tool-and-die gentleman over there does fantastic work. Easily one of the cleanest felt cuts I've ever seen. It pays to work with local seasoned professionals!
DG:You had mentioned in an Instagram post that hand stamped Spinbal units were being phased out. What improvements and other developments can you share with us?
GJ: Yes, although the hand-stamped models give Spinbal a more personalized appearance, we've decided to brand Spinbal with professional-grade stickers instead. The reason for this is simply utilitarian: Our ink held up just fine in springtime, but as the hotter summer months hit, we noticed some slight ink bleeding. The best part about a "soft" launch is being able to observe and adjust. That's the only planned change to Spinbal at the moment and I'm confident that many of our larger retailers such as Musician's Friend and Guitar Center will be happy to see a more consistent product as well. The company that is manufacturing our branding also brands DeWalt tools, so we're optimistic about the outcome durability.
Other Spinbal collaborations are underway with industry leaders such as Sweet Spot Clutches and Maxonix, but it would be premature of me to give any spoilers to these exciting new ancillary products yet! Stay tuned, this is just the beginning!
DG:How does using Spinbal affect cymbal play?
GJ: Good question. There is a slight learning curve to using it for sure. First, getting it on the right stand, pairing it with the right cymbal (all matters of taste) can take a few practice sessions to solidify. Then, once it's spinning, there are ways to play "into" the spin that can extend spin-time, or conversely, "against" the spin to slow it, brake it. Also, varying positions can lead to different tones: Many players like the bell tone, the side-sticking tone, etc. One thing is for sure though: Even if a drummer never actively spins his/her cymbals, Spinbal allows cymbals to react in 360° (as opposed to most holders/mounts/seats, at 180°) with the inclusion of a lateral, horizontal plane. By doing so, cymbal life increases by randomizing the striking locations throughout all surfaces of the cymbal (including keyhole-ing). This means fewer cracks, fewer keyholes and a generally less-constricted cymbal (and tone). Another interesting fact we've noticed is that a spinning cymbal is roughly 10% quieter with fewer high and low-end overtones; in essence, it's a limiter as well as compression. Many engineers are calling it "live flange" somewhat akin to a chorus effect. too. There is a lot of studio experimentation yet to be done. We've mic-ed in stereo and mono using great mics and rooms, but I'm sure that someone, somewhere is going to have a new approach. I look forward to learning more about tone options as more players adopt the method!
DG:What can you tell us about the Patina Solution?
GJ: Again, I've been dying to share this story: So basically after I got addicted to the tone and method, I knew that visual engagement was huge. After all, that's what got it all started for me. I'd always been in ultra-performative bands and have always made sure I'm fun to watch, as well as listen to. Stage managers and art directors see shows differently than we musicians do, and any arena videographer will tell you that visual engagement is paramount: Would Rammstein be the same band without pyrotechnics?
So, I started painting spirals on cymbals. They sounded terrible. Just horrible. Paint ruins tone. Then the ol' Sharpie method worked for a hot minute, but lord are they hard to work with; no consistency. The ink runs, too. So, I got a BS day job slinging lattes at a local museum in Philly (the Barnes Foundation - very, very cool place) and started talking to metal artists about patinas. I then got transferred to the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, slinging lattes and skinny caps to art students, and learned even more by osmosis. Students love to talk about their work. It was at this time I leaned to do the blue "fume" patinas: Blue fumes are patinas done with salt/vinegar and urine. Yes, urine. It's how they did patinas thousands of years ago (ammonia). So, I made a few of those, and although they looked cool, they sounded awful. I mean, just no bueno all round. Plus, I mean, who really wants to work with urine?
Then, the same catering company I was working for transferred me to the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. to lead their coffee program and I was subsequently dubbed the "latte artist in residence" by the Chairman of the Board there. I literally made hundreds of lattes a day for the 2nd most visited museum in the country and still found time to talk shop with artists, metalworkers, etc. Finally, it was a hipster art student who told me to check out a patina method being used by the jewelry industry: Liver of Sulfer. It's basically concentrated sulfer. Brimstone (as in, fire & brimstone from religious texts). So, I went out and got the traditional powder/solid but quickly learned that it's mega-dangerous to use in large volumes (small particles of sulfer get in the lungs), and the other kind, the dilution in water, just wasn't strong enough. It was at that exact time, serendipitously, that a new version of liver of sulfer came out on the market: A Gel! Neither a solid nor a liquid, it was the best results I had ever garnered. It's pure concentrate that's easy to work with (just a paintbrush), requires no particle-filters, is strong enough to work super fast, and doesn't "go bad" after a few weeks like the other kinds. Knowing I had hit the nail on the head, I reached out to the manufacturer/patent-owner to learn more. Turns out he's a former touring drummer and loved the idea of it being used on cymbals. Our company received the exclusive rights to distribute it to drummers and voila! Here we are. Rather than just making my own designs and opening a custom shop, I thought it'd be best to share the DIY method; much like Spinbal, I knew that this was just a tool, and that the sky's the limit of what can be done with it. I did, however, buy out all the cymbals in every pawn shop in the Philly area to do a series of designs as proof-of-concept. These were all sold within a few months and now I delight in seeing what other artists are coming up with. New designs every day!
So, this solution and method is the result of 16 months of research and essentially "undercover" observation by surrounding myself with those at the top of the field. Much like comedians working the door at comedy clubs before they get big, I intentionally put myself in the throws of the field and kept my ears open. This education paid me, instead of me paying for the education! The best part is that the end result is a jar of patina solution that can do up to 8 cymbals for less than 20 dollars. That's a huge improvement to the up-charge most cymbal companies charge for patinas (up to hundreds of dollars for just rust). Also, the solution makes bright cymbals dryer in tone, but not dead. You can even "tune" them by applying more/less and leaving it on for shorter/longer. Thus, this solution another method of customization in tone. Not to mention, it's silly-easy to stencil out a design into it, so your band logo can make it to your cymbals, and not just the bass drum. Spirals, ahoy!
DG:For applying the patina solution, is there a rough outline that people can follow for desired effects in colour and tone?
GJ: This is indeed something we're working on. The challenge of this undertaking is the vastness of cymbal production worldwide. Each cymbal company, each cymbal model, and even each cymbal within a series will all react differently to the solution. Variables like alloy, age, density, manufacturing temperatures, lathing methods, varnishes, and many more make it incredibly complex to really create a thorough glossary. And that's just the metal itself. User working environments will have an impact on outcomes as well. Things like humidity, temperature, lighting and even elevation will have an effect on the outcome. Instead, we're compiling feedback from early adopters and continuing our own testing to create more of a loose guide.
This is part of what I love about the patina solution though: no two patina jobs will ever be exactly the same. This individuality and uniqueness to each gives me a true sense of propriety every time I do one. Many early users have said the same of the solution; the feeling of ownership is stronger than that of a purchased cymbal patina. We live in a society that is learning the benefits of recycling and up-cycling: If you can make a cheap, used B8 sound as rich and dark as a brand new, expensive B20, then why not? Furthermore, with stenciling, each user can brand symbols onto their cymbals; in this way, art informs tone, rather than tone informing art. This reversal of approaches is exciting indeed and some users have already begun testing the effects of different shapes on tone. For example, asymmetrical designs yield versatile, odd tones but symmetrical designs are more consistent (similar to lathing). There is a lot of pioneering yet to be done in this regard and we invite everyone to join the conversation!
DG:What was your vision in how people would use Spinbal?
GJ: This is an amazing question that frankly nobody has asked me yet. I've been dying to speak on this point: There is no "right" way to use Spinbal. I see Spinbal as a paintbrush, a tool, an approach... and that's it. The companies that make paintbrushes don't tell painters how to use them. In fact, I believe that our individual, unique usage of tools is the main component of creativity. Period. As in, the way Jackson Pollock used paintbrushes to splatter (rather than spread) color, Jimi Hendrix played guitar "upside down", or George Martin using an organ amp (Leslie cabinet) for vocals, or Jonathan Davis using animalistic growls instead of words, etc.
The short answer is that when I launched Spinbal, I had no idea how anyone would use it, nor have I ever tried to define that. I liked it visually, as a performance method during that tour. It didn't take long for me to notice that it's white-noise sustain (with a sizzler) was epic. We also noticed a doppler-shifting vibrato (like a vibraphone). These are all methods we cite as possible usages, but I'm personally thrilled with how many inventive methods drummers have presented since we launched just 3 months ago. For example, it was Joey Bones from NJ that first used his stick as a white-noise maker on a heavily hammered, spinning cymbal. That 1-minute video earned him 3/4 of a Million views on Instagram alone. Then Han Kerkhof from the Netherlands taped metal to the end of his sticks to get a metallic tone. Then Aric Improta of Night Verses went straight to effect pedals and unique mic-ing methods, even using a drum key to get a similar tone. A bit later, Noam Lederman of the U.K. built his own metallic-tipped sizzler sticks to get that white noise. Others have used brushes and chains in unique ways and really, this kind of experimentation is what keeps me going. I adore seeing how this tool is continually being used differently, and see so much room for further pioneering yet. But in essence, the sustain is what I'm finding most drummers are enjoying about Spinbal.
DG:What is your personal response to the community of people that Spinbal has brought together?
GJ: I'm humbled you're asking this because I really do feel as though Spinbal has been able to bring together a great community of drummers and musicians from all over. The outpouring of support has been overwhelming: All the videos, tags, conversations and debates have meant to much to me. I think we're able to bring people together because there really isn't anything like Spinbal on the market. I assume if there was competition in the cymbal-spinning world that perhaps we'd have a more fractured audience, community. What really humbles me is seeing all the different ideas that folks message me. I have received hundreds of suggestions and ideas that relate to cymbal spinning, ranging from using bike strobe lights to accentuate spinning vented cymbals, kinetiscopic images on cymbals, etc. This has simply got to be the most rewarding project I've ever undertaken because nothing is as emotionally and intellectually satisfying as playing muse. I'm in awe of the outpouring of creativity surrounding Spinbal and our Patina Solution and incredibly grateful to those who are supporting us!
DG:And finally, something that I have always thought about and wondered since I first saw Spinbal. I think Spinbal is a product that rides a fine line of being a novelty item. I see the potential of Spinbal and I personally really enjoy the use of it, but were there ever concerns in your mind about whether people would think it was just a “fidget spinner” for cymbals?
GJ: Seamus, thanks for asking this question mate, I've been wanting to comment on those little spinners for a while. I developed Spinbal far before the fidget spinner craze/fad/what-have-you, but harbor no real resentment towards them. From a design perspective, there are so many truly cool models among all the terrible cheap ones. Many craftsmen and machinists have been able to benefit from the craze, so I say good for them! I will say that for a while I did feel as though it cheapened the idea of spinning cymbals, perhaps by association making us look like a gimmick. However, maybe tapping this zeitgeist was in fact better for us, who's to say!
I will say that we plan on being around well longer than those little gadgets, though. The reason is because Spinbal does something (tone shift / sustain / sonic effects, cymbal protection, kinetic art, etc). There is no real purpose to the fidget spinners according to the medical establishment, and thusly I doubt they'll stick around. I take great solace knowing that Don Leslie's invention, the rotary speaker cabinet, was laughingly compared to spinning toys in his day as well (namely kids glockenspiels).
Spinbal has been dismissed by pessimists and nay-sayers, "haters" (if you will), since we launched but I'm okay with that because during the same time we've been played on every continent, adopted by Symphonic and Philharmonic Orchestras, made it into major press outlets such as the Philadelphia Inquirer, been played by Grammy winners, nominated for a "Drummie" Award, and most importantly have been able to spark the imaginations of hundreds of players worldwide. Honestly, the fidget spinners are in the rear-view mirror for me already; instead I'm looking at a long road of experimentation and collaboration ahead.
For those haters who want to dismiss cymbal spinning and Spinbal, I say: Keep commenting "bruh", it helps the social media algorithms get us more hits... the joke's on you! [ drops mic ]