Playing the anvil -- 2nd Suite in F ... scheduled for Butlins in 4th section Jan 2018.

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by connartist, Dec 12, 2017.

  1. connartist

    connartist New Member

    Has anyone got tips or information on playing the anvil in this piece. Never come across one and need to know what mallets/hammers are used and what the instrument looks like etc/ Totally in the dark here.
  2. Slider1

    Slider1 Active Member

    If one is not supplied on the day any large metal object should suffice i.e. Lorry wheel, Lorry Brake Drum, chunk of RSJ etc. hit with a suitable Club hammer, wheel brace etc. have fun :):):)
    MoominDave and Pauli Walnuts like this.
  3. 4th Cornet

    4th Cornet Active Member

    I don't know if you've already looked online but, may be a good starting point.
    There are several items with a quick Google search for playing the anvil.
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2017
    Jack E likes this.
  4. GJG

    GJG Well-Known Member

    As Slider1 suggests. most pro percussionists I have worked with tend to use improvised items rather than commercial solutions like the Grovers (which don't sound anything like anvils to me, I have to say ... ); I've seen lumps of railway track, and a wheel from a Ford Transit, amongst other objects ...
  5. Jack E

    Jack E Well-Known Member

    To sound like an anvil, it needs to be something hard - anvils are made from cast steel, though a large piece of cast iron would also ring well (which is why so many church bells are made from cast iron).

    A cast iron brake drum would be good, but NOT a car or truck wheel, as they're made from pressed steel, which is much too soft to ring well. A length of RSJ would also work well. They're made by hot rolling billets of steel, and harden up nicely on the outside as they cool down.

    I suggest you don't use a lump hammer; the handle is far too short and the head is too heavy, and you can't get the swing that you need, so allowing the hammer head to bounce back off the metal immediately after striking it; this allows the metal to give you a sustained ring. The hammer head should be steel, not plastic or rubber; something like a ball pein hammer or claw hammer would do the job.

    The other important point is that the metal should either be hung freely - as are tubular bells - or should be on a sizeable slab of hard wood. A wooden support is best, as the wood has sufficient spring to really bounce the hammer off, like a drumhead does, thus not interfering with the ringing. Full-size blacksmith's anvils are mounted on a vertical baulk of hardwood timber, about four to five feet long, sunk into a hole in the ground, and resting on a solid foundation. This has sufficient spring to bounce off a 12 pound sledgehammer, saving the striker (blacksmith's mate) a heck of a lot of effort, as he has to use very little muscle to lift the sledgehammer after striking a blow. Effectively, blacksmiths use their hammers exactly the way a tymp player uses beaters - using a long swing to build up the momentum, rather than a short, heavy thump, and allowing the head to bounce the beater back for them.

    Most farriers (the blokes who shoe horses) work mobile these days, and carry a small gas-fired hearth and small anvil with them. If you ask nicely, you might be able to borrow one from them - though make sure it's on a timber stand, and not one made from angle iron, or the like, which will kill both the ring and the bounce stone dead.

    Jack (ex-farrier's mate)
    Euphonium Lite likes this.
  6. 4th Cornet

    4th Cornet Active Member

    I'd check to see if anything is provided for the contest before going to too much effort and improvise in rehearsals (maybe using a dampened cowbell?).
  7. julian

    julian Active Member

    You might try hitting a 1970's Regent baritone with a claw hammer. It might not be the correct sound, but it will be the best sound that baritone has ever made. Complaints on a postcard please to......
    Slide-o-Maniac, Slider1 and ari01 like this.
  8. Jack E

    Jack E Well-Known Member

    Having tried my "1970's Regent baritone", my MD said he was surprised how good it sounded, and a lot better than he'd have expected from a student instrument. But then, he's only the MD of a First Section band, so what would he know?

    Is Julian attempting to be humourous, or just obnoxious? Answers on a postcard, please . . .
  9. Jack E

    Jack E Well-Known Member

    That did surprise me, 4th Cornet. I didn't expect that something as small as those Grover instruments could sound so much like an anvil, but they do, especially when played with the metal head on the hammer.
  10. 4th Cornet

    4th Cornet Active Member

    Definitely humorous Jack. It's one of those perennial mock mockeries with harmless intent :)
    Slider1 likes this.
  11. julian

    julian Active Member

    Sorry, Jack if my attempt at humour didn't quite hit the right 'note' with you!!!
  12. Pookiyama

    Pookiyama Member

    I don't have much to add which hasn't already been said, but it depends on the size and the density of the anvil. You can get quite a lot out of a medium-sized dense object with something as small as a glockenspiel beater, but the plastic wouldn't work - you need something thick, like wood or metal. A club hammer, as suggested, may well be sufficient, but it's big and unwieldy, and you'd need to hold it with two hands.

    Whatever you decide upon, test it first. The best sound comes from holding the hammer down on the anvil for a beat or so, unlike the immediate pull-back you use for most percussion instruments. If you listen to "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" by the Beatles, Mal Evans is playing the anvil in that, so that should give you some idea.

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