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Thread: Pearl Percussion - Ash Tone Blocks and El Negro Cowbell

  1. #1

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    Default Pearl Percussion - Ash Tone Blocks and El Negro Cowbell

    For many years I have been playing LP bells and blocks on my kit. I was very satisfied with the sounds they gave me, and like LP claims, jengor is virtually indestructible. I went from the red jam block to the new purple one (which is HUGE). I also play a hand drum setup with congas and timbales and the the blocks see a lot of use there. After watching "Traveling Through Time", a DVD with Horacio Hernandez (El Negro) and Giovanni Hidalgo, I wanted to try an actual wood block like he uses. I found the Pearl Ash Tone Blocks.




    I never realized how plastic-like the jam blocks sounded before this. These blocks have a great woody sound and project well. The jam blocks always cut a bit too much for me, and these have solved that problem. I started with just the large block and mounted it above my floor tom. It's about 8" wide at the mouth.



    My band plays a few Paul Simon tunes and wanted to start doing Slip Slidin' Away, so needed to add another. I went for the medium sized, which is just over 7". There is definitely not enough separation between the 2. If this was a set of 5, it would fit, but not on a set of 3. I then got the small (6" wide) and it fits nicely. If you are going for just one, the medium would work out best. Tone-wise, they match up closely to the jam blocks (large=purple, med=red, small=blue). They also look a lot nicer than a set of "this color doesn't occur in nature" jam blocks. The mounts are standard sized and the wing nut is curved to give you good leverage when tightening. There are big rubber gaskets on the outside around 2 carriage bolts, but none on the inside. The ash is pretty durable (also used for baseball bats), but they are showing some stick marks after a couple of months. If I wear one side out, I can flip it and work on the other. I'm not sure if they will eventually crack, but even if I have to replace them once a year, it's well worth it for the sound. They go for $19, 21, and 29 at my favorite retailer.

    When I got the big block, I also decided to try the El Negro cowbell line. After watching a demo video on Pearl's website, I went with #4, the isaBell.



    First off, this thing is beautiful. I'm loving the old copper look. I had been using an old LP rock bell (w/o the ridge). I basically beat the crap out of it for many years, and while it still sounds good, it looks horrid next to the rest of my stuff. The El Negro bell is definitely a latin sound, rather than a rock sound. Totally open, it has a huge ring. It's not unpleasant, but out of place in the setting I wanted it for. It ships with a strip of muffling rubber about 6"x3/4". I cut it into 4 pieces so I could hear a transition. I ended up using all 4, 2 on each side. The ring is mostly gone, but it still cuts very nicely, and still maintains its latin sound. If you just beat quarter notes on a bell during classic rock tunes, this is not the one for you. If you get into clave and cascara patterns, it will work well. One side is curved, so if you mount it with the bell to the side, you can still get a full hit, which is a long time problem with cowbells. The wing nut also slides 3/4 of the way around its housing, so mounting 2 on one post is very easy (another long time problem). I will probably get one of the smaller ones in the future to add to my hand drum rig, but this one works for the set.

    In summary, Pearl is on the right track with its bells and blocks. I'm sure having El Negro as a staffer has contributed to this. For the first time in 20 years, nothing on my set is LP except the cowbell holders. The one Pearl holder I have is a bad design from the start.
    Website with free full song transcriptions: redeyepercussion.com
    Youtube channel with covers, lessons, and product reviews: youtube.com/RedeyeSPR

  2. #2

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    Default Re: Pearl Percussion - Ash Tone Blocks and El Negro Cowbell

    Nice review(s) Shane!

    I've never used jam blocks, so I'm going to ask you a real basic question. Other than for Latin music, when do you find the opportunity to use them? Is it a sporadic once in awhile thing, like mini timbales or roto toms, or do you use them quite a bit?
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  3. #3

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    Default Re: Pearl Percussion - Ash Tone Blocks and El Negro Cowbell

    I do use them quite a bit, but I must admit I force it a little at times. It fits well with the kind of stuff my folk/rock band plays, and is different from the same old stuff that gets covered in my area a lot. If I leave them off when playing a smaller kit, I can get by fine. The cowbell (and under hi hat tambourine) are a must, though.
    Website with free full song transcriptions: redeyepercussion.com
    Youtube channel with covers, lessons, and product reviews: youtube.com/RedeyeSPR

  4. #4

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    Default Re: Pearl Percussion - Ash Tone Blocks and El Negro Cowbell

    I use the jam block on my set all the time. I use it instead of cross sticking. Killer sound with every hit.

    all the best...

  5. #5

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    Default Re: Pearl Percussion - Ash Tone Blocks and El Negro Cowbell

    Quote Originally Posted by kay-gee View Post
    I use the jam block on my set all the time. I use it instead of cross sticking. Killer sound with every hit.

    all the best...
    Have you tried the Russ Miller Groove Wedge? I use one from time to time and get a sweet cross stick sound with it.
    Website with free full song transcriptions: redeyepercussion.com
    Youtube channel with covers, lessons, and product reviews: youtube.com/RedeyeSPR

  6. #6

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    Default Re: Pearl Percussion - Ash Tone Blocks and El Negro Cowbell

    I've seen some plastic wood blocks. They feel and sound better and I'm pretty sure they'll last longer.
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  7. #7

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    Default Re: Pearl Percussion - Ash Tone Blocks and El Negro Cowbell

    Pearl is definitely going in the right direction with their entire ethnic/accessory (non-drumset) line. I continue to hear great things about their congas, timbales, batas, etc. I have also played the Pearl Ash blocks, though I sadly don't own one. Best block on the market in my opinion, next to handmade. I agree with you Shane that the LP jam and blast blocks definitely sound like plastic, and their volume and cut is way too much and hard to control. The tone of real wood is not even comparable to these plastic blocks. Plastic might be more durable, but at a mere $20-$30 I will sacrafice the extended life for the real thing.

    I, like you, used to be an LP man myself. Everything in my setup was LP: congas, bongos, timbales, blocks, bells, chimes, even had the percussion table. But now that these other companies like Pearl, Meinl, and Gon Bops have stepped up the competition, I find LP slipping behind on their innovations. They once lead the way in ethnic percussion, but I tend to shy away from LP these days. The only thing I currently use made by LP is a single claw mount that I use to mount a handmade cowbell with no eye bolt.

  8. #8

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    Default Re: Pearl Percussion - Ash Tone Blocks and El Negro Cowbell

    Great review! Thanks for the pics and your opinion! Something def to consider.
    Last edited by late8; 06-23-2009 at 03:27 PM.

  9. #9

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    Default Re: Pearl Percussion - Ash Tone Blocks and El Negro Cowbell

    I have the red and blue jam blocks and like their sound . I was also looking at the wood block you have shown , but there was only 1 size . I wanted 2 different tones and the wooden block from what I remember was priced much higher .
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  10. #10

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    Default Re: Pearl Percussion - Ash Tone Blocks and El Negro Cowbell

    I Use A Blue Lp Jam Block Instaed Od Cross Sticking Due To
    My Exclusive Use Of "ahead Crossroads" Drumsticks Norske....

    Oh Shane...
    I Was Born Around Yer Area
    Spent Abt Da 1st 25 Yrs Of My Life There
    Before I Left For Nawlins In 1976

    I Too Am An Avid Recreational Bowler
    (Raised In Dat Area Ya Gotta Be)
    And Threw Semi-pro Steel Tip Darts For
    About 3 Yrs....
    My 22 Gram Grooved "Pirhanas"
    Are Still My Pride And Joy!!!!
    Pm Me Sometime!!!!!
    "FEEL DA GROOVE & PLAY IT FORWARD..."

    "BEAUTY IS IN THE EARS OF THE BEHOLDER ,
    ENJOY IT ALL,,, MY BROTHERS & SISTERS"

    COMMANDER & CHIEPH OF
    "PHROGGE'S AQUARIAN ARMY"

    CHARTER MEMBER OF THE "OUR
    LADY OF DA NEW BEAT CONGREGATION"

    LEGEND IN MY OWN MIND
    & FORCE BEHIND DA
    "PHX AZ LEGEND OF DA ZYDECO TIE"
    (AND OTHER TOYZ)

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