Today's blog is part four in our percussion series. Resident percussion specialist Alan Compton walks us through how to choose the best triangle.
Choosing a triangle for yourself or for your ensemble can seem a little daunting due to the wide variety of sounds that are available from the many brands and models. I'd like to share some insight on some of the reasons for those differences as well as provide some advice on choosing a triangle that's right for your needs.
First, we'll talk about the physical makeup of a triangle and how it helps to create the distinctive characteristics in a triangle's sound. Triangles are constructed from a straight metal cylinder that is bent into thirds, forming the triangular shape. This leaves one corner of the triangle open, which creates more variance in the instrument's vibrations. When the triangle is struck with a beater, these variances create a very complex sound with a widespread of audible overtones.
The materials from which a triangle is made also have a great effect on the sound of the triangle. Most triangles will be made of steel or bronze. Although, recently, some budget-friendly models have been made from an aluminum alloy. Some manufacturers will also apply a chrome plating to their steel triangles to brighten up the sound of select triangle models.
Triangles made from steel are the most commonly found triangles in school music programs. Steel provides a bright pure sound that is versatile enough to blend with most ensembles and music styles.
Triangles made from bronze are normally less common in ensembles but they are just as effective as a general use instrument. Some of the more budget-friendly triangles are made from bronze and are well suited for smaller ensembles due to their lighter sound. However, when the bronze is manipulated by hammering or heat treating, the sound becomes very complex and enhances the expressive range of the instrument. These triangles are typically more expensive due to the extra production process involved.
There are three other important elements to consider when purchasing a triangle.
The first element is beater selection. It's best to have a set of beaters that have a variety of sizes available and are for ensembles that are playing more advanced music. It helps to have a pair of each size for passages that require two hands to play.
Most triangle manufacturers also produce their own beaters and many of them offer more than one series of beaters that are made from different materials. These companies take just as much consideration into the materials and makeup of their beaters as they do into the makeup of their triangles, and with good reason.
Triangle beaters are made from materials that are chosen for their ability to:
The second important element to consider is the method of holding the triangle. Triangle clips come in all different styles and price levels. Some are made from standard vise clamps like the ones you can find at your local hardware store, while some can be made from a lightweight metal alloy or wood and shaped specifically for a more ergonomic triangle-playing experience.
The clip should be strung with a light, durable material that does not hinder the resonance of the triangle. It should also be strong with a small enough loop so that it does not swing or rotate when struck with the beater. The clip should provide a comfortable way to hold the triangle without sacrificing clear access to all playing areas of the triangle.
The clip should also have a method of being quickly and securely attached to a surface with as little excess noise as possible. Of course, there are other ways to suspend a triangle or even multiple triangles at the same time, but a basic clip holder should always be available so the triangle can be held and played comfortably.
The third element, as with the selection of any musical instrument, comes down to your personal preference. Triangles can sound very different from one another, so just trust your instincts and choose the triangle or triangles that best suit your needs and the music that you're playing.
Don't be afraid to purchase multiple triangles with different sounds. Having a variety of triangles in your percussion arsenal will allow you to be more discerning and cater your selection to enhance each piece or passage of music.
For an audible reference to the triangle features that we've just gone over, watch the video below at these time stamps.
I hope this has provided some insight into choosing a triangle for yourself or for your ensemble. The best thing to remember is that it is ultimately a matter of personal preference. Just listen closely with your music in mind and trust your ears to help you make the right decision.
That's all for now. Have a musical day!