Roland Meinl: The Man Behind Meinl Percussion

roland meinl

roland meinlRoland Meinl founded Meinl Percussion in 1951. Based in Gutenstetten, Germany, the company is a leading manufacturer of cymbals and other percussion instruments. In addition to its sterling reputation for making cymbals out of different alloys, Meinl is noted for its fiberglass congas and plywood gongs—modern innovations in materials and manufacture.

Though Roland passed away in 2007, the company remains a family business and is now run by his son Reinhold and daughter-in-law Ingrid. Their children, Alexander and Janin, also work for the company. Meinl’s artist roster includes many heavy metal drummers—Tommy Clufetos (Ozzy), Chris Adler (Lamb of God), Dave Mackintosh (Dragonforce), and Anders Johansson (Hammerfall), to name but a few. Meinl’s International A&R Manager, Norbert Saemann, provided some background on the company.

What was Roland Meinl’s impetus for cymbal manufacture in 1951?

Shortly after World War II, Roland began an apprenticeship as a wind instrument maker in Grasslitz, which was interrupted because of his family’s relocation to a small city named Rimpar, near Wuerzburg. But business dealings were in his blood as he often traded agricultural products, like wheat and potatoes, for instruments, like accordions. In 1951 he established the company that is still to this day Roland Meinl Musikinstrumente GmbH &Co. KG. He started making cymbals simply because he saw a need for them, but these weren’t meant for professionals, they were for kids and beginners. All of his knowledge of cymbal making was self-taught and when he first began producing cymbals, in his 200-square-foot workshop, almost everything was handmade. A normal workday would start at 4:00 a.m. and last well into the night, all with the help of his wife, Margarete.

Meinl was known for its “European” sounding cymbals. What exactly does that mean?

From what I understand, the term “European sound” refers to B8, a specific type of bronze used for cymbal making. We initially used, and still are using, that alloy, but have expanded the amount of alloys, which cover a variety of sounds. In fact, Meinl is the only manufacturer using four distinct bronze alloys for cymbal making: B8, B10, B12, and B20. Every alloy has a distinctively unique sound character, which is something we are able to offer to musicians.

The name “European sound” was used in the ’80s and ’90s, but is not a common sound definition anymore. These days, a “sound” can only be seen internationally, and not geographically limited to a region. In terms of particular sounds, Meinl covers all styles and genres.

What types of challenges has Meinl faced throughout its history?

In 1984, Meinl faced the challenge of developing a completely new line of professional cymbals. The first serious electronic drums had arrived, and drum machines were increasingly being used in pop music, resulting in new tonal expectations, even among acoustic drummers. Computer controlled robotic hammers allowed Meinl to build professional-level cymbals with consistent tonal qualities and craftsmanship. Those processes are utilized in Meinl’s production to this very day.

Why do you think so many heavy metal drummers seem to prefer Meinl?

Many heavy metal drummers do prefer Meinl—Chris Adler of Lamb of God, Brann Dailor of Mastodon, Tommy Clufetos of Black Sabbath, and many more. I think the reason why the leading metal drummers prefer Meinl is because the sound of our rock and metal series fits their style and sound perfectly. Another reason is because we offer excellent tour support and service when they are on the road.

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