Mastering Finger Cymbals
by Mary Ellen Donald
70 pp. 8 1/2 x 11, spiral bound

“There was a time when it was possible for a scantily-clad lady to cavort around stage, clinking her cymbals mechanically to a pseudo-Oriental tune, but that time has past,” says Bert Balladine in the preface to this book.  How true!

Here is a beautifully illustrated book (Brad Johnson, illustrator) that enables us to break free of the dull right-left-right, plowing along which so many dancers are guilty.

The major problems in learning finger cymbals are understanding music and treating the cymbals as a musical instrument.  Middle Eastern music is complex and intricate and to be appreciated must be understood.  Without a background in music, as Mary Ellen has, it is difficult.  She has an acute understanding of this and presents us with a concise and very readable way of learning music theory.  She also shows a basic way to read music.  She illustrated the Middle-Eastern rhythms of Chiftetelli, Masmoudi, Baladi, Karsilamas, and 6/8.  She gives us the patterns and many exciting and delightful variations.

“Making notation in R’s and L’s just doesn’t make it,” she says.  How long do you hold the R or the L?  How do you describe triplets?  How can you show syncopation?  All these questions are answered and completely defined.

One should start at the very beginning and work through (with cymbals) each lesson, learning each pattern and its variations completely.  This applies to both teachers and students.  It is a book to be experienced and not just read.

For teachers, it provides a source of polish and variety to already competent playing.  It also serves as a fine teaching tool.  Instructors are already using this book as a teaching aid.  People like Nanci Miller of Stockton, Judy Morgan (Ismira) of Las Vegas, Khadija of Daly City, Bert Balladine of San Francisco, who wrote the preface, and myself are finding this book invaluable.

For students, it provides a solid foundation in music theory and finger cymbal patterns.  Truly a book to expand and grow with!


Mary Ellen Books
P.O. Box 7589
San Francisco,  CA 94120 

Habibi Publications
P.O. Box 90936
Santa Barbara, CA  93190-0936


© Copyright 2009 Mary Ellen Donald  - All Rights Reserved
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