I grew up studying classical percussion and ever since I was a little kid I’ve been enamored by hand percussion instruments. Often it is the small hand-held instruments that we first pick up that first grab our attention. Remember your first set of toy bongos?

When I hit high school age, I was lucky enough to have a great teacher who had a tremendous collection of unique instruments.  I’ll never forget the assortment of goodies that he would bring to class all the time. One of my favorites, and more common percussion instruments, is the ratchet.


Some of my favorite percussion heavy classical pieces were written by Edgard Varese and the ratchet is all over his work (and so is a ton of other percussion). After hearing the New York Philharmonic perform Ionisation and Amerique on the same night, I called up my former teacher and asked if I could drop by to record some instruments.  I ended up recording a variety of gurios, ratchets, and even a big metal truck suspension that gets rented out on certain gigs.  This ratchet below is my favorite of the day:

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The above recording is an unedited performance from my former teacher.  I just love the character of the instrument.  It is not just some cheap piece of wood grinding away, but it has a real depth and dark quality to it.  Note to self:  buy some ratchets.

Recording Geek Note: Rig consists of Schoeps CMC5’s setup for MS, with the MK4 as the mid. It was all tracked to a Sound Devices 744T at 24/96.

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  1. That DOES have a really nice timbre. Did you mic it over the ratchet cogs themselves, or was the sweet spot somewhere less obvious? You’re making me rethink my holiday gift list..! 🙂

    1. We were in his practice studio and I was maybe less than six inches away from the ratchet and maybe slightly over it pointing on an angle. There are a lot of ratchets out there but it is hard to find one with that kind of character. He had about 5 that were serviceable. This was the gem.

Michael Raphael November 23, 2010