“I was having kind of a bad day. I was between jobs, had a cold and was in a pretty foul mood all round. On my walk home from the grocery store, as I turned the corner at the southwest corner of 7th and South a kid on a skateboard careened into me at full force. This knocked us both over and sent my glasses and groceries flying into the street. His skateboard literally landed inches from my face. The profile of the skateboard wheel was it: My ah-ha! moment. Cue the light bulb (albeit surrounded by the Looney Tunes-esque, chirping birds of my post-impact daze). It was at that very moment that I said to myself, “No, it can’t be that easy, can it? Would 8mm skate bearings fit on an 8mm cymbal stand? I mean, it should, right?” – Guy Juravich

Close up of Spinbal parts and prototype
Spinbal parts and prototype with the inspirational skate wheel

Guy Juravich is a professional percussionist who, upon discovering the sonic benefits of a spinning cymbal, sought a means of developing a method that would allow his cymbal to spin freely. The concept is based on the notion that a cymbal, when struck, will vibrate on an axis, when that axis changes regularly, the tone changes with the directionality of the sound waves. While this is a new technique for a percussion instrument, it is essentially the same concept that is used in a Leslie organ speaker and is scientifically known as the Doppler Effect.

Soundwave comparison for stationary and spinning cymbals

Juravich knew he was on to something, but all of his experiments proved futile or impractical. He experimented with olive oil for lubrication, a rotating retail display turntable, a Lego motorized wheel on the undercarriage of the cymbal, two or three lazy-Susan adaptations and an electric drill with an on/off foot switch (“DANGEROUS!”). The project was on hold, but still lingering in the back of his mind when the skateboard collision knocked it loose.

“After our mutual apologies, the skater and I parted ways, and I immediately ducked into a skate shop to inquire as to the validity of my discovery. The dudes were kind enough to give me a free set of old skateboard wheels, provided I buy a set of bearings.” Juravich got his hands on a cymbal stand as quickly as he could, “Low and behold – they fit! The proprietor of the store must have thought me to be insane, now freshly endowed with the singular knowledge that yes, I may have something here. I must have had a crazy look in my eyes, given her concerned expression.”

“In the following weeks I worked tirelessly with all kinds of great people to fully design the Spinbal, and am proud to say that it is as efficient as it can possibly be, and optimized for use on a cymbal stand,” he continues, “Basically, I had to be smacked in the face with this connection for this invention to have come to fruition. Discovery can be violent and painful, but so rewarding. One thing is for sure: it was the closest I’ve ever felt to ‘fate’. Who knows, maybe there is such a thing after all…”

Working with Walt Barger, 3D and Laser Processes Manager at NextFab, Juravich was able to have a usable prototype within 48 hours, “Walt was super kind, was able to understand my project quickly and adapt my own renderings within just hours.” While not every project has a turn around as fast as the Spinbal, the process from drawing to 3D printed prototype can be surprisingly quick.

The next step was to test the prototype and really make sure that the project had merit and that the prototype was moving in the right direction. In testing, Juravich discovered an added benefit, in the form of a pre-existing accessory. Many drummers use a cymbal “sizzler”, essentially a ball chain that hangs on the surface of the cymbal and creates a sizzling sound as it rattles on the vibrating cymbal, much like a snare on the bottom of a snare drum. Juravich found that the sizzle chain riding on a spinning cymbal gave a nice “hiss” as long as the cymbal spins and, naturally that “hiss” or white noise, benefits tonally from the Doppler effect of the rotating cymbal.

An unexpected bonus to the sizzle chain is that other musicians can use it when they are playing without a percussionist. For instance, an acoustic guitarist can use the Spinbal with the chain during a live performance and it will pleasantly cover instrument noise such as guitar string squeaks and piano pedal clicks, etc. The Spinbal will spin for up to 10 minutes easily so it’s very simple to integrate into a solo performance.

Juravich is now in the final stages of a Kickstarter campaign, “My approach to Kickstarter has been as much about learning about the niche market as it is about fund raising. We did a complete ‘soft’ open which was designed to give me feedback from early viewers and backers, and allowed me to adapt my presentation. From the beginning I wasn’t sure which part of my discovery, invention or method was exciting to drummers.”

3D Printed Spinbal prototype made at NextFab
3D Printed Spinbal prototype with skate wheel bearing

Juravich faced several challenges, “Not once has anything involving cymbals ever been funded on Kickstarter, and only modest drum inventions have gained any attention whatsoever. Out of last year’s 3 main new products in the cymbal accessory field, not one of them raised money on Kickstarter. Basically I knew going into this that Kickstarter wasn’t going to be the kind of ‘magic wand’ it can be for other innovations such as wearable tech products, green solutions and fun art projects.”

Despite the limited success of crowd funding for similar products, Juravich has seen some additional benefits to the Kickstarter platform, “Kickstarter has been crucial in engaging the right audience, given its credibility in the crowd funding world. Mostly the campaign has been about learning how to navigate my niche industry, and position myself and Spinbal to be ready for the market. Every dollar pledged helps Spinbal’s credibility tremendously: whether it gets fully funded or not!”

In his final two weeks of the Kickstarter campaign, Juravich has doubled the backer rewards to generate a 2nd round of excitement about the product.

Juravich is optimistic that the kickstarter campaign will be successful but in the meantime he’s getting calls from drummers and industry magazines and putting the prototypes through extended testing with percussionists.  “Drummers that have played Spinbal have absolutely adored it. That is paramount! If funded, I will have the best shot at getting this to market quickly. If not, I can assure you that Spinbal will indeed come to market, just perhaps a little later I would have hoped.”
Check out the Spinbal Kickstarter campaign here.

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