What should I consider when buying a triangle to use for recording popular music percussion? For example:
- What are the differences between cheap and expensive ones (the price range is enormous)?
I got a percussion degree. Even I was never totally clear on what physical characteristics to look for in a triangle, but like @Todd said, you want to go with the sound.
For MOST music, you want a nice, clear sound. You said you're doing pop music. You probably won't want something with too much sustain (cheaper may be better). You'll also want high pitch to cut through the band, and a light timbre. Triangles that sustain for a long time need to be muted whenever the music gets quiet, and all idiophones can start to ring on their own if excited by an overtone from another instrument, so you'll want to think about that. Have somewhere padded to keep it when you're recording other tracks.
One thing that most people probably don't think about when triangle isn't their main gig (it was mine for a few concerts), is what you're playing the triangle with. Drum stick? It will sound dark and thuddy no matter what you do. Flimsy beater? Flimsy sound. The beater needs to match the sound - too heavy and it won't work for the really light, delicate passages. Too light and it won't be strong enough. Usually I spend almost as much time choosing the right beater for the song as I do on the triangle.
Another really important aspect of triangle playing is what you hang it on - you want something that won't soak up all the triangle's energy. Fishing line works well, but I've seen people use things like yarn, which really sounds awful.
So, my advice - get a triangle you like the sound of, but save enough money for a good beater and make sure you have a hanger that complements it.
Not being a percussionist, when I want to add auxilliary percussion I get an idea in my mind of what sound I want, I go to the store and play the options in my price range until I find the closest thing to whats in my head, and I buy that.
On recording aux percussion in general, you want to think about how it will fit with the rest of the sound. The more you tailor the instrument to the sound before recording it, the less processing you'll have to do to make it fit in at mixdown.
If the rest of the band is likely to have a full sound, you want a thinner sounding triangle, probably smaller, thinner, and higher pitched. Conversely, if you are looking a relatively sparse arrangement, you can get a bigger sounding triangle without it being too much for the mix.
Cymbals are often chosen for songs based on tempo and how long the cymbal sustain is, and that seems like a good criterion for triangles also. For faster music you will want less sustain (probably smaller and/or thinner), and for slower music, more sustain (larger and/or thicker).
The price difference between otherwise similar triangles is most likely related to harmonic richness of the sound based on the composition of the metal and the manufacturing process - again like cymbals. Most metallic idiophones (things you hit that have one inherent sound) have similar parameters for their sound - pitch, sustain, and timbre, with timbre being the difficult (and therefore expensive) one of the three to improve. Again, the less important the triangle will be in the mix, the less important the timbre.
If it were me, I would probably go for two triangles just to have options: One would be smaller and lighter with a higher pitch and shorter sustain, the other would be the opposite, but I would probably have them both on the higher pitch side because of personal preference (I like cymbals and other metallic sounds to be pretty bright). Not being or knowing an expert triangle player, I wouldn't even consider breaking the bank, I'd just get what seems reasonably priced and not terrible sounding.
Now I might have to go buy some triangles. Thanks!
I don't want to oversimplify this - but as others said - listen to it. Experiment with beater and triangle until you like the sound you want for the piece and setting. Details as mentioned above will make a difference in the recording and performance - but bottom line here - listen and expermiment. You'll hear the difference between different sizes, metals, beaters, etc. You get what you pay for and there are cheapies on amazon - but you may want a few in your arsenal. I"m a hobbyist but like to have different sizes to tinker around with.