I am currently composing something and I really want to have this sound in my piece. It sounds like a small hammer hammering on metal.

It starts at 1:08:07 (Verwandlungsmusik, Rheingold)

What is this and is it an instrument at all?

  • 1
    maybe a brake drum?
    – Legorhin
    Nov 5, 2019 at 15:43
  • @Legorhin I admit I never heard of it. youtube.com/watch?v=VCK9fZuuTnw Are you talking about this one? Because it sounds different
    – NickQuant
    Nov 5, 2019 at 15:46
  • try youtu.be/uZbJ1Ajzt5Q instead
    – Legorhin
    Nov 5, 2019 at 15:55
  • @Legorhin. ok it sounds already nearer. Could Wagner have used it 150 years ago?
    – NickQuant
    Nov 5, 2019 at 15:58
  • The brake drum was invented in 1900 so no, the original music wouldn't have referred to that specific thing to hit with a stick.
    – Legorhin
    Nov 5, 2019 at 16:01

4 Answers 4


Wagner actually specified in the score for 18 anvils to perform this section. Since the scene is moving down to Nibelheim (and later back up from Nibelheim) where the Nibelungs are hard at work smithing the titular gold, Wagner wanted to represent this sound as accurately as possible.

If you're looking for the specific instruments used in this specific recording, I'm not sure I can help. But the intent was for these to be 18 anvils.

For another rendition, here is the famous Solti recording with Vienna.

  • Thank you! Yes, I also wanted to have the sound of the anvil. There is no chance, that I will get it easily in my Sibelius, right?
    – NickQuant
    Nov 5, 2019 at 16:27
  • Unfortunately I don't have Sibelius, so I can't address that. But hopefully someone else can!
    – Richard
    Nov 5, 2019 at 21:56
  • I meant if you know, whether I can find those sounds somewhere else in some VST
    – NickQuant
    Nov 5, 2019 at 21:58
  • 2
    @NickQuant There are 3 anvil instruments included in EastWest Quantum Leap Symphonic Orchestra, a great library in general. I'm not sure how easy it is to import the PLAY engine into Sibelius (I use Cubase).
    – Stephan B
    Nov 6, 2019 at 7:17

It sounds like a small hammer hammering on metal.

Good ear; while Wagner originally called for anvils, modern productions use metal hammers on heavy pieces of scrap metal to create this effect. Here's the Victoria Symphony, using I-beams and manhole covers, and the Halle Symphony using steel plates and I-beams. I once played with a group that used brake drums for the same effect; you can hear the recording here.

  • Thank you for the links! Do you play in the "Lord of the rings" part as well?
    – NickQuant
    Nov 5, 2019 at 21:55
  • 1
    @NickQuant: I actually played trombone in that group, not percussion. I remember that I played the piece, but not much more. Nov 5, 2019 at 22:14
  • The interesting thing is that a brake drum, though loud and metallic, is a poor substitute for an anvil sound. Actual anvils create a high pitched "ping" sound, while brake drums produce a lower pitched "clank". Absent a blacksmith lending us an actual anvil, we used spare counterweights from our stage's fly system. They were nice and thick (a couple inches), which gave that high ping sound.
    – Tristan
    Nov 6, 2019 at 16:36

One good substitute for an anvil that I have found is the "double-shoulder railroad tie plate":

tie plate

(image source)

If you're a little resourceful, you can find these discarded by the hundreds near old rail lines. Clean up the rust and paint it if you like.

Put it on a firm support resting on the shoulders (i.e., upside-down). You can control the amount of "ring" by striking it directly above the shoulders, or farther away. A small ball-peen hammer makes a good striker.


Yes, the piece is scored for anvils. It's the Nibelungs forging their gold. In the Met's documentary, "Wagner's Dream" there is a shot of the orchestra playing the anvils. As part of their production of The Ring, the Met offered this section as a downloadable ringtone. Hummm. Perhaps it was the original Ring-tone? Tom Hayes

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