Forum: Folk / Belly Dance

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Zill FAQ!
By glitterfairyPremium member
On Fri Sep 02, 2005 05:10 AM
Edited by glitterfairy (42646) on 2005-09-02 05:25:46 adding on
Edited by glitterfairy (42646) on 2005-10-16 05:39:08 preparing to sticky
Made sticky by glitterfairy (42646) on 2005-10-16 05:39:27 stickied!

Hi all,

I did my first solo-ish bellydance performance last night, and I got my first pair of zills then as well (but couldn't start playing with them till this morning). Have a bunch of questions, which if anyone could answer (or share their stories), would be wonderful :)

In regards to zills:

* I'm hearing stuff about how "if your fingers aren't blue, they're going to fly off!". Ok, so the tips definately go purple... are we sure this is healthy?!?! How long can they stay on for - ensuring the fingers don't fall off?!?!
* Because I was a little unsure/lazy this morning, I secured my zill elastics with safety pins. About half an hour into playing around, I had to tighten them... ok, so elastic will stretch and requires replacing, how often would this be? :S How often do you replace them?
* Scratches on zills! Apparently they're gold-plated... eek! What can I do to prevent this (if at all?)
* My zills make a really beautiful sound - it's very bright and what I'd guess is quite high-pitched in comparison to others. One a bit lower in tone might be nice (like medium? haha, might put a medium tone set of zills on birthday wishlist)... what are everyone's preferences, and why?

26 Replies to Zill FAQ!

BRRRR ing!
By IDreamofGia
On Fri Sep 02, 2005 07:31 AM
Congratulations on taking up the zills!
I can assure you that your fingers do NOT have to turn purple for your art...but you MUST assure that your elastics are sewn tight enough that your zills will NO fly off your fingers into someone's hummus should you whip your hand around!
I have had elastic on zills for over a year that needed no repairs and I've had elastic that's given out after a few weeks...I never pin them because I find that it affects the tone of your zills. It's also not as secure as sewing.
As for tone, I don't like the bright ring of Sorayan's myself...I prefer Turquoise International B-series...but everyone as a personal preference.
The scratches are something to be expected...zills tarnish and show wear because they're USED...thing of each scratch as a scratch of HONOR!!! LOL!!!
re: some performance and zill questions
By raqssharkidancer
On Fri Sep 02, 2005 04:29 PM
try to squeeze the largest width elastic through the holes, as the wider the elastic, the snugger it will fit around your fingers and less purple they will become!

Always buy double holed zills with long slits, as they are nice than single holed.
purple fingie eater
By Myrrdancer
On Fri Sep 02, 2005 06:45 PM
ok...finger eater...elastics...I actually have mine tight enough for my fingers to go bluish purple.
I am very paranoid of them flying off, and I do strike them outside edge and inside edge for 'different textures' (hard to explain in words :/ ) and to fit in an extra beat, also, the first proffessional performance I saw done with zils, the dancer lost one and it rolled and skittered across the stage...and she was left not being able to use them! I found this to be very distracting, and swore this would never happen to, I suffer the purple-finger syndrome.
I prefer the lower toned zils. Turquoise zills . . . has some lovely deep toned zills, and Saroyan makes various toned and metal zils that are both beautiful to look at and play! I have tried using two different toned zils, in different hands, and just couldn't do it :/
re: some performance and zill questions
By glitterfairyPremium member
On Fri Sep 02, 2005 07:07 PM
Hmm! *strokes chin thoughtfully*

If the original post was somewhat incoherent, please accept my apologies - it was written very late at night! haha.

Back to zills.

I love the bright, light sound my current zills have but in closed quarters, the high-ness of the tone is beginning to drive me nuts. What concerns me more is that when I start playing music, some songs are of a higher key and the high-pitched zills work great! However, other songs of a lower key are crying out for a lower-pitched zill... does anyone here select zills to play based on the key of the music they'll be "zill-ing" with?

I'm definately going to change my elastic. My zills have double slots, and they're only about a medium size... but the elastic they gave me is about 1/4 of an inch! I reckon that if I get some thicker elastic, my zills are going to stop "sliding" around my fingers, and hopefully they'll be easier to control. I'll also be sewing the elastic when I get the good stuff :)

***Three More Questions*** (although there will probably be more in the future, I should have named this thread "Glitterfairy wants to know everything about zills!)

* This is a bit hard to explain, but I find when I play the zills, I always have to keep them sort of equal to or underneath my hand - ie I can't play them above my head very well if the zills are played *above* my hand. Is it just due to the cruddy elastic I have at the moment (it's not wide enough) or is it just a zill no-no in general?

* In regards to storing zills, the lady who I got mine from sent them in a pretty silk bag (long story, got the bag for free). But I heard on the doubleveil site that a little bag like that isn't going to do all that much good for the zills... they'll still rust or something? Eek! How do you store your zills? Are we supposed to keep them separated? In an air-tight bag?

* This sounds a little silly, but because I've never seen zills performed before (belly dancing teacher hasn't started teaching them yet, and I'm currently unable to attend belly class regularly due to other commitments, but heck, I refuse to let that stop me learning zills somehow), where exactly is the zill elastic/centre of zill supposed to be on the finger? Mine are sort of on the outermost knuckle of middle finger, and between the end of my thumbnail/knuckle of my thumb... is that right? Or is it just wherever feels good (provided they're on the right fingers)?
re: some performance and zill questions
By glitterfairyPremium member
On Sat Sep 03, 2005 12:48 AM
Oh! I gots another question!

Has anyone ever seen or done a tap dance/bellydance/zills combination before?
re: some performance and zill questions
By mayyadah
On Tue Sep 06, 2005 11:00 PM
For your three more questions...

1>I'm not sure I understood, but yes, you *should* be able to flip your hand either up or down whilst playing.

2>Rust? In silk? erm...Keep them dry, yes, and I like mine pretty tight together so they don't constantly clack around, but I think a little silk bag should be fine, provided you don't drop them in a lake. Most Zills I know of are brass or silver, and they also polish up quite nicely using standard "Brasso" or "tarnex" tpye cleaners. That said, I also know a few dancers who actually perfer a more "tarnished" look, as it matches thier antique-y costumes better.

3>Wear your Zills just underneath the bed of your figernail on your thumbs and your middle finger.

Happy Zilling!
re: some performance and zill questions
By Celebrianmember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Wed Sep 07, 2005 08:49 AM
I bought zills a few years back and then LOST THEM before I really learned how to use them. Now with my current teacher, I have to buy a pair at the end of the month and start learning how to use them.

Sorry, glitter, but since we're on zills, I have to ask a question. (Would rather do that than start a new thread).


Has anyone ever done a performance (or piece of one) with just a hipscarf, zills and the audience doing handclap participation? Is that something they just do on TV? Please pardon me, but after I start learning the zill and scarfwork, I sort of wanted to start doing simple performances and gigs. I gotta work on that confidence issue, though, first!
re: some performance and zill questions
By glitterfairyPremium member
On Wed Sep 07, 2005 05:34 PM
*contemplates turning this into a zill FAQ thread*

I actually reaaly like how we can all come here and discuss zills, and share our questions/answers etc. Might do something about that soon.

Mayyadah - I'll try not to drop my zill bag into a lake! lol!
re: some performance and zill questions
By Myrrdancer
On Wed Sep 07, 2005 11:13 PM
I practice with my zils above my head...shoulder height...chest...and hips...all the meanwhile doing some sort of isolation...will just take practice.
I just polish my zils if they start looking dull, I would think a silk bag would be the best for them. Just give them a wipe with the bag after every use before you store them again.
I usually have the elastic cover the top of my middle finger nail, and thumbnail.
re: some performance and zill questions
By Myrrdancer
On Wed Sep 07, 2005 11:15 PM
I dance only to my zils in some performances, and usually to a base 4/4 count, so the audience will find it easy to clap along...I use no other accompaniment except voluntary clapping from the audience.
re: some performance and zill questions
By glitterfairyPremium member
On Wed Sep 07, 2005 11:21 PM

Another question:

For those doing the veil/zill combination, are there certain tricks to stop loosing the veil/avoiding cramps from gripping the veil between 4th and 5th finger/"loosing" the zills under the veil?

Or is it just a matter of practice? I'm getting better at not dropping the veil, still have some interesting technical issues here and there though.
Glitterfairy's questions
By shira
On Mon Sep 26, 2005 02:47 PM
Wow, lots of questions! Let's see if we can help!

Okay, as you've noted, wider elastic is good. I use 3/8 or 1/2 inch elastic in my double-slotted zills - I think 3/8 is the usual.

If you can't play with your hands above your head, then maybe it's just a question of practice and getting used to it. Just keep trying - slow things down if needed. I play with my hands above my head all the time.

Zills can tarnish with exposure to the oil on your hands. You can remove the tarnish by soaking them in a solution of vinegar and salt, then rinsing THOROUGHLY. Brasso can be used to restore the shine of the polish. I rarely polish mine, though - doesn't seem worth the effort. All the audience sees is a blur while your fingers do what they do. It doesn't matter how you store them, whether it's a cloth bag or sealed plastic bag.

My elastics typically cover the base of my fingernails.
re: some performance and zill questions
By Celebrianmember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Sat Oct 15, 2005 08:15 PM
This whole thread on zills, in my opinion, needs to be made into a sticky. The BD board (like all the other boards) has it's unique aspects, and I think zills are one of them. It is something integral to raks sharqi, and for some of us, the pure know-how (or don't know how!) can help or hamper you when it comes to performances. That's just my opinion, though.

I think I modded for this to become a sticky (it was so long ago, I truly can't remember), but I know the mods are horribly busy and it probably got lost in the shuffle of all the other mod reports. I think if we all say we think this should be made into a sticky since it is unique to BD, it would be made so.
Thrills with zills!
By shira
On Sat Oct 15, 2005 10:38 PM
CinnamonGirl, I agree, zils are one of the things that are unique about belly dancing.

One more thought about zills - on my web site at . . . there's a section called "Online Finger Cymbal Workshop" which includes an introduction to the pesky things and some ideas on how to play them along with sound files as examples.

re: some performance and zill questions
By glitterfairyPremium member
On Sun Oct 16, 2005 05:37 AM
*looks sheepish* Well, I'm a mod, and I'm alive now, and I hear your plea, and I'll sticky this as soon as I post this up? :)

Shira - been to your site, already downloaded all the sound files :D I drove my brother nuts by playing my zills in the study (sitting at the computer, of course, as you do ;) )
Cheating with veil and zills
By EmmaP
On Tue Oct 18, 2005 02:31 AM
Whispers * you can tuck the edge of the veil through the elastic of your finger zill* - yes it does mean thatyour fingers go bluer faster as its soooooo tight - but leaves the hands free to hold more veils!!
re: Zill FAQ!
By raqssharkidancer
On Mon Oct 24, 2005 05:42 PM
I threw my zills in the lake long ago, and don't feel like fishing them out anytime soon.
re: Zill FAQ!
By Marcia
On Mon Oct 24, 2005 08:16 PM
I don't know this dancer personally and never heard of her before... but I JUST LOVE they way she dances with zills, the way she moves her arms. Her name is Sabiba, and you can see her in the video clips list, video 1.

I loved it when I saw it :) Because I felt so identified with her movements, I love extending my arms when I play zills...I feel like flying! :D
re: Zill FAQ!
By raqssharkidancer
On Sun Dec 11, 2005 10:00 AM
where are those video clips? I've lost the link. As well, can I submit a video clip?

re: Zill FAQ!
By PinUpGirlmember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Fri Dec 16, 2005 06:41 PM
Hi all! I have a question to add.

How do I attach the elastics to my zills? Do I just run the elastic through the slots and tie it off? I would think that eventually the knots would come undone. Should I sew the elastics together? Thanks to all in advance :)
re: Zill FAQ!
By Myrrdancer
On Tue Dec 20, 2005 12:47 AM
sewing them is your best bet, you can then clip off the ends for a neat edge.
you may also want to consider sewing a bead for each of the fingers or each of the thumbs so you can tell right away with the bead which zil is for what finger/thumb :D
re: Zill FAQ!
By the_smo
On Thu Jan 26, 2006 03:11 PM
Edited by the_smo (150016) on 2006-01-26 15:13:49 Was in reply to that post but didnt show up

"Has anyone ever seen or done a tap dance/bellydance/zills combination before?"

I was wondering that same thing! I just joined tap a few weeks after I joined Belly dance class and one of the first things I thought of when I bought my zills (yesterday) was that it would be awesome to do a tap/zill/belly dance!
re: Zill FAQ!
By raqssharkidancer
On Sat Jan 28, 2006 03:31 PM
That would be totally amazing to see, and what a cool idea. But I think you should lead the way to this new artform, as I can barely keep a decent zill beat when dancing. I could only imagine how hard it would be to do while tap dancing!
Belly Tap Combo
By Odelisk
On Sun Feb 26, 2006 07:08 AM
There have been so many ballet/belly choreo combos and interpretive of belly dance choreos, it's a wonder we all don't know of a belly/zills/tap combo. Your idea sounds absoutely fantabulous! Why don't you create such a dance for us? Seems like it would be a major hit.
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