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Cymbals information

Used for rhythms, finishers and effects, cymbals are an indispensable part of any drum kit. These carefully crafted metal discs are widely used as part of marching bands, orchestras and bands.

Drum Kit Cymbals

Every cymbal has its own character. Even two cymbals made of the same material can sound very different from another. Cymbals can be divided into the following subcategories:

Hi-Hats

The hi-hats are probably the most important cymbals of a drum kit. Hi-hat cymbals are easy to spot since they're essentially two stacked cymbals. Using a pedal, the drummer is able to open and close the cymbals to change up the sound. Hi-hats are mainly used to maintain a steady beat, which is what makes them so indispensable. When opened, hi-hats produce a bright, hissing sound. When closed, the cymbals shape a pronounced 'chick'.

Crash Cymbals

The crash cymbal is your accent cymbal. It's mainly used to usher in a transition within a song and to start and end bars. Depending on its finish and the material it's made of, a crash cymbal is able to produce a wide array of different sounds.

Ride Cymbals

Just like hi-hats, the ride cymbal is mainly used to maintain a consistent beat (literally riding the music) and can be played in three ways. When struck with the tip of the stick, ride cymbals produce a clear 'ping'. If you land the stick on the bell, you'll get like a bell-like sound in return, but you can also 'crash' a ride in the same way that you'd normally hit your crash for an extra-long sustained sound, which can be useful in certain situations.

China Cymbals

The sound of china cymbals is often described as rich, trashy and piercing. As such, these cymbals are often used in louder styles where their unique shape forms a unique sound.

Splash Cymbals

Splash cymbals are relatively small and thin cymbals that pack a short, swift sound. They're generally played in the same way as crash cymbals.

Effects Cymbals

Effect cymbals are designed to create a completely fresh sound, which is sometimes achieved by drilling holes into the bow of a cymbal or stacking two or more cymbals.

Orchestral Cymbals

Orchestral cymbals are made up of a set of two identical cymbals that can be clashed into each other to create various different sounds. These cymbals are finished with handles secured to the bell and are frequently used in orchestras and by marching band drummers.

Making Cymbals

While the various cymbal makers in the world use different methods to craft their cymbals, the basics remain the same. First, a material is picked, which is usually a copper alloy made up of various metals. The metal alloy is then cast or milled depending on the crafting recipe before the cymbal is hammered into shape. The hammering process and the material largely determine the most important sonic characteristics of the cymbal, which can then be finished in basically three different ways: brilliant (polished), traditional (dry) or a combination of the two. Dry cymbals are barely if at all 'finished' and shape a more defined sound at the cost of a shorter sustain.

Cymbal Sound

Make sure to pay attention to the following things when you're picking out a new cymbal. These features can be almost always be found in the specifications:

Attack

While it goes unmentioned sometimes, its attack says a lot about any given cymbal. Here, 'attack' refers to the sound that the cymbal makes the moment your stick hits the metal. The attack of a cymbal can be described as 'explosive', 'warm', 'fast', 'bright' or anything in between.

Weight/Thickness

The weight and thickness of a cymbal doesn't just effect its sound but also its lifespan. Thinner cymbals vibrate more easily and are better at passing the vibrations on through to the surrounding air. Thicker cymbals absorb most of the vibrations and leave a drier sound, making them more likely to crack or break at some point.

Sustain

The sustain refers to how long the sound produced by a cymbal sticks around. Cymbals that boast a longer sustain will shape a sound that takes longer to fade out.

Finish

Finished cymbals produce a brighter sound. Less or even unfinished cymbals shape a drier yet more defined sound.

Frequently Asked Questions About Cymbals

What does the word 'cymbal' mean?

Cymbal stems from the Latin word 'cymbalum', which was derived from the Greek word 'Kymbalon' which, in turn, comes from κύμβη kymbē, meaning 'cup' or 'bowl'.

What kind of cymbals are there?

Cymbals can be divided into china cymbals, crash cymbals, ride cymbals, hi-hat cymbals, splash cymbals and effect cymbals.

What are cymbals made of?

Cymbals are made of different bronze alloys. The most commonly used alloy is B20 bronze, which is a mix of 80% copper and 20% tin.

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