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Numerous factors affect the sound of cymbals, but there are some things you could do to make them shine again!
Can cymbals sound better? The short answer is yes.
Things such as maintenance, material, atmosphere and age play a significant role, but you can make them sound better with a few tricks.
Here are 7 ways to make your cymbals sound better:
- Improve your technique
- Check your environment
- Cymbal Condition
- Cymbal Setup
- Extreme Modification
1. Improve your technique
Playing the cymbals the proper way will impact its sound quality. Performing musically cannot be substituted.
But what does this even mean?
The key to proper drumming is a good posture.
Make sure you are playing in a relaxed manner; you can’t play the cymbals or the drums in general if your pose is not correct. When you are seated behind a drum kit, you should relax while maintaining proper posture, which will translate directly into your instrument’s sound.
Playing this instrument with relaxed hands and gentle movement will resonate with good sound quality.
Cymbals will resonate the most if you hit them at roughly 45 degrees. Do not hit them straight down because that won’t cause vibrance!
Experiment with these things until you get the right sound, and you will notice a difference.
A straight down strike on a cymbal will not cause as much vibration in the instrument, which means it will not produce the full range of sounds.
It is also possible to play the cymbals’ bell with the shank of your drumsticks. This will result in a very sharp attack and less sustain.
2. Check your environment
It may not sound like a significant factor, but changing your environment could change your sound!
Cymbals’ sound changes dramatically when it bounces off the walls, ceilings, floors, or other surfaces nearby.
Large rooms with a lot of sound-absorbing features, such as a lot of furniture, can influence the sound quality of your cymbals.
If you want your cymbals to sound like they were recorded in a studio, you must tailor your room to specific needs. Ensure the room is well insulated by installing carpet, installing sound panels on the wall, or insulating curtains.
There is a noticeable difference between recording sound in a well-soundproofed room versus a concert hall. The raw sound of a cymbal in a studio is totally unique from the one you hear at concerts, so don’t be discouraged if it is not the same.
3. Cymbal Condition
The purpose of cleaning cymbals is not only for aesthetic reasons. Removing dirt, dust, and other deposits from cymbals will make them sound vibrant.
It is also essential to regularly inspect the condition of a cymbal, as early intervention could prolong its life or cause early death to the instrument.
The fact is that if you hear unusual rattles coming from your cymbal, it’s likely that it has a crack in it, and fixing it may be difficult or even impossible.
Cymbals can crack in two ways:
- From the outside edge inward
- In a circular fashion around the circumference of the cymbal – especially lathed cymbals.
To prevent the crack from spreading further, drill holes at the end(s) of the crack. This will prevent the crack from spreading further. However, drilling cymbals can be a rather frightening experience; it’s also rather delicate and requires steady hands.
4. Cymbal Stand Setup, Care, and Maintenance
Cymbals are mounted on stands, so it’s essential to maintain them properly. The position of your cymbals also plays an essential role in maintaining proper playing technique. Despite that, this aspect is often overlooked.
It is best to mount your cymbals within your reach and slightly angled towards you. As a result, you won’t have to stretch to reach the cymbal and play it more comfortably.
Cymbal Stand Care & Maintenance:
CAUTION: Do not over-tighten anything on your stands!
Constant tightening of the wingnuts and adjustment points on your stands will result in stripped screws and gaskets and, in the end, the death of your hardware.
In addition, to stand maintenance, there are cymbal sleeves and felts.
They are almost as important as not overtightening your stands.
- Sleeves provide proper cymbal positioning, prevent unwanted rattles, and provide protection against metal-to-metal contact, which may damage your cymbals.
- Felts allow cymbals to rest on a soft cushion that isolates them from the rest of the hardware. Sleeves and felts are affordable, and they are essential to keep in your stick bag.
Muffling is usually associated with drums rather than cymbals. Furthermore, there are times when a harsh overtone can be reduced by using some muffling.
These are some less invasive ways to change the sound of your cymbal.
There’s no doubt we have all kept some duct tape or even Moongels in our kit bags.
- As they say, duct tape fixes everything, and I have always found it helpful in reducing reverberation on cymbals. Simply apply the tape underside of the cymbal and the problem will be solved.
- Moongels function similarly as duck tape but with a bit of advantage. You can freely move Moongle around, allowing you to test out different positions until you find the best placement.
You can exhaust fewer permanent options such as drilling and cutting by starting with these quick fixes.
First, check the condition of your cymbals; you need to maintain them regularly and protect them from dust and sweat.
As we already mentioned – Cleaning them regularly is not just for their looks, but for improved sound!
Inspect your cymbals to see if they have a crack or a dent; a crack may cause problems to your instrument.
Fun fact: Many artists claim that their older cymbals produce a much more mellow and pleasing sound than new cymbals.
Some of them even buy used cymbals that are in good condition.
However, there comes the time when drilling, adding rivets, or cutting down an old sheet cymbal would be beneficial as a safety net and a practice run. A crash cymbal is more suited to the drilling technique than a ride cymbal, hi-hat, or splash cymbal. Besides the distinctive sound, it also looks fantastic.
Overall, those were the six ways to make cymbals sound better, and they pretty much represent the basis. However, you can try some extreme things, but you have to be cautious about it!
7. Extreme Modifications
Drilling and Rivets
Jazz pioneers developed the method of adding rivets to cymbals. Today, it is still quite popular.
The process involves drilling small holes into the cymbal and putting special rivets inside.
A brief tip:
If you have a cracked cymbal and you are going to drill holes anyway, you might want to experiment with rivets as well. You can remove the rivets permanently if you don’t like the new sound.
You will need a drill bit, one or two vices, and enough patience to space out your drilling.
However, be careful: You may damage a cymbal by drilling too many holes too quickly or too close together.
Between drilling sessions, let the cymbal rest for a few days. As a result, the cymbal sounds more sizzling. The cymbal’s primary sonic characteristics will remain dominant, but more sustain and a softer high-end sound will persist.
If you add a lot of rivets to the instrument, the sizzle will become a more prominent feature, so you might consider this if you dislike the sound of the cymbal initially!
If you do not prefer adding rivets to your cymbals, there is a non-destructive alternative.
Cymbal chains represent an excellent replacement to the cymbal stand’s felt disc being attached to a chain. As the chain drapes over the cymbal, you get a similar sizzle effect with rivets.
The only difference is that no holes have been drilled in the cymbal this time, which can be more convenient!
The last and the most extreme option is using the rivets to attach tambourine jingles loosely to your cymbal. In this case, it is possible to change its characteristic more significantly with reduced sustain.
If rivets aren’t your thing, you might try cutting a few holes around the circumference of the cymbal. It is also possible to find special effects cymbals that offer this unique sound and appearance.
Cut The Bell Out
The last thing you can do with a totally ruined and hopelessly trashed cymbal is to cut off everything except for the cymbal bell itself.
As it turns out, Zildjian produces a product called the Zil Bell, which is a cymbal bell only. Making your own would be a relatively inexpensive experiment and a nice challenge!
Whatever you decide to do, especially when using these extreme modifications, be careful when drilling or cutting metal, and wear the appropriate safety gear!
Paying attention to simple things can help your cymbals resonate. With a bit of improvement in your drumming technique, environment, cymbal, and setup check, some muffling, and a dash of modification, your cymbals will rock the world!
These 7 ways to make cymbals sound better can really do some miracles!
The process of perfecting your desired sound is worth it if it makes your sound more balanced and saves you some loot.
Besides that, you can even try some extreme modifications while being cautious, of course! You might even learn a thing or two in the process and become a master at modifying cymbals.
Whatever you decide to do, keep drumming, keep learning, and don’t be afraid to start experimenting with cymbals on your own.