What are Cymbals? Ultimate Guide with FAQ Answered

DEFINITION OF CYMBAL

A musical instrument consisting of a slightly concave round brass plate,Either struck against another one or struck with a stick to make a ringing or clashing sound.

A cymbal is a common percussion instrument, 

and they are:

  • Often used in pairs;
  • Made of thin, normally round plates of various alloys;
  • The majority of cymbals are of indefinite pitch; 
  • But small disc-shaped cymbals based on ancient designs sound a definite note.

What cymbal means?

Cymbals have the underlying meaning

Cym·​bal | pronounced: ˈsim-bə

A concave metal plate (brass or bronze) that produces a brilliant clashing tone.

It is struck with a drumstick or is used in pairs struck glancingly together

If we look it up in the Cambridge Dictionary we can find another definition:

https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/cymbal 

Cymbal is a flat, round musical instrument made of brass that makes a loud noise when hit with a stick or against another cymbal.

What are cymbals used for?

Did you know?

Cymbals arose in Asia and

They are among the OLDEST percussion instruments!

They were developed in the 7th century BC!

Even in their earliest time, they have been closely associated with religious worship and rituals.

They were also used to accompany dances!

Dancers would hang cymbals around their necks on a piece of twine and beat them to the rhythm of the music!

TODAY cymbals are used in all types of music, from ensembles ranging to the orchestra…

For example: 

  • Percussion ensembles;
  • Jazz bands;
  • Heavy metal bands;
  • As well as marching groups.

Cymbals are one of components of every drum kit.

Are bigger cymbals louder?

Generally speaking, yes, they are

BUT there are circumstances that we need to take into consideration

A thicker cymbal will be louder than one with a larger diameter!

Let’s compare them!

Heavier Cymbals
Thinner Cymbals
Respond with bigger, louder sound but, require more power from the drummer to open up
Respond quickly (because sound vibrations move faster through the metal) and produce fuller sound
Longer Sustain
Decay quickly
Increased Volume
Decreased Volume

IN CONCLUSION – depending on which style of music you want to play you are choosing the types of cymbals you want to buy

what are cymbals

When was the ride cymbal invented?

The first dual-purpose cymbal used for both crashing and riding was invented in 1940’s!

Woho long time ago isn’t it?!

The ride cymbal or so called Crash Rideare known as medium thin weight cymbals

Another question pops up!

Is there the difference between a crash cymbal and a ride cymbal?

Crash Cymbals typically used for accents with very rich and explosive sound

Ride Cymbals used to play steady patterns, often in a similar manner to hi-hats, have more shimmering, sustaining sound

In the past they were mostly used by the dance band drummers and those drummers were not rich so, they were mostly used by drummers who could only afford one cymbal!

tape on cymbals

Why do drummers put tape on their cymbals?

This is actually very popular amongst the drummers …

Why?

Well simple because it reduces the volume!

This technique is helpful for reducing the volume and ringing of drums and cymbals + reduces low rumble in toms and harmonics from an overly “live” drum or cymbal

Duct tape is usually placed on the drum head or cymbal

ATTENTION – Duct tape is cheap and affordable, but note that it’s not the best solution!

What is a dark cymbal?

Okay newbies, don’t worry, we will explain EVERYTHING!

If we do a little research, we can see that Cymbals can be characterized by either a bright or a dark sound

But what’s the difference?

Dark cymbals have a lower fundamental pitch and they provide more brooding sound

Very common in jazz or fusion music.

Unlike the bright ones, which have a higher fundamental pitch and are commonly used in pop or rock music

What is a dry cymbal?

A dry cymbal is less washy with less overtones, the more extreme dry rides are very tight and have clangy sound 

BUT there are NOT always necessary pingy or clangy!

It just mostly refers to less build up while playing.

In this situation dry means little or no decay. e.g. overtone or roar… Which typically results in a clearer, so called ‘attack’ sound. 

So a dry ride may be desirable, but a dry crash – where you want some decay and sizzle – isn’t!

Why do my cymbals sound bad?

Here are some reasons why your cymbals sound bad:

  1. Cheaper cymbals usually don’t have such a great sound like expensive ones;
  2. The way of how you play them can be a big factor; 
  3. Their physical condition;

The environment in which you are listening.

Here is what influences the cymbal sound.

  • playing with a good technique
    will get the best out of your instrument
  • If your cymbals are cracked, dented, or
    key-holed, the sound can be permanently impaired
  • The type of room you are in can make a massive difference
    to the tone and projection of a cymbal.
  • Rooms with sound absorbing features, like carpeting, curtains, cushions, will produce a very raw cymbal sound!
    Which would be different to playing them in a garage, a large hall or a venue.

Do cymbals sound better with age?

It really depends on the taste, if you don’t like flashy sound, leave it dirt and let time do the job.

Cymbals while ageing they gain more character and the tone balances out

In factthere is a good reason why companies like Zildjian and Sabian let their cymbals sit in a vault,

Some cymbals are aged for months in the factory before they are even sold!

Let’s remember this!

An aged sound of cymbal, is the matter of hearing and a matter of personal preference.

How long should cymbals last?

You should be able to get at least 20 years out of a quality cymbals!

Of course, they do wear out over time, and they are certainly not indestructible creations!

Most of the major cymbal companies offer a two year warranty, but quality cymbals, like any quality musical instrument, should last a „lifetime”!

IMPORTANT INFO!

The lifetime of cymbals will depend on a few factors!

  • Technique and Cymbal Angling will determine much of your cymbals longevity
  • Size – smaller, thinner cymbals may crack faster than bigger cymbals

So all in all, drummers and cymbalists,

Trust your guts and believe your ears.

With a practice and lot of love cymbals are in GREAT hands!

My name is Denis. I am a drummer, percussionist, music enthusiast, and blogger. Drums have been my passion for 15 years now. My idea is to write about the things I like and I am interested in. I want to share my drum passion with fellow musicians who walk, talk, and breathe drums.

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