What Are Cymbals?

Jay Leone

A cymbal is a circular percussion instrument that creates a sound when hit by a drumstick or crashed against another cymbal. There are many different types of cymbal, including the hi-hat cymbal, splash cymbal, and ride cymbal. A basic drum kit usually features three cymbals. Bronze and copper are two of the more popular metals used in cymbal construction.

Taken as togehter, cymbals are one major component of a a drum kit.
Taken as togehter, cymbals are one major component of a a drum kit.

There are two primary methods of producing these instruments: casting and stamping. The casting method involves pouring liquid metal into forms closely resembling the final dimensions of a cymbal, while stamping involves using machines to press out the shape of a cymbal from a sheet of metal. Some of these instruments go through a high-temperature heat treatment process designed to add certain sound characteristics to the instrument. Metal cymbal models can be made harder through heat treatment processes. Heat-treating a cymbal can also add flexibility to the cymbal.

In a drum kit, cymbals are typically used as singles instead of pairs.
In a drum kit, cymbals are typically used as singles instead of pairs.

A cymbal requires extensive hammering to attain the ideal pattern and shape needed to produce crisp sounds. Hand-hammering individual cymbals can be exceedingly difficult. Many manufacturers employ pneumatic hammers for fast, consistent hammering. A cymbal’s surface grooves are most often applied with a metal lathe machine.

The hi-hat cymbal is often used as a primary timekeeper for a band. High-hats consist of two cymbals that sit atop a specially designed stand. In a high-hat system, the bottom cymbal is stationary while a foot-operated pedal moves the top cymbal up and down on a spring along the top of the stand. The typical high-hat cymbal is constructed to a diameter of between 13 and 14 inches (about 33 and 35.6 centimeters). In the average high-hat system, the bottom cymbal should be slightly thicker than the top one to ensure a crisp sound is produced.

Manufacturers produce most ride cymbals to diameters ranging between 18 and 24 inches (45.7 and 61 centimeters). This type of cymbal can provide a steady rhythm and is usually the largest cymbal in a drum kit. They feature domed centers and can vary in thickness. The thickness of a ride cymbal as well as the type of mallet or stick used to strike it influence the tone and volume of the sound produced when struck. Thicker models typically produce a sharper and louder sound than thinner models.

Other popular types of cymbals include splash cymbals, China cymbals, and crash cymbals. Short, high-pitched sounds are produced by the average splash cymbal. The China cymbal features upturned edges and produces crisp, explosive tones, while crash cymbal is designed to accent rhythm.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discuss this Article

Post your comments
Forgot password?