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What Are Effects Cymbals?

Lori Kilchermann
Lori Kilchermann

Effects cymbals are used with a drum kit to produce special sounds not possible with typical cymbals. Two of the most common types of effects cymbals are the splash cymbals and the China cymbals, however, there are many other types available to drummers. Typical qualities gained through the use of effects cymbals include longer sustain — the ability of a cymbal to hold a note for an extended period of time before softly fading away —, and more shimmer, a sound which is produced by incorporating loose rivets in the cymbal that rattle and vibrate when the cymbal is struck. While not often considered a cymbal, the large gong typically placed directly behind the drum kit is a type of effects cymbal.

The cymbal is used to add brilliance and brightness to the percussion of the drum kit, which refers to an high-pitched sound amidst the bass and the percussion. The hi-hats, crash and ride cymbals are the basic accouterments to the drum kit and provide the required bright notes for most musical selections. When a drummer wants to embellish his or her sound by adding a little more brightness to the musicality, the services of effects cymbals are often called upon. Most effects cymbals are manufactured by using a special metal mixture in the casting process, however, some manufacturers use exotic manufacturing methods to produce the unique-sounding instruments. From holes to rivets and extra layers of cymbal material, manufacturers of effects cymbals use many methods of creating new sounds.

Effects cymbals add an exotic flair to a conventional drum kit.
Effects cymbals add an exotic flair to a conventional drum kit.

Many effects cymbals use aluminum to create a bell-like tone when the cymbal is struck with a stick. Other tricks in the production of the special cymbals are to mount the cymbal upside down, use thicker material in the design of the cymbal and alter the dimensions of the cymbal. This can often create a richer and ringing sound from the cymbal when struck, but volume is the main method of enhancing a cymbal's tone. The volume of the special cymbals is occasionally much louder than the typical drummer's cymbals, adding to the punch of a different sound when used.

The main usage of the effects cymbals is during drum solos and song endings. By using a cymbal with extended sustain, the drummer can add a sensational ending to many songs by allowing the cymbal strike to continue ringing long after the sound of the other instruments has ended. Likewise, drum solos are enhanced by providing much more definition in cymbal crashes. Often, the drummer omits the drums for a brief while and uses the cymbals only for one component of a solo.

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    • Effects cymbals add an exotic flair to a conventional drum kit.
      By: Pavel Losevsky
      Effects cymbals add an exotic flair to a conventional drum kit.