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Trick out your kit and complete your percussion sound with Cymbals

No drum kit or percussion arrangement is complete without the trademark sound of cymbals. Whether you are crashing or riding, cymbals have long been known to really put the exclamation point on everything from sweeping orchestral arrangements to mind-numbing drum fills. They can provide a splash of pure sound or even a muted backbeat depending on how they are used. One thing is for certain though, cymbals add depth to any piece of music.

What is a cymbal?

In general, a cymbal is most typically a thin, round plate manufactured from metal alloys. Most cymbals are of indefinite pitch, and are employed as percussion instruments across many styles and genres of music. Here are a few of the most common variations of cymbals:

Crash cymbals

Crash cymbals have a fairly thin edge, and as their name suggests, they produce a loud “crashing” noise when struck. In an orchestral arrangement two crash cymbals will often be held by a cymbalist (one in each hand) using straps, and are struck together. As part of a drum kit however, individual crash cymbals are mounted on metal stands, and stuck by the drummer—often in conjunction with a strike to the bass drum to accentuate their sound.

Ride cymbals

A ride cymbal is another common cymbal regularly found in modern drum kits. These cymbals are meant to sustain a more rhythmic pattern, as opposed to the louder accents of a crash cymbal.

The hi-hat

A “hi-hat” refers to a combination of two cymbals along with a floor pedal that is another staple of modern drum kits. They can be played in a variety of ways, again mostly designed with the intention of adding to the sustained pervasive rhythm of a drum beat as opposed to loud accentuated flourishes. A hi-hat can be played by using the pedal to strike the two cymbals together, or alternatively they may be struck with a drumstick, while simultaneously the drummer uses the foot pedal to manipulate and adjust the hi-hat cymbals between a “closed” or “open” position, producing a wide range of unique sounds.

How many cymbals do you need for a drum kit?

There is no hard and fast rule about how many cymbals make up a proper drum kit, and every drummer will have their own personal preference and likely a unique configuration. That said, most modern drum kits tend to be made up of a hi-hat, and some combination of at least 1-2 or more crash/ride-style cymbals. Other types of cymbals that are often found in drum kits include china cymbals, splash cymbals, and more.

Popular brands of cymbals

There are many different brands of cymbals available, but there are a few names that stand out as long-time, well-known, and trusted names among drummers, percussionists, and cymbalists. Some of the most recognizable names in cymbals available today include Sabian, Zildjian, and Paiste. Just like other musicians, many professional drummers and percussionists have their favourite brands and are often loyal to the manufacturer whose products best suit their performance and style. Between different brands and styles of cymbals, building your own perfect drum kit can be a long and ever-evolving labour of love!