When selecting cymbals for your drum kit, it is important to check out the look of the cymbals as well as the sound and design. While there are a variety of cymbal types, there are two, main cymbal finishes: brilliant and natural. Brilliant cymbals are finished in a way that makes them shiny and flashy, which appeals to many drummers. In fact, brilliant cymbals are what most people are used to seeing as part of a typical drum kit. Natural cymbals also have appeal and draw the attention of drummers looking for specific features. Cymbal finishes not only affect the look of the cymbal, but they also impact the sound.
Since cymbals do stand out so much and tend to catch the eye, a cymbal’s finish can become a conversation piece. While many dedicated drummers may be used to seeing cymbals with a natural finish, others probably aren’t and it is good to know how cymbal finishes affect sound and quality. As always, the best way to know which sound you prefer is to try the cymbals out for yourself. However, there are some basics to keep in mind.
Cymbals with a brilliant finish go through more of a process than their natural counterparts. They are buffed and polished to a shine, leveling out the grooves that help create a cymbal’s sound. As a result, brilliant cymbals tend to have a glassier and more shimmery quality to their sound than those with a natural finish. This difference reflects one of the ways cymbal finishes affects tone and should be kept in mind when choosing cymbals for various songs.
Natural finish cymbals also tend to have a higher pitch and provide a rawer sound. Some drummers might say that brilliant cymbals have a brighter sound, whereas natural cymbal finishes result in a darker sound. “Darker” could be a synonym for “raw”, in this case. Since cymbals with a brilliant finish go through more processing and metal removal than cymbals with a natural finish, it makes sense that the more raw finishing process will result in the more raw sound.
While cymbal finishes may not make as much difference in sound as cymbal types and sizes, the difference is definitely worth noting when purchasing cymbals and composing music. Some drummers might like the longer sustain of a natural finish cymbal versus the brilliant finish of the same cymbal company and style. As with all things drumming, know what you want and listen carefully. Keeping that in mind will make choosing cymbals easier, regardless of finish.