To the uninitiated drummer, cymbals may not seem like much in the way of instrumentation. These metallic disks have a shine and glow to them, and make a loud noise, but, they may very well be the best kept secret about drumming. However, for any drummer worth her or his chops, the cymbals on a drum set are possibly the most important way to define a personal sound, and even an entire genre of music.
Cymbals come in many different shapes, styles and sizes and are essential for the emotive element of music. The sound of the cymbal is affected through the metals used, the method of manufacturing, its shape and finally, the cymbal finish. Cymbal finishes typically fall under two different types: brilliant or traditional/natural.
Natural or traditionally finished cymbals are the product of much less manufacturing than brilliant cymbals. These are the cymbals that have a dull sheen to the metal, and can even have the look of being used, straight out of the package. Traditional finish cymbals have a dark, edgy sound when compared to brilliant finish cymbals, due to the lack of refined cymbal surface.
Brilliant cymbals are the shiny, slick cymbals that are eye-catching and have a much brighter sound than the natural finish cymbals. These have undergone a much more intense finishing process that levels out the ridges and grooves, while polishing the finish to a gleaming shine, creating the sound that is perhaps best demonstrated with orchestral cymbals.
Picking a cymbal is almost as hard as choosing a favorite song or style of drumming. Understanding, however, the importance of cymbal selection can be a great start for any budding drumming or percussion career, hobby or lifelong passion for rhythm. The best way to determine if a cymbal is right for your drum set is to get out there and try them out. You never know what you’ll experience, and will gain more insight into these instruments than you perhaps thought possible.