Cymbals are a great way to customize your drum set and personal sound as a drummer. These instruments are available in a wide range of styles, with different materials used in their construction, a variety of cymbal finishes and, of course different sizes. All of these factors go into how each cymbal sounds when played, making certain cymbal types better for different genres of music or playing styles, or even to get a message across in a song.
A common question that is asked when searching for new or replacement cymbals is how much of a difference the size of a cymbal can make. The easiest way to explain cymbal size in terms of sound is that smaller cymbals will have a higher pitch than the larger versions. This means that there will be a definite difference between an 18” crash and a 15” crash, while smaller size differences will be less noticeable to the new drummer’s ear.
Other considerations are the weight of the cymbal, and the shape of the cymbal. While cymbal size does matter, what may be most important is to understand how the different cymbals sound together. A great sounding cymbal setup is more about ensuring a hi-hat and a ride have complimentary tones than discovering the ultimate crash size for your rig.
These differences in sound can take a while to develop for the beginner, which is why there are cymbal “starter kits” or ready-made collections of cymbals with drum set purchases. However, once a drummer begins to understand cymbals and the nuances of sound, then the ability to blend and contrast cymbal (and drum) tones and pitches becomes much easier. From there, additional sound concerns like the sensitivity, response and decay of the cymbal will also come into play, ultimately assisting a drummer to perfect his or her sound.
Cymbal differences are just as much a matter of personal preference as the method and materials of construction, size, weight, shape and cymbal finishes used. Through trial and error, and advice from experienced drummers, the best sound of the cymbals chosen will have less to do with the size, and more to do with the beautiful complexity of the instruments themselves.