For the beginner drummer, a cymbal may seem like an afterthought when it comes to picking the right drum set, snare, bass or toms, but these instruments may have some of the most impact in the entire sound of a rig. Cymbal manufacturers are constantly updating the methods for creating cymbals, as well as the materials used in the alloys. So, whether you are just starting out drumming, or, finally taking the cymbal plunge, knowing thedifferences in cymbals can help define and refine your own sound.
For time keeping and steady rhythms, two cymbals take the lead over the rest: the ride and the hi-hat. Ride cymbals are usually the largest of the cymbals, giving it a much broader range of sounds that can be produced over the surface. These cymbals can also be used to produce some effects sounds in a pinch. Hi-hats are the “double” cymbals that are attached closely and played with the pedal. However, the sound versatility of a hi-hat also allows for the top cymbal to be played alone.
The small effects cymbals on a drum kit are best known as splash cymbals. As the name suggests, the sound is reminiscent of the splash of water, with a high tone and low volume. Crash cymbals are named for the loud “crash” sound they emit when struck. Formerly used in orchestras as a pair of instruments, crash cymbals are now a fixture on drum sets, and with the wide range of materials and finishes available today, the variances in sound can be stunning. China cymbals bring a much different tone to the rhythm, somewhere between “trashy” and “bright,” but, unforgettable nonetheless, and are perfect for accenting the steady beat of a ride cymbal.
Cymbals are well known for punctuating a rhythm, creating a sense of emotional connection to the phrase of a song or the momentum of the beat. Through understanding the basics of the cymbals available, a drummer can easily begin to illustrate a personal sound through the creative use of these underrated instruments.