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Types of Cymbals for your Drum Kit

Between different drum and percussion kits, there are several different choices that can help accent the music and rhythms being played. From wood blocks and the type of drum sticks or mallets to the different drums and cymbals available, determining the best parts for the job can be a confusing part of any musician's life. Cymbals, in particular, can make or break the sounds in a song, and as such, incorporating the right cymbals into a drum kit can be an important decision for the drummer, band or studio musician.

Crash cymbals play a “crash” accent sound, like at the end of a song's phrase, drum solo or fill. Crash cymbals are typically seen in orchestras, played by sliding the cymbals together, or mounted on a drum kit, played with drum sticks, mallets or even with the hands. Crash cymbals come in various sizes and thicknesses, creating different sounds and tones.

High Hat cymbals are used mostly for rhythm, not accents. The high hat is actually two cymbals mounted on a stand on which a foot pedal controls the up and down movement of the cymbals. High hats can also be played with drum sticks or mallets in order to produce specific tones, depending on the openness and position of the two high hat cymbals.

Suspended cymbals are any cymbals played with a drum stick, mallet, or by hand, but not struck together. Crash, ride and effects cymbals are considered to be suspended cymbals.

Sizzle cymbals typically have been enhanced with chains or other metallic accents like rivets to create a scratchy, rattle sound to the cymbal when played with drum sticks or mallets.

China cymbals are directly related to the gong. The China cymbal produces a darker, less controlled tone than other cymbals and is played for its sound effect or accent, not for rhythm.

Ride cymbals focus on rhythm over accent and are a standard cymbal on most drum kits. This smaller cymbal is specifically used to keep the beat instead of as an accent to rhythm and is played with drum sticks or brushes.

Splash cymbals are the smallest of the cymbals, and used for the unique sound that accents a rhythm. The splash cymbal gets its name from the high-pitch, splash sound it makes when struck by a drum stick.

Once a drummer has decided the best types of cymbals to add to a drum kit, the differences in shape, size or even brands, like Meinl Cymbals, can go further to enhance the sounds that are created during a drumming session. Drummers with an ear for subtle differences in sound, pitch and tone, as well as effects like those from the splash or sizzle cymbal can easily incorporate the different nuances of cymbals into a hard-hitting rhythm or soft and subtle drum fill.

17th Jun 2015

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