cymbals

Cymbals Buying Guide

What's a drum set without its cymbals. After all, they're the metal discs that add the crash to the boom and the bang. Choosing the right cymbals requires the same care and attention you gave to picking out your drums and toms, so go prepared.

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7 Things to Consider When Buying Cymbals

1. Types The main types of cymbals are hi-hats, rides, and crashes. Experts recommend you buy them in that order as you can more blend the other cymbals more easily with your hi-hat once you've chosen it. These will be used for the core of your play, but you can also add special effects cymbals, such as Splash or Chinese cymbals, for accent sounds.

2. Size Through the various types of cymbals, you can find ones that are anywhere from 4" to 30". And size matters. Smaller cymbals are quieter, they respond quicker and have less sustain. Their sound is tighter and higher in pitch. Larger cymbals are lower pitched and have a slower response; they're also are louder, have a bigger sound and a longer sustain.

3. Manufacture Generally considered a "superior" cymbal, cast cymbals are individually crafted from raw, molten metal. Once poured, they're rolled, shaped, hammered and lathed. The lengthy process results in a full, complex sound favored by experts and professionals. Because of its individual creation, each cast cymbal has its own unique sonic makeup, which many say improves with age.

Sheet cymbals are cut from large sheets of metal. As a result, they're less expensive — but that doesn't always translate to poorer quality. Sheet cymbals are uniform in thickness and composition, resulting in a more uniform sound from all the cymbals within the same model. They can crack more easily if heavily played.

4. Alloys All cymbals are a bronze variation of tin and copper. The most basic, and many starter cymbals, is the B8 (made of 8 percent tin and 92 percent copper). It produces a bright albeit almost brittle sound. At the other end, a B20 bronze is found (20 percent tin, 80 percent copper), which has a warmer and more musical quality. In between the two, you can also find B10, B12 and B15 bronzes.

5. Jazz Play Playing jazz and other acoustic music is done with a lighter touch, from sticks or brushes. Volume isn't as important as obtaining the darker and more complex sounds that thinner and lighter cymbals offer. If aiming for jazz play, focus on getting a good ride and set of hi-hats first. The ride should be medium thin to thin and around 20" to 24". A starter set of thin hi-hats should be 14" or 15" in diameter.

6. Rockin' Out Rock or heavy metal drummers hit harder, so durability is more important. You'll want a brighter, louder sound that cuts through the mix and can get it through a variety of hi-hats, rides and crashes. Go for medium to heavy cymbals that are quite thick — these will have a higher pitch and vibrate less.

7. Test Them Head to a store if possible to bang a few cymbals before buying them. Take your own sticks, and hit the cymbal with a glancing blow, from one side to the other. Not straight on or on an edge. And hit them as you would when you play, not just with a light touch. Be careful not to damage them though (especially thinner cymbals), so don't use sticks that are too big or hit extra hard to try and get more volume. And try them in different areas of the store if you can, because the surroundings will have an effect on the sound.