Dark or bright? Light or heavy? These and other questions plague the budding drummer when shopping for cymbals. I have therefore attempted to collect the little smatterings that I have picked up in my quest for the cymbal sound I desired.

Cymbal sound varies by a combination of several criteria come that into play, each contributing to an aspect of the sound of that cymbal. While it is impossible to describe the sound of a cymbal by breaking it down into discrete components, one may approach the desired combination of factors by taking each into careful consideration. I might want a splash to be very defined, responding instantly to the shoulder of the stick, and decaying rapidly, producing a bright, high-pitched noise. However I may want my ride to sound dark and woody, floating on a cusion of air making a breath-like sound. I'll attempt to list some of the variables that affect cymbal sound here:

Due to the immense variety of cymbals available, and the individual tastes of every drummer, ther is no one cymbal that is the best for all situations. When buying cymbals one must bear in mind that:
  • Buying cheaper cymbals initially is very attractive. A complete cymbal set can cost less than a high-quality ride but you *will* be cursing the low quality of your cymbals after playing for a short while.
  • Durability is another factor. Your starter set will crack within a short time, while buying a set of decent hi-hats and a good ride can last a lifetime.
  • A compromise solution always exists. High-quality medium-weight cymbals, smack in the middle of the size range for that cymbal can provide you with an excellent multi-purpose cymbal. A medium-weight cymbal combines the projection of a large, heavy cymbal, with the definition of a lighter, smaller one. With some practice, you can get the cymbal to sound the way you want it to by varying drum sticks, tips and the way you strike the cymbal.

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