What are cymbals? – TAMBOURINE! Magazine

A cymbal is a percussion instrument made from metal alloys, which creates sound when struck by a drumstick or smashed against another cymbal.

Cymbals have been used since ancient times and play a fairly significant role in the overall sound of a drum set.

Dive into our brief introduction to cymbals, where we’ll give you an overview of the history of cymbals, their types, and the sound they bring.

History of cymbals

Cymbals date back to ancient China, India and Turkey, where they were used in military and religious ceremonies.

Cymbals were added to European orchestras during the 1600s, replacing timpani as the preferred percussion instrument.

Since the 19th century, they began to play a more prominent role in musical works, and various cymbal forms, hardware, and cymbal playing techniques were developed.

Types of cymbals

Cymbals come in different shapes and sizes, and each type has its own unique sound.

Here are the main types of cymbals:

  • Accident
  • hi hat
  • Stroll
  • Splash
  • China

The basic drum kit includes a hi-hat, two crash cymbals and a ride cymbal, but you can add more to your set.


Stand-alone cymbal with a loud, high-pitched and explosive sound.

They are used to accent notes while the hi-hat and ride are known as “beat keeping cymbals”.

hi hat

Hi-hat cymbals are two pairs of matched cymbals facing each other, producing a high-pitched sound.

They are placed together on a stand facing each other from below, and you can close them with a foot pedal.


Ride cymbals are usually the biggest in the drum set and have a medium-high sound.

They are used to maintain a steady rhythmic pattern, known as the “driving pattern”.


These are the smallest cymbals in the kit with a loud, crisp, short-lived sound.

Splash cymbals help drummers add accents to their riffs and solos.


These are a distinct type of crash cymbals with an explosive, bass sound.

They are usually mounted upside down on cymbal stands.

sound of cymbals

Different types of cymbals have different sounds.

Generally speaking, the sound of cymbals can be described as dark or bright.

Bright cymbals have a higher pitch and brighter sound than dark cymbals, and they are mostly used in rock and pop music.

Dark cymbals have a deep sound with a low pitch, and they are commonly heard in jazz music.

However, some cymbals sound balanced, and they fall somewhere between dark and bright.

Besides the shape and material of the cymbals, dirt can also influence the sound.

If your cymbal is clean, it will sound brighter.

To sum up

Cymbals are a popular percussion instrument used since ancient times, playing an important role in every drum set nowadays.

There are different types of cymbals, such as crash, hi-hat, ride, splash, and porcelain cymbal, and each brings a unique sound.

We hope this article has helped you understand what cymbals are and, more importantly, how they contribute to the overall sound of a drum set.

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