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How Do I Choose the Best Cymbals?

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  • Written By: Lee Johnson
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 11 April 2014
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Drummers should choose the best cymbals by looking at the material the cymbal is made from, its size, its thickness, and listening to the instrument at low volume. Different types of cymbals should be chosen according to the drummer’s specific needs, but hi-hats, rides, and crash cymbals are most popular. Players should test out numerous cymbals before buying one, and it can also help to listen while somebody else plays. The best cymbal is ultimately defined by personal preference, but players can benefit from learning about factors which affect the tone.

The material the cymbal is made from has an impact on the quality of sound and range of tones it can produce. Many think that cast metal — a mix of 80 percent copper and 20 percent tin — makes the best cymbals. This mixture is called B20 bronze, named after the amount of tin used. These cymbals give high sound quality and the most varied tonal mixture. B8 bronze, or sheet metal cymbals, are mid-range and brass cymbals are generally considered to be the worst quality.

The best cymbals for a specific player can also be determined using their size. Bigger cymbals have increased volume, sustain, and a fuller sound. This is good for performers in rock bands, because quiet cymbals can be lost in the mix during loud concerts. Smaller cymbals are quieter, with a faster response but less sustain. Sustain is the length of time the sound rings out for.

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Thickness can be used to determine the best cymbals in the same way as size. Thicker cymbals have a louder volume and better sustain. The increased thickness means that more energy is required to get the full sound, but is ideal when a lot of volume is needed. Thinner cymbals have less volume and will sound out fully with less effort. For example, a thick crash cymbal requires more effort to achieve the full “crash” sound than a thinner one.

Playing the cymbals before buying is arguably the most important factor in choosing the best cymbals. Players should use light and heavy touches to see how the cymbal responds to different volumes. During soft strikes, drummers should listen out for the quality of the main tone and which overtones can be heard. Overtones are less noticeable, supplementary sounds to the main one. Moving around to different areas of the room while somebody else is playing can give drummers an idea of how the instrument sounds from the listener’s perspective.

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