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A suspended cymbal.
Characteristic rock hi-hat pattern. About this sound play

Cymbals are a common percussion instrument. Cymbals consist of thin, normally round plates of various alloys; see cymbal making for a discussion of their manufacture. The greater majority of cymbals are of indefinite pitch, although small disc-shaped cymbals based on ancient designs sound a definite note (see: crotales). Cymbals are used in many ensembles ranging from the orchestra, percussion ensembles, jazz bands, heavy metal bands, and marching groups. Drum kits usually incorporate at least one suspended cymbal and a pair of hi-hat cymbals.



The word cymbal is derived from the Latin cymbalum, which itself derives from the Greek word kumbalom, meaning a small bowl.


The anatomy of the cymbal plays a large part in the sound it creates.[1] The hole is drilled in the center of the cymbal and it is used to either mount the cymbal on a stand or straps (for hand playing). The bell, dome, or cup is the raised section immediately surrounding the hole. The bell produces a higher "pinging" pitch than the rest of the cymbal. The bow is the rest of the surface surrounding the bell. The bow is sometimes described in two areas: the ride and crash area. The ride area is the thicker section closer to the bell while the crash area is the thinner tapering section near the edge. The edge or rim is the immediate circumference of the cymbal.

Cymbals are measured by their diameter often in inches or centimeters. The size of the cymbal affects its sound, larger cymbals usually being louder and having longer sustain. The weight describes how thick the cymbal is. Cymbal weights are important to the sound they produce and how they play. Heavier cymbals have a louder volume, more cut, and better stick articulation (when using drum sticks). Thin cymbals have a fuller sound and faster response.

The profile of the cymbal is the vertical distance of the bow from the bottom of the bell to the cymbal edge (higher profile cymbals are more bowl shaped). The profile affects the pitch of the cymbal; Higher profile cymbals have higher pitch.



Orchestral cymbals

Cymbals offer a composer nearly endless amounts of color and effect. Their unique timbre allows them to project even against a full orchestra and through the heaviest of orchestrations and enhance articulation and nearly any dynamic. Cymbals have been utilized historically to suggest frenzy, fury or bacchanalian revels, as seen in the Venus music in Wagner's Tannhäuser, Grieg's Peer Gynt suite, and Osmin's aria "O wie will ich triumphieren" from Mozart's Die Entführung aus dem Serail.

Crash cymbals

A pair of clash cymbals in profile. The bell is in green and the straps are in red.

Orchestral crash cymbals are traditionally used in pairs, each one having a strap set in the bell of the cymbal by which they are held. Such a pair is known in various terms as a pair of clash cymbals, crash cymbals, or plates.

The sound can be obtained by rubbing their edges together in a sliding movement for a "sizzle", striking them against each other in what is called a "crash", tapping the edge of one against the body of the other in what is called a "tap-crash", scraping the edge of one from the inside of the bell to the edge for a "scrape" or "zischen," or shutting the cymbals together and choking the sound in what is called a "hi-hat chick" or crush. A skilled player can obtain an enormous dynamic range from such a pair of cymbals. For example, in Beethoven's ninth symphony, the percussionist is employed to first play cymbals at pianissimo, adding a touch of colour rather than loud crash.

Chinese style clash cymbals in use.

Clash cymbals are usually damped by pressing them against the player's body. A composer may write laissez vibrer, "Let vibrate" (usually abbreviated l.v.), secco (dry), or equivalent indications on the score; more usually, the player must judge exactly when to damp the cymbals based on the written duration of crash and the context in which it occurs.

Clash cymbals have traditionally been accompanied by the bass drum playing an identical part. This combination, played loudly, is an effective way to accentuate a note since the two instruments together contribute to both very low and very high frequency ranges and provide a satisfying "crash-bang-wallop". In older music the composer sometimes provided just one part for this pair of instruments, writing senza piatti or piatti soli (Italian: "without cymbals" or "cymbals only") if the bass drum is to remain silent. This came from the common practice of only having one percussionist play both instruments, using one cymbal mounted to the shell of the bass drum itself. The player would crash the cymbals with his left hand and use a mallet to strike the bass drum in his right. This method is often employed today in pit orchestras and is called for specifically by composers who desire a certain effect. Stravinsky calls for this in his ballet Petrushka and Mahler calls for this in his Titan Symphony. However, the modern convention is for the instruments to have independent parts.

Clash cymbals evolved into the low-sock and from this to the modern hi-hat. Even in a modern drum kit, they remain paired with the bass drum as the two instruments which are played with the player's feet. However, hi-hat cymbals tend to be heavy with little taper, more similar to a ride cymbal than to a crash cymbal as found in a drum kit, and perform a ride rather than a crash function.

Suspended cymbal

Another use of cymbals is the suspended cymbal. This instrument takes its name from the traditional method of suspending the cymbal by means of a leather strap or rope, thus allowing the cymbal to vibrate as freely as possible for maximum musical effect. Early jazz drumming pioneers borrowed this style of cymbal mounting during the early 1900s and later drummers further developed this instrument in to the mounted horizontal or nearly horizontally mounted "crash" cymbals of a modern drum kit, However, most modern drum kits do not employ a leather strap suspension system. Many modern drum kits use a mount with foam or otherwise dampening fabric to act as a barrier to hold the cymbals between metal clamps. Thus forming the modern day ride cymbal.

Suspended cymbals can be played with sponge or cord wrapped mallets. The first known instance of using a sponge-headed mallet on a cymbal is the final chord of Hector Berlioz' Symphonie Fantastique. Composers sometimes specifically request other types of mallets like yard or felt mallets or timpani beaters for different attack and sustain qualities, although a cord-wrapped mallet is generally accepted by percussionists as the best implement to use on the instrument.

Suspended cymbals can produce bright and slicing tones when forcefully struck, and give an eerie transparent "windy" sound when played quietly. A tremolo, or roll (played with two mallets alternately striking on opposing sides of the cymbal) can build in volume from almost inaudible to an overwhelming climax in a satisfyingly smooth manner (as in Humperdink's Mother Goose Suite).

The edge of a suspended cymbal may be hit with shoulder of a drum stick to obtain a sound somewhat akin to that of a pair of clash cymbals. Other methods of playing include scraping a coin or a triangle beater rapidly across the ridges on the top of the cymbal, giving a "zing" sound (as in the fourth movement of Dvořák's Symphony No. 9). Other effects that can be used include drawing a cello or bass bow across the edge of the cymbal for a sound not unlike squealing car brakes.

Ancient cymbals

Ancient cymbals or tuned cymbals are much more rarely called for. Their timbre is entirely different, more like that of small hand-bells or of the notes of the keyed harmonica. They are not struck full against each other, but by one of their edges, and the note given in by them is higher in proportion as they are thicker and smaller. Berlioz's Romeo and Juliet calls for two pairs of cymbals, modelled on some old Pompeian instruments no larger than the hand (some are no larger than a crown piece), and tuned to F and B flat. The modern instruments descended from this line are the crotales.

List of Cymbal Types

Hi-hats. The clutch suspends the top cymbal on a rod operated by a foot pedal.

See also


See also Category:Cymbal manufacturing companies.

External links


  1. ^ education, Anatomy page


Up to date as of January 15, 2010
(Redirected to cymbal article)

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary




Wikipedia has an article on:


Latin cymbalum (cymbal), from Ancient Greek κύμβαλον (kymbalon), from κύμβη (kymbē), bowl).




A cymbal on a stand.



cymbal (plural cymbals)

  1. (music) a concave plate of brass or bronze that produces a sharp, ringing sound when struck: played either in pairs, by striking them together, or singly by striking with a drumstick or the like.

Derived terms




Inflection for cymbal Singular Plural
common Indefinite Definite Indefinite Definite
Base form cymbal cymbalen cymbaler cymbalerna
Possessive form cymbals cymbalens cymbalers cymbalernas

cymbal c.

  1. cymbal
  2. dulcimer

Bible wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010
(Redirected to Cymbals article)

From BibleWiki

(Heb. tzeltzelim, from a root meaning to "tinkle"), musical instruments, consisting of two convex pieces of brass one held in each hand, which were clashed together to produce a loud clanging sound; castanets; "loud cymbals." "Highsounding cymbals" consisted of two larger plates, one held also in each hand (2 Sam 6:5; Ps 1505; 1Chr 13:8; 15:16, 19, 28; 1Cor 13:1).

This entry includes text from Easton's Bible Dictionary, 1897.

what mentions this? (please help by turning references to this page into wiki links)

This article needs to be merged with CYMBALS (Jewish Encyclopedia).

Simple English

Cymbals (pronounce like the word “symbol”) are percussion instruments. They are discs made of copper, bronze or a special alloy. They look rather like saucepan lids, but in the middle they jut out a little and they have straps there that pass through a hole.

There are two ways of playing cymbals. One way is to use a pair of cymbals that are the same. The player holds one cymbal in each hand, holding them by the strap. He then bangs the cymbals together. There are many ways of doing this depending on the sort of sound that is wanted. For example, a very quiet sound can be made by rubbing the edges of the cymbals together. A very loud sound can be made by hitting them together as the arms form a circle, and letting the cymbals vibrate for a long time by holding them in the air.

Another way of playing the cymbal is to use just one cymbal, and to hang it on a stand. It can then be played with a beater, stick or wire brush. It can be hit at the edge, in the middle, or half way between, depending on the sound that is wanted.

Cymbals are made in different sizes. Some may be just 25 cm across, large ones may be up to 60 cm across. Cymbals do not normally give any particular pitch. There are, however, small ones based on an old form of cymbal which are called “crotales”. There are also Chinese cymbals which have a turned-up edge.

Cymbals are used in many different musical groups. They are heard in an orchestra, in jazz groups, percussion groups and bands, including marching bands. A drum kit always has at least one cymbal. This may be a “crash cymbal” (on the top of a stand) or a pair of hi-hats (a pair of small cymbals operated by pressing a pedal with the foot.



The word cymbal comes from the Latin cymbalum, which itself comes from the Greek word kumbalom, meaning a small bowl. It was used in many ancient cultures including Egyptian civilisations.

Orchestral cymbals

Cymbals are often used in orchestras. The first composer to use them was probably Joseph Haydn in his “Military Symphony” (1794. They are often used when there is a big climax (for example in the “Academic Festival Overture” by Johannes Brahms, but they can also sometimes be played very quietly. Sometimes players should let the cymbal vibrate for a long time after a big crash, but at other times he may have to hold the cymbals against his body quickly to stop the noise. This is called “damping” the sound.

Cymbals have traditionally often been played together with the bass drum. This makes a "crash-bang-wallop" noise.

Other websites


"The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Musical Instruments" by Könemann; ISBN-10: 3-8331-2195-5


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