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Don’t know a ‘trashy’ cymbal from a ‘warm’ one? Want to know why the bell size and weight of a cymbal can make it sound a certain way or just need help in purchasing your first set of cymbals? Check out the links below.

When describing sounds, it is helpful to use the same terminology as the pros. This will allow you to easily convey your thoughts with words others will readily understand.


The response rate of the cymbal. Some models are faster (more attack) than others. The Signature Mike Portnoy Max Stax responds with immediate ‘attack’.


Sounds that are high-pitched; they offer increased cut. PRO models including the 20″ Ride offer bright, penetrating responses.


The ability of the sound – usually high-pitched or loud – to cut through the surrounding music. The Sonix Crash features a focused, high-pitched sound that cuts.


Low-pitched, warm tones that combine for a ‘dark’ response that blends into surrounding music. HH models, including the Dark Crash, feature dark, traditional tones.


A minimum of tone ensures a very definite stroke response. The 20″ HH Raw Dry Ride offers maximum stick response.


Rate of response when the cymbal is struck: how fast or slow it makes a sound and how that sound decays. A smaller or thinner cymbal responds and decays faster than larger, heavier models.


The predominant or main sound within the overall response of a cymbal. A Dark Crash produces a fundamental sound that has a relatively low, warm, rich tone.


Clear, shimmering response. Often clean and smooth — like glass.


A fiery mix of dark, warm sounds with the added heat of agitated tones — a ‘burning’ sound.


The overtones or series of pitches produced in addition to the fundamental. Every cymbal will have a different percentage of highs, lows and mid-range partials.


The duration of the sound before it decays. Bigger cymbals sustain longer than smaller models.


The general sound characteristics of a cymbal.


Raw and dirty responses associated with chinese cymbals and some special models. The trashiness of an 18″ B8 Pro Chinese is raw, funky and oriental.


A softer response that focuses on a blend of low-pitched, musical tones.


Cymbals with larger bells generally produce more overtones and greater volume than cymbals with smaller bells.


Weight greatly affects the volume, articulation, and overall sound and power of a cymbal. Thinner models respond fastest (vibrations move through the metal faster) and produce fuller sounds. Thinner crashes are explosive and full sounding. The sound of thinner rides is more tone than stick articulation. Thinner models are best suited for light to moderate volumes. Heavier models respond with bigger, louder sounds. Crashes have more attack and penetration, while hi-hats and rides have increased stick articulation, so the strokes you play are clearer. Medium weight models offer the most versatility, though mixing weights may be your answer to a great sounding set-up.

If you are playing hard and loud, medium to heavy weights are recommended. These are thicker, more durable cymbals designed to perform in louder situations. Heavier Cymbals = Increased Volume, Longer Sustain, and Higher Pitch.


As the profile becomes higher, so does the pitch. Low pitch sounds blend with the music. High pitch sounds are more cutting and better for louder playing. Higher Profile = Higher Pitch, Brighter Response, and Increased Cut.


Larger cymbals generally have more volume, longer sustain and slower response than smaller cymbals. Bigger Cymbals = Increased Volume, Longer Sustain, and Bigger Sound.

What style of music do you play? Do you know what cymbals and sounds you want? The choice can be overwhelming for even experienced drummers – let alone a novice buyer! With so many models and styles available, buying the right cymbal for your playing style is important.

For example, a very thin cymbal sounds great when tapped with a finger or played lightly with a stick in-store, because thinner cymbals respond easily. But if you’re a metalhead who likes to thrash hard on your cymbals, it may not be strong enough to survive. Medium weight models may be a good starting point. From there you can move up or down in weight until you find a suitable sound.

In short, consider where and how you’ll be playing your new cymbal, and test it in the shop the same way you will be playing it live.


  • Set the cymbal on a stand and angle it as you would in your set-up. Then sit and play it as you normally would. This will reveal how it feels and how much sound you’ll hear from a playing position.

  • Put yourself in the same frame of mind as when you’re playing with your band and play at similar volumes, both as light and as loud as you would normally.

  • Listen for where the sound kicks in or out. Some cymbals perform best within certain volume ranges.

  • If the store allows, you may want to consider bringing your other cymbals along to test it in your set-up.

  • Have the salesperson or a friend play the cymbal while you walk around the store. Does it project? Is it musical enough? Is it too loud? Not loud enough?

  • Use your own drumsticks.

  • The drum specialist at your music store can be a good source of information, and so can other, more experienced customers – don’t be shy, ask questions and get opinions.

Remember, if you’re a heavy hitter and like to play loud, choose bigger, heavier cymbals. Not only do they put out more volume, they’re more durable and less likely to break. Smaller, thinner models are best for low-to mid-volume playing, because thin crashes are not durable or loud enough to play as a main crash in high-volume situations. Lastly, heavier rides and hi-hats will give you more definite sticking, for cleaner, clearer, penetrating strokes.

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