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How Do I Choose the Best Rock Cymbals?

A. Leverkuhn
A. Leverkuhn

Drummers who want to choose the best rock cymbals for playing music in the rock or pop genre can look at the quality and materials of cymbal models, as well as the companies that make them, and how they are intended to be used. Cymbals come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and designs. Some will complement the strident beats and assertive nature of rock music better than others.

One big choice for rock cymbals is between various materials. Cymbals are frequently made from certain kinds of metal alloys or mixes of metals. Many of them are copper with an alloyed veneer. Copper and tin alloys are popular, along with alloys of copper and zinc. Other kinds of metals can also be used, but will have varying timbres. Many alloys are classified by the letter B combined with a number, for example, B8 and B20, two common alloys for making these percussion instruments.

Man playing a guitar
Man playing a guitar

Instrumentalists should also think about how to choose specific models for each different kind of cymbal in their drum set. For instance, the double cymbal pair known as a “hi hat” has a much different use than single “crash cymbals” that hang by themselves above drum frames. A stronger alloy may be required for crash cymbals that a drummer will hit harder than the hi hat.

As drummers choose cymbals for their sets, they will often consider what specific styles of cymbals are needed. A smaller splash or china accent cymbal may complement a set with an existing crash cymbal, or a differently toned cymbal might be right for adding to sets with a range of common crash cymbals. Other specialty cymbals offer their own sounds according to how they are built. Although percussion is not usually thought of as a "tonal" part of music, cymbals with a range of tones can give drummers more choices for practice or performance.

The best rock cymbals are durable models that will stand up well to pressure. Inferior cymbals that are made from poor materials or forged improperly can easily fall apart when heavily used. Hard hits on cymbals with the sticks can lead to cracks that seriously affect the instrument's sound quality. The most durable cymbals will stay in one piece for years, and over many performances and practices.

Along with durability, drummers want cymbals with a good timbre. Timbre or sound quality relies on the specific build of cymbal models. Many drummers want crisp, clear sounds with a fairly high register. Drummers who can test cymbals before buying will have a better idea of how these percussion elements sound in order to choose the best rock cymbals to complement their existing drum set.

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Discussion Comments


The best way to pick a cymbal? Study what some of your favorite drummers use and choose your cymbals accordingly.

That's sort of like choosing a guitar, but its much easier in the case of drummers. Let's say someone was heavily influenced by Johnny Ramone and wanted to pick up a Mosrite Ventures II guitar and Marshall amp for that "authentic" Ramones sound. Grabbing a Marshall amp is easy enough, but finding an authentic Mosrite is difficult and expensive and modifying it to meet Johnny's specs would be even more difficult.

You just don't find that level of customization -- and rarity -- when it comes to cymbals.

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