The fundamental characteristics of a cymbal’s sound and performance (including pitch, power, tone, definition, sustain and durability) are primarily determined by its size and weight. In fact, until terms like Ride, Crash, Hi-Hat and Splash were introduced in the 1940’s and 50’s, “size” and “weight” were pretty much the only descriptions applied to cymbals. This glossary includes definitions of commonly used cymbal terms and factors that can influence or modify a cymbal’s performance characteristics.
Bell – The raised area in the center; also called the cup or dome. Cymbals with larger bells have a more controlled frequency range and shorter sustain.
Profile – The cymbal’s curvature and height. A cymbal (such as a crash) with a higher profile will be “wetter” and higher in pitch while one with a lower profile (such as a ride) will be “drier” and lower in pitch.
Diameter (Size) – Larger cymbals are generally louder, lower in pitch and sustain longer than smaller ones.
Taper – Taper is the change in thickness from the edge to the bell. Cymbals with a gradual taper are faster and more explosive than those with a uniform thickness.
B20 – B20 Bronze (80% copper with 20% tin) is the formula that is preferred by most cymbal makers and professional drummers. Other formulations, from B24 (used for gongs) to B12, B10 and B8 (used for cymbals), also exist.
Finish Types – Regular hammering patterns produce a more focused sound. Irregular hammering produces a darker sound. Deep hammering creates a drier sound. Lathing creates tonal grooves for a fuller sound. A Natural finish produces a darker, drier tone. A Brilliant finish increases the brightness and wash.
Weight – Thicker, heavier cymbals are higher in pitch with more articulation, projection and durability than thin ones. Thinner, lighter cymbals have a more shimmery quality and speak more quickly.
Cast vs. Sheet – Cast cymbals are each made from a single, individual bronze casting. The process where multiple cymbals are cut from large sheets of metal is called Sheet.