Choosing cymbals is a very personal experience that involves many variables. How, what and where you play will need to be considered. Plus, when you’re picking from an assortment of individually handcrafted cymbals, the process can become a little confusing since no two cymbals sound exactly alike.
Regardless of the names, types or brands that may be stamped on them, the most important factors in cymbal selection are your ears. It all comes down to how the cymbals sound to you and how well-suited they are for your music. One general rule is that whatever sounds right, is right.
When you’re ready to pick your cymbals— whether you need just one or a whole cymbal set— find a store that has a good assortment and an isolated sound room. Here are a few more selection tips:
Bring your current cymbals. They can be useful as a reference point to compare the new ones.
Bring your regular sticks. Listen to how the cymbals respond to your own sticks as well as different stick sizes and tip styles, shapes and types. If you’re going to be using brushes, mallets or bundles, try to those, too.
Consider the style of music you play. Choose the types, sizes, weights and finishes that fit the style and frequency spectrum of the music you play. Decide whether the performance factors (pitch, power, durability, tone, etc.) of the cymbals you’re testing will meet your needs.
Try the cymbals on a drumset that’s close to the sound and configuration of your drumset. Let another drummer hit the cymbals so you can hear what they’ll sound like out front, as well.
Know what you want but keep an open mind. Try several cymbals of the same size and model, as well as different sizes and models. Don’t be afraid to try something different whether you’re seeking a cymbal set chosen from cymbals within a single series or a mix-and-match set-up made from a variety of series and tonalities.
Think of your “cymbal set” as you do your drumset. You have a low-pitched bass drum, a high-pitched snare drum and midrange tomtoms. You should create a similar range of tones and pitches with your cymbals. While some drummers choose cymbals from just one line, many modern players choose from multiple lines so that their cymbals contrast and complement each other and so their cymbal set covers the complete spectrum of sounds.
A Final Check-List
- Check the articulation and wash of the face, bell and edge on Rides and Crash-Rides.
- Are the Hi-Hats crisp when played closed yet explosive as you open them? Is there a good “chick” when played with the foot?
- Listen for the initial explosion of the Crashes as well as the tone quality, frequency and length of the decay.
- Make sure the Chinas, Splashes and Effects cymbals have the characteristic sounds you’re looking for.
- Does the Cymbal Set have a balance/blend/contrast that will fit the style of music you play?