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  Why do they sound different? What is the difference between cast and non-cast cymbals?

Basic set up

The basic setup for any drummer consists of three cymbals of different types; a crash cymbal for highlighting or punctuating the music, a ride cymbal for keeping time in certain parts of the song e.g. a chorus, plus the hi hat. This is also used for keeping time e.g. in a verse. All drummers will need at least these three types if they are to play successfully.

Special effect cymbals

In addition to the three basic types there are large number of cymbals designed for special sounds. These include types known as splash, china, swish and pang, plus others. Cymbal manufacturers will be only too pleased to send you their leaflets or catalogue which will tell you about the many different sizes, weights and finishes available, and will describe the very different sounds these factors produce.

Cast and non-cast cymbals

One important distinction you'll find between cymbals are those which are cast and those which are non-cast. The basic difference is that the former are individually cast in moulds whereas non-cast cymbals are cut from metal sheets. The other main difference is in the bronze alloy used. To take Zildjian as an example, a cast cymbal uses 80% copper, 20% tin and a little silver whereas a non- cast cymbal has 92% copper and only 8% tin. Other manufacturers will use different proportions of the two metals to produce their alloys. Cast cymbals being individually made take much longer to make and are generally regarded as superior, though of course more expensive! The sound of both types can also be affected by the amount of 'finishing' carried out. For example the buffing process used on some cymbals smoothes out the lathed tonal grooves and produces a slightly 'warmer' sound.

Cost against durability

The cost of a cast cymbal can be outweighed by the fact that you are buying a top quality instrument that should last longer than you!! I still have a K Zildjian crash cymbal that belonged to my drum teacher. I had this cymbal when I first started drumming aged 10 years old. It has the word 'Constantinople' written on it and I know that it was made before 1929, exactly how old it is though, I am not certain. However, it still sounds wonderful, even after many years! If you can't afford brand new, there are many good second-hand cymbals on the market, also great value budget packs, so go and check them out!

Some other useful sources of information

The Cymbal book by Hugo Pinksterboer - available from Rimshot Publications (Tel/Fax +44(0)1642 596 661). This is one of the most amazing books I have ever read on the subject and I highly recommended you buy it, read and learn.

The Zildjain Web site ( contains masses of information about the different types of cymbals and many other cymbal matters.



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