How Do I Choose The Right Cymbals For My Drum Kit?

When it comes to building your dream drum kit, selecting the perfect cymbals is a crucial decision that can greatly impact your overall sound. With an overwhelming array of options available, it’s easy to feel lost in the multitude of choices. However, fear not! In this article, we will provide you with valuable insights and expert recommendations on how to choose the right cymbals for your drum kit, ensuring that your beats resonate with the perfect balance of tone and character. So, grab your drumsticks and let’s embark on a harmonious journey of cymbal exploration!

Factors to Consider

Choosing the right cymbals for your drum kit is an important decision that can greatly impact your overall drumming experience. To make an informed choice, there are several factors you should consider.

Genre of music

First and foremost, consider the genre of music you play or plan on playing. Different genres of music often require different types of cymbals to achieve the desired sound. For example, jazz drummers typically prefer cymbals with a darker and more complex tone, while rock drummers may opt for brighter and louder cymbals that cut through the mix.

Drum kit size

The size of your drum kit plays a significant role in determining the size and number of cymbals you should consider. Larger drum kits with more drums and toms may benefit from larger and more diverse cymbal setups to complement the overall sound. On the other hand, smaller drum kits may require fewer cymbals to avoid overcrowding the setup.

Playing style

Your personal playing style also has a considerable influence on the type of cymbals you should choose. If you play with a lot of power and aggression, you might prefer cymbals that can withstand heavy hitting and produce a loud, cutting sound. On the other hand, if you have a lighter touch and prefer a more nuanced and delicate sound, cymbals with a quick decay and subtle tones may be more suitable.


Of course, your budget is an important consideration when choosing cymbals. Cymbals can vary greatly in price, and it’s essential to find a balance between quality and affordability. While high-end cymbals from renowned brands tend to offer exceptional sound and durability, there are also budget-friendly options available that can deliver impressive performance without breaking the bank.

Cymbal types

There are several types of cymbals to choose from, each with its unique characteristics and purpose. Understanding the different types can help you make an informed decision based on your preferences and needs.

Cymbal Types

Ride cymbals

Ride cymbals are the largest and most versatile cymbals in a drum kit. They typically produce a clear, pingy sound and are often used to maintain a steady rhythm and provide a solid foundation for a song. Ride cymbals can vary in size and thickness, giving you the flexibility to choose a ride cymbal that suits your desired sound and playing style.

Crash cymbals

Crash cymbals are responsible for adding impact and intensity to a drum fill or climax of a song. They are typically available in various sizes and thicknesses, allowing you to find a crash cymbal that produces the desired explosive sound. Crash cymbals can range from bright and cutting to dark and trashy, depending on your preferences and the genre of music you play.

Hi-hat cymbals

Hi-hat cymbals consist of two cymbals that are mounted on a stand and played together using a foot pedal. They are a crucial component of any drum set, providing the rhythmic foundation and adding a dynamic and expressive element to your playing. Hi-hat cymbals come in different sizes and weights, allowing you to achieve a range of sounds from tight and crisp to loose and washy.

Splash cymbals

Splash cymbals are small, thin cymbals that deliver a quick and shimmering sound. They are often used for quick accents and accents in drum fills. Splash cymbals can be a great addition to your cymbal setup if you want to add a touch of brightness and sparkle to your playing.

China cymbals

China cymbals are recognizable for their unique shape and distinctive sound. They produce a trashy and oriental sound that is often used to add a dramatic and exotic flavor to drumming. China cymbals come in various sizes and thicknesses, allowing drummers to achieve different degrees of darkness and sustain.

Effects cymbals

Effects cymbals are a category that encompasses a wide range of unconventional cymbals that produce unique and non-traditional sounds. They can include cymbals with rivets, stacked cymbals, or cymbals with added holes or notches for altered sound characteristics. Effects cymbals can be a fun addition to your cymbal setup, allowing you to experiment and explore new sonic territories.

Cymbal Sizes

The size of a cymbal can greatly impact its sound, projection, and versatility. Understanding the different sizes available can help you make an informed decision when choosing the right cymbals for your drum kit.

Ride cymbal size

Ride cymbals are available in a range of sizes, typically ranging from 20 inches to 24 inches in diameter. Larger ride cymbals tend to produce a fuller and more sustained sound, making them suitable for rock and larger drum setups. Smaller ride cymbals, on the other hand, are often more responsive and offer a quicker decay, making them ideal for jazz and smaller setups.

Crash cymbal size

Crash cymbals also come in various sizes, ranging from 14 inches to 22 inches or more. Smaller crash cymbals tend to have a quicker attack and decay, making them well-suited for fast and explosive accents. Larger crash cymbals offer a longer sustain and a more powerful sound, making them suitable for rock and other genres that require a bold and cutting crash sound.

Hi-hat cymbal size

Hi-hat cymbals are typically available in 13 inches to 15 inches sizes. Smaller hi-hat cymbals produce a tighter and more articulate sound, offering a clear “chick” sound when played with the foot pedal. Larger hi-hat cymbals provide a fatter and more pronounced sound, offering a wider range of tonal possibilities.

Cymbal Materials

the material from which a cymbal is made can significantly influence its sound, durability, and price. Familiarizing yourself with the different materials available can help you make an informed decision when selecting cymbals for your drum kit.


Bronze is the most common material used in cymbal manufacturing. It is an alloy consisting primarily of copper and tin and is renowned for its desirable sonic characteristics. Bronze cymbals offer a balance of warmth, richness, and versatility, making them suitable for various genres and playing styles.

B20 bronze alloy

B20 bronze alloy is a specific type of bronze used in high-end cymbal production by renowned brands. It consists of 80% copper and 20% tin, offering a unique blend of tonal properties. B20 bronze cymbals are known for their complexity, depth, and rich overtones, making them highly sought after by professional drummers.

B8 bronze alloy

B8 bronze alloy is another commonly used material in cymbal production. It is made up of 92% copper and 8% tin, resulting in a brighter and more focused sound compared to B20 bronze. B8 bronze cymbals are often more affordable than their B20 counterparts, making them a popular choice for intermediate and budget-conscious drummers.


Brass is another material used in cymbal manufacturing, especially for entry-level and beginner cymbals. Cymbals made from brass tend to be more affordable but generally offer a lower-quality sound compared to bronze cymbals. Brass cymbals are often utilized in educational settings or as a temporary solution until a drummer can upgrade to higher-quality cymbals.

Sheet metal

Some cymbals, particularly those used for effects or custom purposes, are made from sheet metal. Sheet metal cymbals are usually handcrafted and can offer unique and experimental sounds. However, they are more susceptible to damage and are often less durable than cymbals made from bronze alloys.

Cast bronze

Cast bronze cymbals are made by pouring molten bronze into a mold, resulting in a more controlled sound and consistent quality. This manufacturing method allows for shaping the cymbal’s profile and thickness with precision, offering enhanced playability and tonal characteristics. Cast bronze cymbals are typically found in higher-end cymbal lines.

Cymbal Brands

With numerous cymbal brands available on the market, it can be overwhelming to choose the right one for your drum kit. However, several brands have established themselves as industry leaders, offering a wide range of cymbals to suit various preferences and budgets.


Zildjian is one of the most well-known and respected cymbal manufacturers in the world. With a legacy spanning centuries, Zildjian cymbals are renowned for their versatility, sonic excellence, and durability. From bright and cutting to warm and dark, Zildjian offers a diverse range of cymbals suitable for all genres and playing styles.


Sabian is another prominent cymbal brand that has gained a strong presence in the drumming community. Known for their innovative designs and dedication to craftsmanship, Sabian cymbals cover a broad spectrum of sounds. Whether you’re looking for traditional cymbals, modern options, or unique effects cymbals, Sabian offers a wide selection to choose from.


Meinl is a German cymbal brand that has gained popularity for its commitment to quality and innovation. Meinl cymbals are known for their distinct and rich sounds, often drawing inspiration from various musical traditions around the world. With their extensive range of cymbals, Meinl caters to drummers across different genres and styles.


Paiste has been a leading cymbal manufacturer for decades, known for their dedication to precise craftsmanship and tonal innovation. Paiste cymbals offer a wide range of sounds, from bright and cutting to dark and complex. Renowned drummers from various genres trust Paiste for its consistent quality and versatility.

Istanbul Agop

Istanbul Agop is a Turkish cymbal brand that has gained a reputation for producing handmade cymbals of exceptional quality. Using traditional manufacturing methods passed down through generations, Istanbul Agop cymbals offer a unique and vintage-inspired sound. Drummers seeking a vintage tonal character and artisanal craftsmanship often gravitate towards Istanbul Agop cymbals.

Cymbal Sounds

Understanding the different sound characteristics of cymbals can help you choose the right ones for your desired musical expression. Here are some common sound descriptors to consider:


Bright cymbals have a higher pitch and shimmering quality, often cutting through the mix with clarity and precision. They offer a crisp and articulate sound, making them suitable for genres that require a distinct and penetrating sound.


Dark cymbals have a lower pitch and a rich, warm tone. They often provide a more complex and textured sound, blending well with various musical styles. Dark cymbals can add depth and character to your playing, particularly in jazz and fusion genres.


Dry cymbals produce a short and focused sound, with a quick decay and minimal sustain. They offer a controlled and articulate sound, making them popular for genres that require precision and definition, such as funk and Latin music.


Washy cymbals produce a more washy and washy sound, with a longer sustain and a broader tonal spectrum. They offer a lush and shimmering quality, providing a sense of depth and ambiance to your playing. Washy cymbals are often preferred in genres that require a more atmospheric and textural sound, such as post-rock or ambient music.


Sustaining cymbals have a long-lasting sustain, with pronounced overtones and a full-bodied sound. They can add sustain and power to your drumming, making them suitable for genres that require a strong and impactful sound, such as rock or metal.

Shopping Tips

When shopping for cymbals, it’s essential to take your time and consider a few key factors. Here are some tips to help you make the best possible choice.

Test before buying

Whenever possible, try out the cymbals before making a purchase. Visit a local music store or attend drumming expos where you can listen and play different cymbals. Testing cymbals in person will give you a better idea of their sound, feel, and responsiveness, helping you choose the ones that best suit your preferences.

Consider the set

If you’re purchasing cymbals individually, take into account the cymbals you already own or plan to purchase in the future. Consider how the new cymbals will fit into your existing cymbal setup and how they will complement each other. Aim for a balanced and cohesive sound by choosing cymbals that work harmoniously together.

Compare and explore

Don’t limit yourself to a single brand or model. Use the opportunity to explore different options and compare the sounds and characteristics of various cymbals. Take note of the unique qualities of each cymbal and how they align with your preferences and playing style.

Read reviews

Before making a purchase, spend some time researching online and reading reviews from other drummers. Pay attention to feedback regarding durability, sound quality, and value for money. Reviews can provide valuable insights and help you make a more informed decision.

Ask for expert advice

If you’re unsure or overwhelmed by the vast selection of cymbals available, don’t hesitate to seek advice from drumming professionals or experienced drummers in your community. They can offer personal recommendations based on their own experiences and guide you towards cymbals that will best meet your needs.

Cymbal Maintenance

Once you’ve chosen the right cymbals for your drum kit, proper maintenance is crucial to ensure their longevity and optimal performance. Here are some essential maintenance practices to keep in mind.


Regular cleaning is essential to remove dirt, grime, and stick marks from your cymbals. Use a cymbal cleaning product specifically designed for the purpose, as using abrasive materials or harsh chemicals can damage the cymbal’s surface. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and be gentle when cleaning to avoid unnecessary wear or scratching.

Proper handling

When handling your cymbals, be mindful to avoid dropping or mishandling them. Cymbals, especially larger and heavier ones, are fragile and can crack or break if mishandled. Use padded gloves or cymbal protectors when necessary to minimize the risk of damage.


When not in use, store your cymbals properly to protect them from dust, moisture, and accidental damage. Use covers or bags designed for cymbal storage to shield them from potential harm. Additionally, consider using cymbal sleeves or dividers to prevent them from scratching against each other.

Avoiding damage

Avoid playing your cymbals excessively hard or with improper technique, as this can lead to premature cracking or warping. Develop good stick control and technique to minimize the stress applied to the cymbals during playing. Additionally, avoid exposing your cymbals to extreme temperatures or rapid changes in temperature, as this can cause warping or damage to the metal.

Regular inspections

Periodically inspect your cymbals for any signs of wear, cracks, or other damage. Catching potential issues early can help prevent further damage and ensure the longevity of your cymbals. If you notice any abnormalities, consider having your cymbals inspected by a professional to determine if repairs or replacement is necessary.

Cymbal Accessories

Alongside your cymbals, there are several accessories that can enhance your playing experience and protect your investment. Here are a few commonly used cymbal accessories to consider.

Cymbal stands

Investing in sturdy and adjustable cymbal stands is essential for proper positioning and stability. Look for stands that offer height adjustment, boom arms for versatile cymbal placement, and robust construction to withstand the rigors of regular use.

Felts and sleeves

Cymbal felts and sleeves are small but essential accessories that help protect your cymbals from metal-on-metal contact. Felts are placed between the cymbal and the wing nut on your cymbal stand, while sleeves are inserted over the metal stand where the cymbal rests. These accessories prevent direct contact, reducing the risk of cracks and damage.

Cymbal bags or cases

Cymbal bags or cases are designed to transport and protect your cymbals when not in use. Look for bags or cases with padded dividers to prevent cymbals from scratching against each other during transit. Bags with handles or shoulder straps can provide added convenience when carrying your cymbals to rehearsals, gigs, or performances.

Cymbal cleaning products

Investing in cleaning products specifically designed for cymbals can help keep them looking and sounding their best. There are various cleaning solutions available that remove dirt, stains, and stick marks without causing harm to the cymbal’s surface. Follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer and clean your cymbals regularly to maintain their appearance and sound quality.

Second-hand Cymbals

If you’re on a tight budget or looking for unique cymbals, consider purchasing second-hand cymbals. However, take caution when buying used cymbals to ensure that you’re getting a quality product. Here are a few tips to help you navigate the second-hand market.

Quality check

Inspect second-hand cymbals thoroughly for any signs of damage, cracks, keyholing, or warping. Give them a tap with a drumstick to assess their sound and check for any unusual vibrations. It’s essential to assess the condition carefully to ensure you’re purchasing a cymbal that will still offer good performance and durability.

Look for key factors

When purchasing second-hand cymbals, consider factors such as brand reputation, cymbal type, and condition. Well-known cymbal brands often maintain their value and are more likely to offer reliable performance. Additionally, consider your needs and preferences in terms of cymbal type and size.

Price comparison

Research the current market prices for the specific cymbals you’re interested in to ensure you’re getting a fair deal. Compare prices from various sellers and take into account factors such as the condition of the cymbal, age, and any additional accessories included in the purchase.

Seller reputation

When buying second-hand cymbals, try to purchase from reputable sellers or platforms that offer buyer protection. Check the seller’s reputation through reviews or feedback from previous customers. If possible, try to buy from sellers who allow trial periods or offer return policies in case the cymbals don’t meet your expectations.

Trial before purchasing

Whenever possible, try the second-hand cymbals before finalizing the purchase. Listen to the cymbals in person to assess their sound and playability. If you’re buying online and cannot try them beforehand, ask the seller for sound samples or information about the cymbal’s sound characteristics to make a more informed decision.

Choosing the right cymbals for your drum kit ultimately comes down to your individual preferences, playing style, and budget. By considering factors such as genre, drum kit size, playing style, and cymbal types, you can narrow down your options and find the cymbals that best suit your needs. Remember to take your time, test different cymbals, and seek expert advice if needed. With a thoughtful selection and proper maintenance, your cymbals can enhance your drumming experience and help you achieve the desired sound and expression. Happy drumming!