A cymbal is a percussion instrument made from metal alloys, which creates a sound when hit by a drumstick or crashes against another cymbal.

Cymbals have been used since ancient times, and they play quite a big role in the overall sound of a drum set.

Dig into our brief introduction to cymbals, where we will give you a glimpse into the history of cymbals, their types, and the sound they bring.

History of cymbals

Cymbals can be traced back to ancient China, India and Turkey, where they were used in military and religious ceremonies.

Cymbals were added to European orchestras during the 1600s, replacing kettledrums as the preferred percussion instrument.

Since the 19th century, they started having more significant roles in musical works, and various cymbal shapes,hardware and cymbal playing techniques have been developed.

Types of cymbals

Cymbals come in many different shapes and sizes, and each type has its unique sound.

These are the major types of cymbals:

  • Crash
  • Hi-Hat
  • Ride
  • Splash
  • China

The basic drum kit includes one hi-hat, two crash cymbals, and a ride cymbal, but you can add more to your set.


Stand-alone cymbal with a loud, high-pitched, explosive sound.

They serve the purpose of accenting notes while hi hat and ride are knows as “beat keeping cymbals”.


Hi-hat cymbals are two matching pairs of cymbals facing each other, producing a high-pitched sound.

They are placed together on a stand facing each other from the bottoms, and you can close them with a pedal.


Ride cymbals are usually the largest in the drum kit, and they have a medium-high pitched sound.

They are used for maintaining a steady rhythmic pattern, known as the “ride pattern.”


They are the smallest cymbals in the kit with a loud, sharp, short-lived sound.

Splash cymbals help drummers to add accents to their riffs and solos.


They are a distinct type of crash cymbals with an explosive and low-pitched sound.

They are usually mounted upside down on cymbal stands.

Sound of cymbals

Different types of cymbals have different sounds.

Generally speaking, the sound of cymbals can be characterized as either dark or bright.

Bright cymbals have a higher pitch and clearer sound than dark cymbals, and they are primarily used in rock and pop music.

Dark cymbals have a deep sound with a low pitch, and they are commonly heard in jazz music.

However, some cymbals have a balanced sound, and they stand somewhere between dark and bright ones.

Besides the shape and material of cymbals, dirt can also influence sound.

If your cymbal is clean, it will have a brighter sound.


Cymbals are a popular percussion instrument used since ancient times, which has a significant role in every drum set nowadays.

There are different types of cymbals, such as crash, hi-hat, ride, splash, and china cymbal, and each brings a unique sound.

We hope this article has helped you understand what cymbals are and, more importantly, how they contribute to the overall sound of a drum set.