How To Play Cymbals Properly: A Simple Guide for Beginners

By JohnPascuzzi

A lovely little addition to your drum set are cymbals. They enable you to add flavor to your rhythms and even give them personality. The hi-hat, crash, and ride cymbals are the three that are utilized the most frequently.

The cymbals on your drum kits can sound excellent and lessen the likelihood of them cracking early if you hit them the way it is explained in this article.

The Most Common Types Of Symbals

1. Ride Cymbals 

Ride Cymbals
Ride Cymbals

The first ride cymbals were crash cymbals that were hung horizontally to make it simple to retrieve the cymbal’s bow. Drummer Baby Dodds began using sticks to play the cymbal shortly after World War I instead of using wood blocks or drum rims for the same purposes.

Since then, advancements have produced a range of diameters and thicknesses. For instance, Steve Gadd performs an 18-inch ride. Its thickness is on the higher end of the ride cymbal range, but because of its small diameter, less metal resonates when struck. This produces a loud ping without overpowering the dynamics of the ensemble’s other instruments or those on the drum kit.

2. Hi-Hat

The hi-hat as we know it now represents a development in drum equipment. In contrast to the low boys that drummers in early swing bands employed, it is so “high.” Drummers used their feet to play the bass drum, snare drum, and low boy cymbal hats.

Although it is unknown who exactly invented the hi-hat and when, the motivation was straightforward. Drummers also wanted to be able to use their sticks to play the hats.

3. Crash Cymbals

They are not even close to being as old as the art of producing cymbals in the history of crash cymbals. Military-style cymbal playing, in which two cymbals were crashed together to create the sound, is where crash cymbals got their start. On the drum set, they don’t gain popularity until the 1940s.

Zildjian created a thinner cymbal that was suitable for crashing with sticks in response to WWII drummers like Gene Krupa (source). This resulted in the creation of a cymbal that was between the lighter ride cymbal and the paper-thin crash, which we would later refer to as a crash/ride.

4. China Cymbals

China Cymbals
China Cymbals

Chinese cymbals are a trashy crash sound that sounds a lot like Chinese gongs or tams, hence the name of the instrument. They are famous for having an upside-down flange on the outside, which prompts players to mount them on the cymbal stand upside-down most of the time.

These cymbals are available in a variety of sizes, ranging from little (8 to 10 inches) to huge (18 to 20 inches). Similar to how china cymbals come in a range of lathe, hammering, and finishes.

The China crash cymbal is frequently struck with assistance from the kick drum or snare drum, just like other crash cymbal kinds. This does not imply, however, that an unsupported China hit sounds bad. Instead of adhering to a set of unfounded rules, you must make musical decisions that produce your desired effect.

*** Read more: How To Set Up A Drum Set? Step By Step Guide

How Do Ride Cymbals Differ From Crash Cymbals?

Ride cymbals are used differently by drummers than crash cymbals.

How Do Ride Cymbals Differ From Crash Cymbals
How Do Ride Cymbals Differ From Crash Cymbals
  1. Sound: Crash cymbals are thinner and typically significantly smaller in diameter than ride cymbals. They hear a brighter sound from this than from a ride. The crash cymbal will typically be brighter and more treble-focused if it is thinner. Because they nearly entirely lack mid frequencies, some cymbals that are billed as “paper-thin crashes” are quieter to the human ear.
  1. Use: Crash cymbals aren’t used as frequently as ride cymbals because of their louder sound. Particularly in the jazz idiom, several drummers include ride cymbals in their basic patterns. On the other hand, crash cymbals are not intended for to produce grooves. Although their huge resonance and thin design can produce wonderful sounds, they make it difficult to maintain a constant beat. The notes would blend together if you played steady eighth or quarter notes on a crash. Drummers don’t use them to keep time the same way they do with hi-hat and ride cymbals because of this.
  2. Hybrid:  A hybrid cymbal known as a crash/ride cymbal is produced by many drum manufacturers. This distinguishes between the deeper, deader sound of a ride cymbal and the resonant, treble-focused timbre of a thin crash cymbal. When you need to keep your drum kit compact, crash/ride cymbals can be a fantastic option.

*** Read more: Top 12 Easy Songs To Play On Dums For Beginners

How to Play Cymbals

You may get good sound and keep the equipment in good condition with the aid of procedures and high-quality cymbals; also, the method will lessen the likelihood of the cymbal breaking prematurely.

Every drummer should be aware of one thing before I get into further detail about each cymbal and how to play it: where to hit the cymbal.

You would hit them in three places to produce sound:

Edge: Use the drumstick’s shoulder to strike the cymbal’s outside edge.

Bow: The bow of the cymbal is its most important surface, and you would hit it with the drumstick’s tip.

Bell: Some cymbals might not have bells, but if they have, you would strike the bell with the drumstick’s shoulder or tip.

where to hit the cymbal.
where to hit the cymbal

Let’s now go into the specifics of how to play each cymbal.

How Are Ride Cymbals Played?

The ride’s primary location on a drum kit’s right side is for maintaining consistent rhythmic patterns. The drummer’s selections determine certain other components.

When striking the ride cymbal, you should be aware of the following:

Strike stance

You should be mindful of how the stick and ride should be in relation to one another. The ideal placement is where you can reach it, and your stick should be parallel to the ride cymbal’s playing surface.

Strike areas

The majority of the patterns you can play on a bike require the sound to be articulate and clear depending on the type of sound you want to obtain.

Midway: Between the bell’s edge and its center, this zone is the most typical. You can create a clear ride pattern by experimenting with the stick’s tip on this ride cymbal area to uncover the cymbal’s genuine personality.

Play the rife with the tip of the stick closer to the edge if you want to aim for a trashier sound and lower tones. Play the ride closer to the bell for patterns that are brighter and dryer.

You can get drier, more articulate patterns with less wash of overtones if you adjust the stick’s angle until the tip is striking the cymbal from above.


Play the ride with the stick shoulder on the edge of the ride cymbal if you want your ride to explode with a burst of overtones.


The character of the ride will vary depending on the bell’s size, but it will always produce a dry, bright, and articulate sound. This is due to the syncopated nature of most riding patterns.

The tip of the stick, as well as your shoulder, can be used to ring the bell. While the stick tip will make a crisper sound, the stick shoulder will make a louder sound.

*** Read more: The 10 Best Common Drum Beats And How To Practice Them

How Are Crash Cymbals Played?

How Are Crash Cymbals Played
How Are Crash Cymbals Played

Most of the playing on crash cymbals is done on the edge of the crash due to the quick response intones. As a result, crashes must be mounted higher and made to be flatter than the ride cymbal.

Most often, crashes are performed by placing the shoulder or the shaft of a stick against the edge of the cymbal. The secret is to play it on edge so you can create that explosive sound that will provide the desired tones.

You can achieve quieter tones by playing the crash with the tip of the stick, and you can achieve a softer but more resonant sound by hitting the crash with a swipe.

How To Play Hi-Hat

Hi-hats are the drum kit’s most playable cymbal. The bow of the cymbal would be pressed against the tip of a drumstick as you struck the hi-hat.

Hit the edge of the hi-hat with the shoulder of the drumstick to produce louder or more accentuated strokes.

You may generate a trashier sound with this playing style that can readily pierce through any mix.

For instance, drummers who play metal or hard rock frequently use the shoulder of the drumstick to strike close to the edge of the hi-hat.

There are actually three trips for playing hi-hats correctly:

3 trips for playing hi-hats correctly
3 trips for playing hi-hats correctly

Varying according to note length

You may always make the notes seem shorter or longer when playing eight or quarter bites. The tones will be short when you tap the hi-hats with the point of a stick. The notes will be longer if you play hi-hats with the shaft, though.

Turn the pedal from heel to toe.

Play the cymbals with your foot going from heel to toe to open up your hi-hats and create a more intense and open sound.

The foot is turned from side to side.

It will be simpler for you to play the four-quarter notes if you rotate your foot from side to side.

*** Read more: Timpani Ranges: Everything You Need to Know

How Do You Play China Cymbals?

The methods for playing splashes and chinas are the same as those for playing crash cymbals. You would treat them the same way you treat crushes—exactly the same way.

Final Reflections

I believe I have covered all the essential information for a drummer just starting out on the cymbals.

Knowing that more seasoned and skilled drummers often play cymbals with precise dynamics and intention is a great tip, so make sure you pay attention to them while you practice.

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