AF’s Weblog

June 4, 2010

The Cymbal Rap for Newbies

The Difference Between Bronze and Brass Cymbals

For simplicity’s sake, there are basically three types and price levels of cymbals: beginner brass, intermediate sheet bronze and professional cast bronze. The brass are usually used only by young beginners and are the least expensive. The sheet bronze cymbals, while most fall in the intermediate price range, are used by beginners and pros, and the cast bronze are priced highest and are usually professional level cymbals.

Cast Bronze Cymbals: The Pro Stuff

A 16" medium thin crash

The professional level and most expensive cast bronze type cymbals are what I will describe first, since some of their attributes also apply to the less expensive sheet bronze and least expensive brass cymbals.

Cast bronze cymbals are made of B20 bronze, an alloy of 20% tin and 80% copper with traces of other elements such as silver. It is a fragile alloy because of the amount of tin. Since it is not strong enough to be formed into sheet metal, each cymbal must be individually poured into a mold, then manufactured which is what makes them more expensive to produce. The liquid molten bronze is poured into molds or casts which produce an ingot disc or “flat” which is then beaten, formed, shaped, lathed and hammered into what we know as a cymbal.

Each cymbal has a raised section in the center called a bell. The cymbal is lathed by holding a knife to the topside and underside of the cymbal which produces a spiraled groove. These grooves and the microscopic ridges inside them produce the high pitch zing that is so characteristic of a cymbal. The cymbal may be left like this or it may be further affected by hammering which makes the overtones of the cymbal even more complex and mysterious sounding.

AA Medium Crash 20"Much of this forming, lathing and hammering is done by computers now in the large cymbal factories but many cymbals are still made the old fashioned way especially by small cymbal factories in Turkey where the modern process of cymbal making started over 400 years ago. The cymbal is usually sprayed with a light coat of lacquer to prevent corrosion and fingerprints. Some models of cymbals are polished with a high speed buffer to produce a brilliant shine. Some of the most expensive models have alternating areas of lathed and unlathed sections, hammered and unhammered sections which produce even more exotic and unusual sounds.

The Zildjian A model cymbal is considered the most popular selling cymbal and is the benchmark of cast cymbals. This cymbal was designed in conjunction with legendary drummer Buddy Rich who liked the cleaner, brighter sound of an unhammered cymbal. This cymbal has no hammer marks but does have the lathed grooves. This is the cymbal heard most often in pop and rock recordings of the last fifty years. The Sabian equivalent is the AA model. The Meinl equivalent is the Soundcaster.  A package set of Zildjian A cymbals costs around $649 for a 20″ ride, 16″ crash and a pair of 14″ hi hats (2009).

ByzanceThe Zildjian K model cymbal actually predates the A model and is more complex sounding because of the hammering marks which give it a more ornate overtone series. The K is more expensive because of this extra hammering step in the manufacturing process. The K is the archetypical cymbal for jazz drumming but has become popular with rock drummers as well. The Sabian equivalent is the HH model. The Meinl equivlent is Byzance. The Paiste equivalent is the Twenty series.

Now let’s take a look at the other types…

To read the full article see:  The Cymbal Rap

1 Comment »

  1. Great article. Anyone looking to buy cymbals should read this first

    Comment by dadmagnet — October 5, 2010 @ 7:01 pm


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