Types of Drum Cymbals

Cymbals come in a variety of sizes and shapes to enhance a performance.

Drummers have several cymbal options when setting up their drum sets. Knowing the types of cymbals available and their uses is essential knowledge for any drummer who is serious about performing. Each cymbal has a distinct sound and purpose within the ensemble. The ability to quickly decide which cymbal is best-suited for a particular venue will allow a drummer to be more competent and professional.


The hi-hat is the most commonly used set of cymbals in a drum set. It ranges in size from 13 to 14 in. in length and comes in groups of two. Hi-hats sit on top of each other on a special rod that allows the cymbal to be open and closed. When open, the top and bottom cymbals are separated from each other; when closed they sit together.

Ride Cymbal

The ride cymbal is often used to keep time in the ensemble. It ranges from 18 to 24 in. in length and is typically the largest cymbal in the set. Performers will often strike this cymbal repeatedly in tempo to create a strong driving rhythm within the music. The thicker the cymbal is, the louder the attack will be. Drummers will choose the type of ride cymbal based on the goals of the ensemble.

Crash Cymbal

Crash cymbals, in conjunction with the bass drum, add an element of drama to the composition. The crash cymbal is 14 to 19 in. in length and accents important parts of a rhythm. Though not as commonly used as the hi-hat and ride cymbal, it is still an essential cymbal in the drummer’s arsenal.

Splash Cymbal

Splash cymbals are the smallest cymbals at 6 to 12 in. in length. In smaller settings, the splash cymbal may replace the crash cymbal. Splash cymbals will often play in combination with snare drum hits. Characteristically, splash cymbals have a higher pitch than a traditional crash cymbal. They also have a shorter sustaining period and are not as loud as crash cymbals.

China Cymbal

China cymbals have a bright sound and are between 12 to 22 in. in length. They have a rounded shape on the edges and a higher mound in the center of the cymbal. These cymbals are very penetrating and can cut through almost any ensemble. The center curves in a way that makes these cymbals resemble a hat.


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