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Cymbal 101



Learn how to narrow down the search

Zildjian Cymbal Finder

Cymbals come in all kinds of different shapes, sizes, and materials. From bright and shimmery rides to one-of-a-kind crashes, splashes, and hi hats. Learn what each cymbal type accomplishes and how different features affect your sound.


Sift through the catalog with our filters to find that perfect cymbal.


  1. FX Family FX Raw Crashes
  2. I Family I Crashes
  3. I Family I HiHats
  4. I Family I Crash Rides
  5. A Orchestral A Zildjian Classic Orchestral Selection – Medium, Pairs
  6. K Orchestral K Constantinople Medium Light – Pairs
  7. K Orchestral K Constantinople Special Selection Medium Heavy – Pairs
  8. K Orchestral K Symphonic Light, Brilliant – Pairs
  9. S Family S HiHats
  10. A Family A Zildjian Crash Rides

Zildjian Cymbal Types

Cymbals generally fall into one of the six following categories: Ride, Crash, Hi-hat, Splash, China, or FX. Whether it be maintaining groove or adding accents and dynamics, knowing what each cymbal type does is a great place to start your search. Here is our breakdown of Zildjian's different cymbal types.


  • Ride Cymbals: The ride cymbal is the largest and heaviest cymbal on the drum set. We use it to play “over-riding” patterns within grooves. It has a bigger and darker sound with more stick definition than a crash cymbal. Ride cymbals vary in sizes, but typically range from 19-24”. The most popular sizes fall between 20-22”.
  • Crash Cymbals: The “crash” cymbal – a term coined by Avedis Zildjian III – is a thin and light weight cymbal that creates an explosive bright sound with a quick decay. There are many models of crash cymbals, ranging from thick and heavy to thin and light. The most popular crash cymbals typically range between 16-18”.
  • Hi-Hat Cymbals:  Hi-Hats cymbals are the primary timekeeping tool behind the kit. Hi-Hat cymbals come in pairs and are mounted to a foot-controlled stand that is used to push the cymbals together. Zildjian offers a range of diameters that are available to be purchased both together or individually.
  • Splash Cymbals: Splash cymbals range between 4-13" in diameter and make a quick and accented sound. As the name suggest, these cymbals are used to create a splash like sound that is great for articulating notes and adding sonic diversity.
  • China Cymbals: China-type cymbals are a distinct type of crash cymbal known for their unique shape. Designed to create an expressive and explosive sound, Chinas produce a bright and crisp tone. 
  • FX Cymbals: “Effects” cymbals are unique and alternative cymbals that offer other distinct sounds. Beyond the basic cymbal types, FX cymbals offer a world of specialty sounds that can help complete your setup. Some popular options include stacks, bells, and trash crashes.
  • Cymbal Packs: Zildjian sells a number of our cymbal types in a pack for a quick and cost-effective purchase option for your drum kit. Cymbal packs are a great option for a new drummer looking for their first set.

The Anatomy of a Cymbal

Beyond the different categories, cymbals can range dramatically based upon some key attributes. Profile, Taper, Bell, Ride Area, Crash Area, Diameter, Weight, Type of Hammering, and Tonal Groves all add up to change the characteristics and sound profile of a cymbal. Here is how these different characteristics change how the cymbal feels and sounds.


Profile: The profile of a cymbal is the degree of curvature from the cup to the edge. The profile or "bow" of a cymbal affects its pitch and overtones. Higher profile cymbals will be higher in pitch and have fewer overtones. Flatter design cymbals will be lower in pitch and have more overtones.

Taper: Taper is the degree to which the cymbal changes in thickness from the cup to the edge. The design of the taper will contribute to the amount of Crash-like or Ride-like qualities in the cymbal. Medium-Thin Rides have the most extreme taper, being thick at the cup and thin at the edge.

Bell: All other factors being equal, the bell or cup size determines the amount of overtones or ring projected by a cymbal. A larger bell produces more overtones and a longer full-bodied sound. A smaller bell reduces ring and sustain and provides a more defined stick sound for riding.

Ride Area: The ride area is the center portion of the cymbal. This area does not open up immediately when struck, making it effective for pronounced stick tones and patterns.

Crash Area: The crash area is the outer edge of the cymbal where a cymbal responds immediately. This is the area where most players strike to produce an instant Crash response.

Diameter: The size of a cymbal determines its volume. Larger cymbals are louder with greater volume potential. They will sustain longer but respond more slowly and have a lower pitch. Smaller cymbals will react more quickly, will decay faster, and have a higher pitch.

Weight: Heavier cymbals have a higher pitch. The more metal in a cymbal, the more it projects, the louder its volume is, and the greater the sustain is. Heavier cymbals have a more prominent "ping" with fewer overtones and take longer to reach their optimum vibration. Lighter cymbals provide less stick definition, speak quicker and have less sustain.

Hammering: Random hammering applies irregular hammer strikes all over the cymbal surface. This lowers the profile and pitch, reduces and darkens overtones, adds dryness, and increases the amount of warmth and body in its sound. Symmetrical hammering applies hammering strikes in organized patterns over the surface of the cymbal. This heightens the profile of the cymbal, raises its pitch and increases the brightness and overall color of its sound. Over-hammered cymbals receive additional hammer strikes after they are lathed. This further reduces overtones, adds dryness, and shortens decay.

Tonal Grooves: This is applied during the final lathing stage. They facilitate the escape of sound energy from the cymbal. Larger, deeper tonal grooves open up the cymbal sound. Fine, shallow grooves "sweeten" the sound. Cymbals with no tonal grooves (unlathed) have fewer overtones as some of the sound is "trapped", enhancing Ride qualities.