Some Really Geeky Stuff About Cymbals...
The origins of the modern cymbal can be traced back over 3,000 years to China and other parts of Asia. Sometime after the 13th century, through trade links established by the Ottoman empire, the cymbal found its way to Turkey where it would eventually evolve from the Chinese form, with its square bell and flanged edge, to the Turkish form that is most prevalent today.
This is the main way in which cymbals are classified. A cymbal's type, which is most often printed somewhere on tha cymbal itself, will tell you what purpose the manufacturer intends the cymbal to be used for. As a consequence, it should give you a broad idea of the cymbal's main sonic characteristics.
The main cymbal types are described below:
Hi-hats are sold in pairs with the bottom cymbal being heavier than the top one. Most commonly they are produced in 12", 13" or 14" in diameter, although hi-hats of 15" and even 16" are becoming increasingly popular. Hi-hat cymbals are mounted on the hi-hat stand and are played with both the hands using sticks, or the foot, using the hi-hat pedal during which their main function is to state the time.
Most commonly, crash cymbals are made in sizes from 14" to 18" although crash cymbals of up to 22" are available from some manufacturers. When played correctly the main purpose of the these types of cymbals is to create an explosive 'crash' sound which is most often used to punctuate the form of a tune.
Most commonly, ride cymbals are available in sizes ranging from 18" to 22". Like the hi-hats, their primary function is to state the time but some rides also sound great when used as a crash cymbal.
Similar to crashes, splash cymbals are used to punctuate and add colour to a drum part. However, as they are usually much smaller than crashes, with 8", 10" and 12" cymbals being most common, their sound is softer, higher pitched and shorter than crash cymbals.
China cymbals are a different shape to Turkish cymbals. The have a flanged edge and a 'square' bell. Consequently, they have an idiosyncratic, 'trashy' sound and depending on your tastes they can be used to crash or to ride on.
Effects cymbals create specialised, often exotic sounds and as a consequence they come in a diverse range of shapes, sizes, weights and finishes. Sometimes, as in the picture to the left, these types of cymbals come in sets which are stacked on top of one another.