More Really Geeky Stuff About Cymbals...

Cymbal Characteristics
Cymbal Type is the first thing to look at when choosing a new cymbal. Most often the type of cymbal that you need will be defined by what you actually want it to do, so in many cases the cymbal type will be obvious. However, once you've selected the type of cymbal you want, you will be confronted with a huge range of choices from a number of different manufacturers. Budget constraints might narrow things down further, but beyond this a basic understanding of a cymbal's characteristics and the effects that they have on its sound can be extremely useful.

To help us understand this, the diagram below shows the 'anatomy' of a generic Turkish style cymbal:

After type, size is the most common way of classifying cymbals. All other things being equal, a larger cymbal has a lower pitch than a smaller cymbal.

For any given diameter, a cymbal's weight is determined by its thickness. Thicker (and therefore heavier) cymbals are more rigid and consequently vibrate more quickly, making them higher in pitch. Conversely, thinner (and therefore lighter) cymbals vibrate more slowly, making them lower in pitch.

The Bell
The larger the bell, the smaller the size of the bow in relation to the cymbal's diameter. This makes the core tone of the cymbal more pronounced and reduces the amount of wash, as well as raising the pitch of the cymbal. Conversely, the smaller the bell, the greater the size of the bow in relation to the cymbal's diameter. This reduces the presence of the core tone, increasing the wash, as well as lowering the pitch of the cymbal.

The Bow
The greater the bow height, the greater the curvature of the cymbal. This has the effect of making the cymbal more rigid, which in turn causes it to vibrate more quickly, therefore emphasising the higher frequencies. Conversely, the smaller the bow height, the flatter the cymbal. This makes it less rigid, which causes the cymbal to vibrate more slowly, emphasising the lower frequencies.

The Finish
Once the raw cymbal has been cast, its tonal characteristics are further refined by the finishing process. At this stage the surface of the cymbal is lathed, hammered or most often a combination of both in order to create the final desired form and 'tune' its sound.

Hammering affects the shape of the cymbal and sets the surface of the cymbal in tension. If the hammering pattern is uniform it creates a smoother sound. If the hammering pattern is more random, it creates a rougher sound.

Lathing affects the thickness (and consequently weight) of the cymbal and directly contributes to the pitch of the finished cymbal. In addition, lathing patterns with a wide groove create a sound with more spread, whereas a lathing patterns with a narrow groove create a more focused sound.

As you can see, there are many different parameters that constitute the final overall sound of a cymbal, which makes the art of cymbal making a fascinating, if not highly complex process.