How to Choose the Proper Effects Cymbals

If you want to add a unique splash of sound and personality to your percussion mix, you might think about exploring effects cymbals. There are many unique designs and compositions available from almost every maker, so the options are virtually endless.

Cymbals are generally made from four copper-based alloys: bell bronze, malleable bronze, brass, and nickel silver. Changing the metals used to make a cymbal is one way to profoundly change its sound. Because sound travels in two directions on most cymbals—both in concentric circles, as well as from the bell edge to the back—altering the way sound travels on a cymbal is the other way to change its sound. Possibilities include adding holes, bumps, or grooves, or changing its size and shape.


Larger cymbals are generally slower to respond, sustain longer, and have a lower pitch, but most importantly, increased size means more volume. Likewise, the thinner (lighter) a cymbal is, the higher its pitch will be. The taper (change in thickness from the cup to the edge) determines crash or ride-like qualities.

A larger bell means more overtones and longer, full-bodied sounds and lower pitch, while a smaller bell has a more defined sound. The profile (bow)—curvature from the cup to the edge—affects pitch and overtones. Higher profiles create a higher pitch, while a flatter design creates a lower pitch with more overtones.

Hammering a cymbal adds richness to the sound. There is an infinite number of ways to vary the dimpling on a cymbal’s surface with hammerheads. Some makers swear by hand-hammering for the rich, deep, tone it produces. Sound traveling through random (or unorganized) hammer marks creates overtones and a dark, warm sound.

Others say that hammering with computer-controlled machinery is better because it creates more consistent sounding cymbals. Symmetric hammering creates a high, bright, cutting sound as vibrations travel more easily.

Further sonic options can be achieved through lathing—cutting concentric ringed grooves in the surface. Large, deep grooves open up sound, while fine, shallow grooves sweeten the sound. When metal is removed from a cymbal, creating holes or channels, sound wave travel is diverted, adding complexity to overtones and vibrato.

Ultimately, the tools you need to choose the right cymbal to add to your arsenal are your ears and your mind. Though these cymbals add interesting accents, they should be used sparingly so they don’t become a noisy distraction to a performance.

HOOP CRASHERCrasher_Sonor_Snare

This dual ring effects cymbal is created from a set of premium B20 bronze hi-hats. The top flotation ring has 32 holes punched into it for lightness and lift and the bottom ring is heavier. It can be placed on a snare loose or tightened down. The adjustable tension clamps allow it to produce either long or short, tight sounds.

TRY THIS: Sabian Jojo Mayer Hoop Crasher


Zildjian fx Spiral Stackers allow drummers to create their own unique sounds and colors by stacking one on top of any cymbal Zildjian-12FXSpiral_14FXTrashformerthat is the same diameter or larger to provide whatever tone, attack, and sustain you’re looking for. For example, the fx Spiral cymbal on top of the uniquely curved Trashformer cymbal creates a quick, dark, trashy tone with solid attack.

TRY THIS: Zildjian 12-inch fx Spiral Stacker on top of a 14-inch fx Trashformer


Paiste’s PSTX Swiss models provide noisy, dirty, trashy sound quality by the use of specific layouts and Paiste-PSTX_Group_blkbgvaried sizes of holes. Swiss Thin Crashes (14-, 16-, or 18-inch) are exotic, warm, and deep, while the 18-inch Swiss Medium Crash is more aggressive. The 10-inch Swiss Splash provides light, airy accents. Swiss Hats (10-, 14-, or 16-inch) evoke the hi-hat sound of analog drum machines.

TRY THIS: Paiste PSTX Swiss Cymbals

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