China Cymbal Buying Guide

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China Cymbal Buying Guide

Within a drum kit, a China cymbal is one of a group of cymbals known as effect cymbals. Though they are not used within the normal course of a beat, they can be used to provide accents or high points to a piece of music or contribute to the crescendo within a tune.
Unlike most other cymbals, the sound of the China cymbal does not originate from Turkish cymbal manufacturers, but actually comes from the Chinese gong, which is also the origin of its name.
Closely related to a Crash cymbal, not only does the bell of the China cymbal look a lot like its name sake, but the sound that that cymbal creates is also very close in character to the traditional Chinese instrument.
In popular music the accent sound from a Chinese cymbal is considered very dark and explosive leading to some drummers to regard this type of instrument a 'trash cymbal', a name which has now stuck throughout the industry.

How to Recognise a China Cymbal

The only true way to identify a China cymbal is to strike it and experience the trashy, china sound that will resonate within the instrument.
However, most traditional China cymbals would be characterised by a distinctive bell at the top of the cymbal, which is either cone or cylindrical in shape. Also, look out for an upturned rim, a consistent size through to the edge of the cymbal with little or no tapering, and any raw or unpolished areas usually on the underside of the cymbal.

Choosing the Size of a China Cymbal

The size of the China cymbal is usually dictated by its purpose within the drum kit.
China cymbals can be relatively large compared to some of the other within a drum kit. The most
In general terms, the thicker and larger the cymbal chosen, the deeper sound.
Large heavy China cymbals can be played in the same way a ride cymbal with the most commonly used sizes between 18 to 22". However, a lighter, smaller version of this instrument would be more likely to be used to create a high note special effect much in the same way as a splash cymbal could be played and are often known as China Splash Cymbals

Types of China Cymbal


A traditional China Cymbal will usually carry almost all of the visual characteristics of this type of instrument. The bell of the cymbal will be conical in shape with the classic unfinished look to the underside.


A Novo Cymbal, sometimes mistakenly known as a Nova, is one of the darkest of the China Cymbals. It is full of energetic sound and can be played in a variety of ways to create a full, raw sound. This is ideal for higher volume playing a much trashier sound.

Pang and Swish

Though the China cymbal is based on Chinese origins, the Pang and Swish originated within Zildjian Cymbals in Turkey. The Pang and Swish cymbals have a more mellow tone and traditionally have a much smaller bell than the standard China cymbal. In most Pang and Swish ensembles, the Swish will be riveted or be sold with a sizzler to create the exotic accent that this type of China is so famous for.

China Splash

Most China cymbals under 14" are considered splash cymbals as they produce a high pitch tone that is very similar to the splash. This is usually due to the fact that china cymbals of this size are much thinner and, therefore, produce a much lighter tone.


A Rocktagon cymbal is considered a China cymbal when produced in 16", 18" or 20" diameter. This is a cymbal created exclusively by Canadian cymbal maker Sabian who have created a traditional round cymbal but then cut it to an octagon shape.

How to Play a China Cymbal

The China cymbal has an explosive sound with a large sustain. This means the cymbal can either be left to decay creating a longer resonation than other effect cymbals or it can be choked, whereby the sound is cut off creating a much more instant and direct tone.
Thanks to the upturned rim of the China cymbal, significant damage can be done to either the cymbal or the drumsticks if the cymbal is not struck correctly. By mounting a China Cymbal effectively, it is possible to achieve outstanding volume and effect.
What is used to hit the cymbal will also change the sound created:


Using brushes or a light tapping notion will create a much more jazz effect to the China cymbal. This is an ideal way to create a very original sound that will change the accent of the music and provides access to the bell of the cymbal, creating an even greater range of tones.

Soft Mallet

Using a soft mallet on a China cymbal creates the gong like effect that these cymbals became so famous for. This is a very distinct sound which creates a unique and desirable effect in many situations. By tracing the mallet around the cymbal after it is struck, it is possible to create a greater sustain of tone conjuring up images of oversized gongs being struck at the beginning of films.

Heavy Sticks

When using drum sticks with a large China cymbal the sound created will be much more aggressive and, obviously, a lot louder. The cymbal can be struck by the traditional tip of the drum stick or it can be played with the shoulder or centre of the stick for greater trashy effect. This type of play is more suitable to a rock or metal band when a strong accent is required and may require the cymbal to be mounted upside down for greater volume.

Mounting a China Cymbal

A China cymbal can be mounted either way up depending on the sound required.
When using the china cymbal as a ride, the instrument is traditionally mounted bell up. This is ideal for jazz musicians or drummers looking for a smoother sound.
For a more aggressive effect, the China is can also be mounted bell side down. This makes it possible to strike the curve of the cymbal much harder and create a much heavier sound while avoiding the damage that could be done by striking the up turned rim with such force. This is more beneficial to a rock or metal musician who wants to achieve the greatest volume from his cymbals.
The angle a China cymbal is mounted at will also depend on the effect required. Many drummers will prefer to mount their China cymbal at a 45-degree angle to provide access to a greater area across the surface of the instrument whilst avoiding the very rim when playing with the instrument right side up. Others prefer to mount a China cymbal horizontally to gain the greatest leverage when striking the cymbal for a crash like effect.

Inverted China Cymbals

Recently, inverted China cymbals have also come onto the market. These cymbals have their bell pointing in the opposite direction to the standard China. This enables the cymbal to be mounted bell side up providing access to the greater range of tones available from this shape whilst the rim remains facing down therefore protecting the cymbal and the drumsticks from unnecessary damage.

Find China Cymbals on eBay

China Cymbals can be found on eBay by selecting the Musical Instruments category from the home page. Select the Percussion sub heading under this category and choose the Cymbals option which can be found under this heading. Mark China as the preferred sub-type to see the full variety of instruments currently available.
Alternatively, search for 'China cymbal' from the main menu for a full variety of Cymbals and accessories.


A China cymbal adds a quality of sound and tone to a drum kit that is simply not possible without such an addition. The flexibility in mount and the way it can be played can provide a challenge to the inexperienced drummer. However, with some experimentation and a lot of practice, it can bring a quality to the percussion sound unlike any other.

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