Crash Cymbal Buying Guide

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Crash Cymbal Buying Guide

Crash cymbals are a type of cymbal used for loud crashing sounds. They are used with drum kits, alongside drums and other cymbals.

About Crash Cymbals

Cymbals are a type of percussion instrument. They are circular in shape and made either from metal sheets or cast from molten metal. The thin circular plates that are formed produce a variety of sounds, from high pitched tings to heavy crashes and soft, reverberating sounds. The sound created depends upon a variety of factors, including the weight or thickness, diameter, and profile of a cymbal as well as its method of manufacture.
Crash cymbals are large cymbals used to generate loud crashing sounds for occasional emphasis. They are usually mounted on a stand to one side of the drum kit, traditionally to the left, and angled for ease of hitting with a drumstick. Some drummers have two or more crash cymbals, and these may be placed variously to either side or sometimes one above the other. Crash cymbals are typically about 14 inches to 16 inches in diameter though smaller and larger diameters are available. Crash cymbals may be very thin, very heavy, or anything between. The edge is always fairly thin.
Crash cymbals that are held in pairs and played by clashing them together are known as clash cymbals. They also create loud crashing, or clashing, sounds. Clash cymbals are frequently found in orchestras and military and marching bands.

Choosing Crash Cymbals

Not all crash cymbals are the same, and there are some more suited to heavy playing, while others give lighter accents. As with all cymbals, a number of factors come into play in determining sound quality as well as a cymbal’s robustness and durability.

Cymbal Anatomy and Sound Generation

To understand how a cymbal creates its individual sound, it is necessary to know a bit about cymbal anatomy. The bow of a cymbal is the flat area that takes up the most surface area. The bell is the raised portion in the centre. The bow is the part that is usually hit, and this creates vibrations, generating sound.
The bow is further divided into areas known as the ride area and the crash area. The ride area is the section adjacent to the bell, which is thicker. The crash area is the section adjacent to the cymbal edge, which is thinner.
Gentle taps on a cymbal creates a more even vibration, generating a resonating bell-like sound, while heavier strikes cause the cymbal to deform more, producing a less even vibration and more noise-like sounds.

Influences on Cymbal Sound

Factors inherent to the cymbal itself that influence its sound include its method of manufacture, size, and shape.

Method of manufacture


Sheet metal or cast metal Sheet metal cymbals are cheaper than cast metal cymbals. Bronze sheet metal cymbals are slightly more expensive, while the cheapest are brass. Sheet metal cymbals are higher pitched and tinnier, while cast metal cymbals have a lower, richer sound.
Lathing Quality of lathing affects how focused the sound is. Cheaper pressed cymbals are not lathed and do not have as distinct a sound.
Hand or machine hammered Hand hammered cymbals often have a lower and warmer sound, but the sound is more variable. Machine hammered cymbals often have a higher and more open sound, and they sound more similar.

Size and shape


Thickness Thicker, heavier cymbals are louder, higher pitched, and more resistant.
Diameter Larger cymbals are louder and lower with more sustain.
Shape Cymbals with a steeper measurement from the bow’s edge to the bell are higher pitched, while flatter cymbals have lower sounds.

Another important factor affecting a cymbal’s sound is its condition. New, clean cymbals have cleaner, crisper sounds. Older cymbals which have been subject to corrosion have duller, flatter sounds. This is an important consideration if purchasing second-hand cymbals, which is often not recommended.

Playing Style

Most drummers use crash cymbals which have a diameter of about 14 inches to 16 inches. Smaller and larger crash cymbals are available ranging from 8 inches to 24 inches or more. Rock and pop bands tend to use thinner crash cymbals. Heavy rock and metal bands tend to use larger and heavier crash cymbals than other genres in order to make higher and louder sounds.
There are a number of crash cymbals recommended for heavier playing. These are often medium to heavy weight cymbals with design elements, such as a larger curve over the bow, that help them to absorb frequent heavy impacts.
Sometimes cymbals are used which are not particularly recommended for that style of playing and, while it is helpful for beginners to follow recommendations, it can also help to do some general research and listen to the various types of crash cymbal. Listening to specific bands and finding out which crash cymbals they use is a good idea if a particular sound is being aimed towards. Manufacturers and sellers often have video or audio clips on their websites and this can be a good way to explore the sounds a crash cymbal can make.

Cymbal Maintenance and Used Cymbals

Crash cymbals are more prone than other cymbals to warping and cracking, simply because of the frequent heavy strikes that they are subject to combined with their thin edges. Cracks often form from the edge and travel along the bow.
There are some precautions that can be taken to minimise the chance of cracking. First is to buy a good-quality cast metal cymbal as stress produced during manufacture may cause sheet metal cymbals to crack. Second is to always take care to transport cymbals carefully and horizontally as dropping them may cause cracking. Third is to adopt a good technique, angling strikes at about 45 degrees to the side and hitting about a quarter of the way in from the edge. Fourth is to set up the cymbal correctly, angling it and not tightening the wing nuts excessively to allow the cymbal to vibrate freely. Felts should be used on the top and bottom. Fifth is to check the cymbal stand and felts frequently for any issues that could damage the cymbal.
Some factors cannot reasonably be minimised, such as frequency of playing. Thicker, more rigid cymbals are more prone to cracking, but for higher pitched sounds, a thicker cymbal is necessary.

Cymbal Stands

Cymbals may be sold with or without stands but are typically sold without. Bear this in mind when purchasing a crash cymbal, and make sure the stand bought is appropriate for the cymbal.

Find Crash Cymbals on eBay

To find listings for crash cymbals on eBay, go to the eBay home page. Navigate using the tabs to the left to the Musical Instruments page. Select Cymbals, which appear under the heading Percussion. Under the Sub-Type heading, select Crash. Options to refine listings by various criteria are given beneath. These include the brand, with options for popular brands such as Zildjian and Paiste. Size or diameter can also be selected, with most listings falling into the standard 14 to 16 inch range. The condition and a price range can be specified. A quicker way to search for crash cymbals is to use the search function at the top of the page. Simply type in “crash cymbal”, “14” crash cymbal” or similar terms.


Cymbals are a type of percussion instrument frequently used by drummers in various musical genres. Crash cymbals are used for infrequent loud accents. Typically mounted to the side of the drum kit, they are played with a drumstick. They vary in thickness from paper thin to heavy, and in size from about 8 inches up to 24 inches or more, but always have a relatively thin edge. Heavy rock and metal bands frequently use heavier crash cymbals to generate louder, higher crashing sounds. Various factors during the manufacturing process affect the sound of crash cymbals, including whether they are sheet metal or cast metal, the quality of lathing, and method of hammering. The shape also affects sound, with thicker crash cymbals louder and higher pitched, larger diameter crash cymbals louder and lower pitched, and steeper cymbals higher pitched than flatter cymbals. New cymbals will sound cleaner than older corroded cymbals which have a dull sound. To prevent cymbals cracking, buy good-quality cymbals, set them up correctly, and play with a good technique. Careful transportation and regular checks of the stand will also help to prevent cracking. If carefully maintained, good-quality crash cymbals should continue to produce superb sound quality for a very decent length of time.

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