Your Guide to Buying Affordable Cymbals

Like if this guide is helpful
Your Guide to Buying Affordable Cymbals

For any item to be considered affordable, it must be within a buyer’s budget and must be fit for purpose. Gauging whether affordability is met is a relative matter depending on the disposable funds of the purchaser. Most people would agree that affordable usually relates to a bargain, gaining something for a price which is probably less than its general market value. Others might feel that affordable just means value for money regarding the materials used and the function the object performs.

About Affordable Cymbals

Cymbals are usually associated with drum kits although sometimes they refer to percussion instruments in an orchestra. Clash cymbals are two large identical metal discs used to great effect when slammed together by a performer for a spectacular noise. They are popular in military compositions. How they are made will affect their sound. The larger the surface of the cymbal the greater its volume will be. Smaller, thicker cymbals produce a higher pitch when clashed together.

Finger cymbals, or zils, are usually played in pairs, one for each hand, and the performers are usually belly dancers. They also feature in orchestral instruments. Made from brass rather than bronze, as larger cymbals are made, they produce a ringing or a clicking sound depending on how they have been struck together.

Cymbals for Drum Kits

Of the more common cymbals used in drum kits there are six different types. Apart from the hi-hat, which is operated by a foot pedal to clash the two cymbals together, cymbals will only be struck by sticks, brushes, mallets, or hands. The striking instrument will determine the type of end sound from the cymbals and it is worth experimenting with a variety of sticks and rutes to see if they deliver the range of sounds desired.

Some cymbals feature hammering and/or concentric ridges, others have a completely smooth and highly polished surface. Each manufacturer has their own style for the cymbal type in the category and personal preference as well as musical style will be the greatest influences on the purchase decision.


Along with a bass drum and snare, a basic drum kit will normally have a hi-hat cymbals set. These cymbals are fixed on a rod and operated by a pedal so that the top disc can rise and subsequently fall back to the lower cymbal to create the sound. The drummer may also strike them with drumsticks to keep rhythm. The most popular size is 14-inch, though they range from 13-inch to 16-inch. The smaller sets offer a tight, bright sound whereas the larger sets lose the snappiness but offer increased volume for the drummer.

The next most common cymbal, and often included in beginner drum kits, is the ride cymbal. Primarily used for rhythm, it also provides interesting effects depending on what strikes it. The most sought after sound is the sustained shimmer and on small, thin ride cymbals, this is best achieved through striking it with a wooden drum stick for a smooth, subtle sound or using nylon tips for a sharper effect. Using brushes gives a steady, low sound.


Another common cymbal is the crash cymbal, but often drummers compromise on its inclusion and use thin-tapered hi-hats for a similar effect or even utilise the ride cymbal at high volume in small drum kits. Only those drummers who have mastered their art can precisely achieve the same effect of a crash cymbal from another type at low volumes. There are also combination crash/ride cymbals, specialist items, which can serve both functions adequately. Used to mark mood change and big moments in music, the crash cymbal has a distinctive clean and energetic sound. Most popular sizes are 18-inch or 20-inch diameters.
And for Special Effects

The cymbals that follow are usually regarded as effects cymbals and form part of an extended drum kit.


Resembling the sound of water splashing, splash cymbals are usually struck hard. They are usually small cymbals with the most popular sizes offered at 8-inch, 10-inch and 12-inch diameters, though there are some as small as 6” preferred by musicians. Drummers use these to punctuate passages with their short-lived, high-pitch splash. Sometimes they are called crescent cymbals.


Named for their similarity to gongs used in China, this cymbal produces a harsh, trashy sound as opposed to the sweet sound of Turkish or European cymbals. Classical China cymbals retain their thickness across the width of the cymbal; they have an upturned rim that complements the truncated square bell with a rough inside finish and may be mounted with the bell facing either upwards or downwards. There are a variety of sizes, most commonly 12-inch to 18-inch diameters, although sizes either side of these parameters exist and the full range falls between 0.4 inches to 27 inches. Used as an effects cymbal, the pang and swish cymbals are often likened to the China cymbal.


The sizzle cymbal is the show-off of the effects cymbals. Instead of a plain metal disc, it features embellishments that will augment the sounds it creates. Rivets, rattle, and chains transform a ride cymbal into a different instrument and enhance the effect. A rivet sizzler typically has holes in the rim containing loose rivets at 1.5 inches from the edge. Too many rivets will reduce the sustain of the cymbal. Chain sizzle cymbals may have one or more ball chains that hang from the centre bell and drape over the cymbal. These might be permanent or removable devices.

Quality Costs Money

Better quality alloy mixes use more copper in the manufacture of cymbals, but this makes them softer and in the interest of durability, the ratio can differ. Those made from bell metal or signature bronze alloy are cast traditionally rather than rolled. Cymbals made from malleable bronze or brass are more easily manufactured as the metal sheet can be rolled. Nickel silver has also been used to make cymbals, but tends to be found only in vintage pieces or specialist bespoke instruments.

Balance, thickness, and taper will all affect the final sound of a cymbal. Each has its unique tone and manufacturers have distinctive products. There are several famous names in the business and their logos are prominent on drum kit cymbals.

Make Comparisons Online or Instore

Once the desired product has been decided on, try to hear it either in a music store or on an upload before committing to a purchase. Where possible, look for cymbals being sold second hand as they will be more affordable than a new product. There might be opportunity to benefit from clearance sales for brand new, still in its original packaging products where reduced prices are offered. Another thing to keep an eye on are seasonal sales with discounts or retailers who offer special deals such as manager’s specials. Occasionally there might be a promotion on a particular brand name or size of cymbal and if making a purchase where a bulk order is placed, there could be extra discounts available.

How to Find Affordable Cymbals on eBay

From the home page on eBay choose Musical Instruments and opt for Percussion. When this page is called up, look through Type to find Cymbals. If the manufacturer is already known, there are options to choose from well-known brand names in the business. Check a name, if desired, to search for cymbals produced by that manufacturer. Condition is also a category worth looking at regarding affordability as there are options for new, used and refurbished cymbals which affect the price of the item. If already a visitor on eBay, type keywords into the search bar at the top of any page, for example ’18-inch Crash Cymbal’ to return a match from All Categories.


Plan ahead and get as much information as possible in order to find the cymbal required for the budget allowed. Using an online auction site like eBay is an effective way of finding out what is for sale at affordable prices. Some deals are Buy It Now so there is no waiting around to see if a bid is successful or not. There might also be Daily Deals on eBay which could further reduce the payment price of an item and visiting a seller’s store can also reveal some special offers for astute customers.

Have something to share, create your own guide... Write a guide
Explore more guides