- Choose the Right Cymbals to Play
Like any instrument, cymbals all have their individual pros and cons. It's important to play within a cymbal's boundaries—for instance, when you want a louder or bigger sound, hitting a thinner or smaller cymbal harder is not the solution. The cymbal was not designed for that kind of power; instead, when you want hard-hitting, high-volume cymbals, change up to some larger, heavier models. As well, keep an open mind about acoustics. Sometimes the way to be better heard is not to force up the volume, but instead to choose a brighter-sounding cymbal. Because higher pitches have a penetrating acoustic quality, these can more easily cut through the band's sounds to be heard alongside other instruments. If a lower pitch is a must for you, then consider investing in a cymbal from lines like Sabian's Hand Hammered and HHX series, which have some models built for more powerful sound.
- Get your Stands Ready
Every cymbal stand should have a few basic things:
- A nylon sheath to go between the center rod and the cymbal. This not only prevents wear on the cymbal's center hole, it also helps to isolate it acoustically for better performance
- A supporting metal washer to hold the cymbal at the proper level. This should have a felt ring on top, beneath the cymbal, to prevent metal-on-metal contact.
- Another felt pad on top of the cymbal (note: match the felt to the cymbal size—use a smaller felt for splashes, hi-hats, etc. and a larger one for bigger cymbals).
- A wing nut at the top, not too tight.
- Allow the Cymbal Room to Vibrate
Vibration is what creates the cymbal's sound, so it's important not to over-tighten the wing nut. All you need is enough pressure to hold the cymbal in place; tightening it further will muffle it, just as holding it does. Beyond just affecting the sound, a cymbal that isn't free to move will be subject to stress from the pressure of stick strikes. This can cause cracks to appear, either from the base of the bell or even inward from the edge.
- Crash Cymbals: Mind the Angle
A steep angle is not necessary to play a crash cymbal—in fact, when properly positioned, they will be fairly level, angled just slightly in your direction so that you can dash your stick along the edge. If your crash cymbals are at too much of an angle, their range of motion will be limited as though they were bolted on too tightly. This puts them at risk for the same cracking problems, and has a negative impact on their sound.
- Know How to Play your Crash Cymbals
These cymbals are, of course, made to be hit hard. However, you can still take care of them. Here are two tips that will help your crash cymbals sound their best and help prevent them from cracking:
- Avoid hitting the edge directly. One sign that you are doing this is that it will tend to eat up your sticks fairly fast. Hitting a cymbal edge-on is essentially pushing the stick into the cymbal, and this won't just gnaw away the stick—it also stifles the cymbal's response, to the detriment of its sound. If you hit the cymbal hard, then edge-hitting can also make it vibrate excessively, which also gives a poorer sound. All of that said, there are certain times when a drummer might like to incorporate a direct edge hit into a set deliberately. If you do this, you can minimize the shock to the cymbal by using a quick strike and withdrawal, much like snapping a towel or touching something hot and reflexively springing back.
- Do you use a sweeping motion when you slice a stick along the cymbal's edge? A glancing strike like this will get the cymbal vibrating and lets it ring freely since the stick passes back off the cymbal before it vibrates. Not only does this sweeping movement deliver the best sound, it also makes a natural path for your arm that pulls the stick back more quickly and easily, helping you to improve your playing technique.
- Keep your Cymbals Protected
The moment you take a cymbal off of its stand, it becomes susceptible to wear and tear from handling. For example, a cymbal on the stage leaning against a stand can easily be knocked over and have its edge damaged. What starts out as a small scratch may eventually expand into a serious crack. If a cymbal is flat on the floor, it could get stepped on. To make sure that your cymbals are safe from these hazards, use high-quality cymbal bags or rigid cases to transport them. Have the case ready before you disassemble the stand, and put the cymbal directly into it during tear-down. Remember: metal-on-metal contact can damage cymbals, so use dividers to separate them inside the case. These can be spacers included with the case, simple pieces of cloth, kitchen towels (which can also be used to wipe off the cymbals after use) or even the plastic covers in which the cymbals were originally packaged. When storing your cymbals in the case, as long as you remember to layer dividers between them, you can nest smaller cymbals inside bigger ones to fit more cymbals in the same amount of space.