Cymbal Terminology

GruntersDad

Administrator - Mayor
Staff member
There are so many slang terms that get thrown around that I decided to see if anyone had a proper list that we could use.
 

Les Ismore

Platinum Member
Oh yeah, we hear 'pros' crowing about 'Partials' all the time right? Isn't there no pro drummer ever doing a cymbal clinic specifically about the 'Partials' of a chosen cymbal line?

What no 'Funky'? How can we take this SABIAN list seriously?

Mmmmmmm, my cymbals never sound 'HOT'.

Hot, but no 'cold'? PAISTE colour sounds would fit the bill for 'COLD', or maybe 'prehistoric' as in fossilized.


I've got a good one- 'Digital' ZILDJIAN'S* 21" K CUSTOM HYBRID RIDE and their BREAKBEATS sound Digital, so does any SABIAN Jack DeJonette line, especially the first one, which they had to revamp cuz nobody bought em'.


This list I'd wager was written by a millennial.




ATTACK
The response rate of the cymbal. Some models are faster (more attack) than others. The Signature Mike Portnoy Max Stax responds with immediate 'attack'.

BRIGHT
Sounds that are high-pitched; they offer increased cut. PRO models including the 20" Ride offer bright, penetrating responses.

CUT
The ability of the sound - usually high-pitched or loud - to cut through the surrounding music. The Sonix Crash features a focused, high-pitched sound that cuts.

DARK
Low-pitched, warm tones that combine for a 'dark' response that blends into surrounding music. HH models, including the Dark Crash, feature dark, traditional tones.

DRY
A minimum of tone ensures a very definite stroke response. The 20" HH Raw Dry Ride offers maximum stick response.

FAST
Rate of response when the cymbal is struck: how fast or slow it makes a sound and how that sound decays. A smaller or thinner cymbal responds and decays faster than larger, heavier models.

FUNDAMENTAL
The predominant or main sound within the overall response of a cymbal. A Dark Crash produces a fundamental sound that has a relatively low, warm, rich tone.

GLASSY
Clear, shimmering response. Often clean and smooth -- like glass.

HOT
A fiery mix of dark, warm sounds with the added heat of agitated tones -- a 'burning' sound.

PARTIALS
The overtones or series of pitches produced in addition to the fundamental. Every cymbal will have a different percentage of highs, lows and mid-range partials.

SUSTAIN
The duration of the sound before it decays. Bigger cymbals sustain longer than smaller models.

TIMBRE
The general sound characteristics of a cymbal.

TRASHY
Raw and dirty responses associated with chinese cymbals and some special models. The trashiness of an 18" B8 Pro Chinese is raw, funky and oriental.

WARM
A softer response that focuses on a blend of low-pitched, musical tones.

DIGITAL
A tight, narrow tone band with almost even dynamic range.





* Currently the worst drum related merchandise website on the web right now, navigability is a 0 out of 10. Wanna get confused? Go to the ZILDJIAN web page, pro or beginner, confusion reigns there.
 

EhhSoCheap

Member
These descriptions are helpful, especially for someone like myself who has an unrefined ear, though the language we use to describe sounds still confuses me.

It's funny how words associated with senses other than sound are used to describe what we're hearing: cymbals can sound warm or even hot, they can be bright, etc.

As Les pointed out, we're inconsistent in describing sound spectra, too: cymbals fall somewhere between bright & dark, but cymbals seem only to be dry or not, and never wet.
 

minnemike

Junior Member
When I first started trying to figure out these terms I thought dark meant 'evil' as in, like 'satan's gong'. lol. Had no idea it related to low tone warmth and a better mix.
 

gdmoore28

Gold Member
"FUNDAMENTAL
The predominant or main sound within the overall response of a cymbal. A Dark Crash produces a fundamental sound that has a relatively low, warm, rich tone.



PARTIALS
The overtones or series of pitches produced in addition to the fundamental. Every cymbal will have a different percentage of highs, lows and mid-range partials."

To me, these are two very real, easily discernible, and scientifically measurable cymbal characteristics that, if we could find a way to integrate into cymbal terminology, could go a long way toward clarifying some of the more confusing descriptors we now depend on - descriptors that mean different things to almost every player.

The Fundamental tone will actually show up on FR graphs as the dominant frequency in the spectrum produced by the cymbal. You can strike the cymbal (especially larger ones) and simply hum the dominant note you hear, then find that note on a piano or guitar. That's the Fundamental note.

The Partials are, of course, the harmonic (or dissonant) frequencies (notes) that give the cymbal its flavor and character. The louder Partials are also easy to see on a frequency scan, but eventually their multitudes will decrease in volume until they are equal (or lower) in loudness to surrounding frequencies.

I'm of the opinion that cymbals are the great, uncharted, and least understood of all musical instruments. Those who are into music theory or the study of sound could be the first to do a major scientific study of how and why cymbals do what they do - and maybe in the process develop a new terminology that could accurately describe what we hear.

GeeDeeEmm
 
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