Testing a cymbal in person; Do you stick a finger in your ear?


Senior Member
I only see him holding his hand up to his cheek. You're inferring that he's sticking his finger in his ear, but there's no way to tell that from this photo. Maybe his cheek was itchy and needed a good scratching. In any case, it makes zero sense to reduce your hearing by 50% to evaluate the sound of something.


Silver Member
Appreciate all the comments so far, both the serious and the not-so-serious. 🙃 :p

This morning I spent a good half hour or so searching the web trying to get to the bottom of this. After seeing a bunch of non-related stuff, I finally came across this picture from https://quillandpad.com/2015/12/03/keeping-time-with-deep-purples-ian-paice-corum-and-paiste-cymbals/ . Again, it was from Paiste. Probably a much more recent photo than the other one. 2015 I guess. Maybe this guy has an ear ache. Maybe someone is yelling at him from his left side while he is trying to listen to the cymbal. Maybe he has an itch. But I'm truly suspecting that it is a bona fide method that is used in testing cymbals.

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The only thing I do when testing a new cymbal that may be considered 'weird' is (after a few stick hits around the playing surface of course) hold the cymbal on my finger at the hole with the edge hovering just above my right ear (my 'good' ear) and give a few solid hits with the meat of my opposing pointer finger. This really allows me to hear just the overtone and not the initial sound. This has helped me many times in live moving situations as well as cymbal selection for recording.

Rock Salad

Junior Member
I don't know about a finger in the ear but, I do always use my pipe stem to check for flea bites. (like dude in the bottom pic)


Well-known member
Tyll Hertsens on "Home Theater Geeks" informs us that "You should never stick anything smaller than your elbow in your ear."


Platinum Member
Does it matter which ear? The one closest to the cymbal or the other one? It's only one ear right?
Probably the one away from the cymbal? I need to read it again. It's a really good book for general info about cymbals-- although the brands/lines covered are about 25 years out of date.


Silver Member
OK, I'm going to be the weird one here that agrees with this...

When I try cymbals out in a store, I take earplugs along with me. I try the cymbals alongside some of my own.

I only consider buying a cymbal if I like how it sounds with AND without earplugs (!)

I started doing this a few years ago, after I had some experiences where I liked the sound in the shop, and then I was disappointed with the cymbal back at home or on a gig, and returned it to the shop.
Since I started doing this a few years ago I have been happy with all of the cymbals I've bought, it seems a little more reliable method for me.
I'm not sure why - Maybe I have convinced myself that it represents the sound out front in the band mix, or maybe also I want to like the sound I hear when I'm playing (always with earplugs)! Who knows? But it works for me.


Silver Member
The Cymbal Book recommends it. Apparently you hear the cymbal more the way listeners hear it. I always forget to do it.
Thanks for bringing up the Cymbal Book. I have that book and just took it off the shelf. And now that I think about it, that's probably where I first read about blocking one ear to test a cymbal's sound. The Cymbal Book too shows a picture of someone at Paiste blocking his ear while playing a cymbal. The book says under the photo..."step away, or close one of your ears..."