The cymbal is a metal percussion instrument with a concave or flat shape. Struck together or individually, they produce bright, crashing sounds and can be played with sticks, brushes, hammers or a foot pedal (hi-hat). Most cymbals have an indefinite pitch though some have a definite pitch depending on their usage. Cymbals are integral to orchestras and popular music bands worldwide.
History of the Cymbal
The cymbal has ancient origins that stretch back for thousands of years. This simple percussion instrument primarily consists of a round metallic disc with a hole in the centre, so there is reason to believe it has existed since the bronze age 3000 BC. In the early years of percussion, cymbals would have been used for military purposes to scare away enemies or for social ceremonial purposes. As music began to evolve, cymbals would have likely been used in church or for religious rituals. Their application in music arrived on paper as late as the 16th century when composers such as German composer Nicolaus Strungk noted that he wanted cymbals to be used in his opera orchestra from 1680. Cymbals were later introduced in the work of Joseph Haydn, for example his military symphony, and also by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. These early exploration of the cymbal mostly used them sparingly as they were not seen as ‘serious instruments’. By the time composers such as Berlioz and Beethoven were composing music, the cymbal was starting to be seen as an important part of the percussionist’s arsenal and was forever cemented in classical orchestras. The first drum kits created in the early 1900s incorporated cymbals and American companies like Zildjian encouraged their use. The explosion of rock ‘n’ roll and pop music during the 1950s and 60s made the cymbal an integral part of popular music recording.
Inventor: Unknown

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How to Play

A percussion instrument made of metal, typically used in a drum kit or orchestra.

In Popular Music

As an integral part of the drum kit, the cymbal has been used in thousands of popular song recordings. Some notable examples of the cymbal standing out may include ‘Walking On The Moon’ by The Police from 1979 and ‘#41#’ by Dave Matthews Band from 1996.

Famous Players

Avedis Zildjian, Armand Zildjian, Craigie Zildjian

Close Relations

Gong, Hi-Hat
Video Credit: Minnesota Orchestra
Understanding the Cymbal










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